Sedbergh are through to the semi finals of the Champions Trophy after they beat the holders, Millfield, 19-15 in a thrilling game of rugby.
The Champions Trophy has a knack for producing drama and tension, and this game was no less so. Sedbergh are arguably the form team in the country, while Millfield hosted them off the back of two tough defeats to Wellington College and Bromsgrove.
From early on though it was clear that this was going to be a tight battle, however when Sedbergh scored to go 19-8 up after fifty minutes it felt as though perhaps the game was up.
We should know better than that by now. These Champions Trophy ties always seem to produce the drama, and with a little over ten minutes to go James Dunn scored a try for the hosts to reduce the gap to just four points.
Adding to the drama, Dunn was then sent off a few minutes later, and once again the assumption was that the game must be done and dusted. However Millfield somehow managed to camp on the Sedbergh line, pushing and probing and drawing penalties, however despite the bravery of their play, they were unable to break down the superb and equally brave Sedbergh defensive wall. By the end of the game both sides had shown levels of character on an exceptional level.
There was exceptional character right from the off in reality though. Millfield had the early running of it and went 8-0 up after a Josh Mama try, hitting up in midfield following a five metre lineout, added to an early Andrew Nurse penalty.
Eight minutes later though Sedbergh were almost back level after their captain and number 8 Hayden Thompson-Green, who was deservedly named man of the match, drove off the tail of the lineout, with the mercurial Ali Crossdale converting to bring it to 8-7.
It looked like the game would remain just that tight as the half went through, both sides had the occasional mini breakaway, with Nurse at fly half looking dangerous for Millfield and Keh on the Sedbergh wing linking well with his own outside half, Crossdale.
Right on half time that combination paid of in the best way possible for Sedbergh as they broke from a scrum in their own half with Crossdale feeding Keh. Covering winger Joshua Wright just had his legs caught which gave Keh the half gap that he needed, and that is all he ever needs, to go surging into Millfield before returning the ball to Crossdale who used his outstanding pace to score under the posts.
His conversion was the last play of the half, a huge fillip for Sedbergh and a tough one to take for Millfield, who trailed 14-8 at the break thanks to that score.
Keh was at it again in the 49th minute as he intercepted whilst under huge pressure from Millfield to run away and score his side’s third try, their second from inside their own half.
With Crossdale making it a 19-8 lead for Sedbergh it felt like that spelled the end of the road for Millfield. What spirit they then showed, particularly given recent results, to hit back and to go on to dominate almost all of the rest of the game.
When Dunn scored from a maul after a five metre lineout in the 57th minute, and Nurse converted, to make it 15-19, it felt as though the momentum shift in Millfield’s favour may just prove too strong from Sedbergh.
The commitment and the composure from both sides was astonishing as Millfield hammered away at Sedbergh, while the Cumbrian’s were equal to it in defence. The only slip in that composure came as Dunn saw red. If World Rugby’s current disciplinary proceeding’s are the standard, he need not worry too much though, he would probably only be out for a week.
Millfield reacted brilliantly to that setback though, there was no indication that they were a man light as they went back to hammering away at the Sedbergh line. What bravery from Sedbergh though, and what commitment and accuracy to continue to repel Millfield, before turning the ball over and earning a penalty to force Millfield to have one last go from inside their own 22.
It was mesmerising rugby to watch, fully committed and played at the sort of intensity that shows you exactly why schools rugby is such a popular type of rugby.
Millfield played well and were exceptional in that last fifteen minutes, against most sides they would have won. However Sedbergh are not most sides, and will head into the semi finals as the favourites to win this superb competition.
Their ability to run the ball from anywhere is both exciting and highly accurate, while their defence is rock solid, fueled on passion and very few missed tackles.
They will have to wait until Monday to find out their opponents, one name that will be I the hat alongside them though is Blundell’s, who beat Barnard Castle 26-7.
Yet again though, what a brilliant game the Champions Trophy has served up, and what a brilliant team this Sedbergh outfit is.
Full Time: Millfield 15-19 Sedbergh
1 Alex Tiarks, 2 Harry Vigar, 3 Daniel Tilke, 4 James Dunn, 5 George Brophy, 6 Oliver Daw-Lane, 7 Charlie Howard, 8 Gabriel Oghre, 9 Josh Barton (c), 10 Andrew Nurse, 11 Sonny Elias, 12 Joss Mama, 13 Henry Carling-Parkinson, 14 Joshua Wright, 15 Harry Close.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Brown, 17 Tom Wood, 18 Ben Mulvey, 19 Benjamin Dickson, 20 Kieren Grifiths, 21 Cian Kennedy, 22 Yuu Kurihara.
1 John Statham, 2 Ed Irons, 3 George Bentley, 4 Jack Bonham, 5 Matthew Addison, 6 Max Davies, 7 James Botham, 8 Hayden Thompson-Green (c), 9 Charlie Gowling, 10 Alistair Crossdale, 11 Jonny Keh, 12 Ben Watson, 13 Kyle Kitney, 14 Will Lewin, 15 George Phelan.
Replacements: 16 Wade Williams, 17 Will Ballard, 18 Will Hill, 19 Harry Laidler, 20 Theo Smith, 21 Robbie Thomson, 22 Max Silvester.
Tries – Mama, Dunn
Cons – Nurse
Pen – Nurse
Red – Dunn
Tries – Thompson-Green, Crossdale, Keh
Cons – Crossdale x2