Reigate Grammar School put in an astonishing display of determination as they knocked Harrow out of the NatWest Cup with a superb 25-18 victory on Harrow soil.
Reigate have been impressive all year, losing just once all season, but Harrow were expected to be their toughest test yet; a top quality side playing on a top quality circuit. They might well have been, but Reigate came through that test with flying colours as they played with an intensity, particularly at the breakdown, that Harrow struggled to live with.
As the warm ups closed, it was clear that this was going to be a game where the wind would play an important part, it was a blowing a gale from right from one end of the pitch to the other, taking advantage of it would be absolutely crucial.
Reigate had the wind at their tails in the first half, and early on they looked like they really would take full advantage of it, when after just six minutes outside centre Max Coyle showed exactly why he is so highly rated. Showing outstanding pace and balance, he streaked down the left hand touchline before weaving back in to score underneath the posts, giving Lucas Overtoom at fly half a simple conversion to put the away side 7-0 up in as many minutes.
Harrow hit back fast though through a Jacob Ford penalty, the young outside half was watched by brother George and father Mike, and his kick would have pleased the illustrious duo, keeping it low to drive hard under the wind.
Reigate were prepared to take the points when they were on offer too, and after a long range sighter, Overtoom realised that with just a decent push, he could let the wind to the work and kick from long range. He used that twice to good effect to put his team 13-3 ahead by the time the game reached ten minutes to go in the half.
Harrow are not being talked about as a very good side for nothing though, and despite playing into fearsome conditions they were able to start to build some pressure of their own in return. It was to prove fruit after a few phases as they sent their slippery second row on a line through the heart of the away defence to bring them back into touching distance after the Ford conversion at 13-10.
Reigate knew that this wind was worth more than just a three point lead though, and that if they were to have any chance of winning this game then they needed to build on that score before the half time break. This last five mintues of the half was going to be crucial for whichever side saw it through best.
It was a measure of Reigate’s mental strength as well as their physical ability then that they were able to secure that crucial try before the half time whistle, Coyle again was at the heart of things, releasing his full back, Joe Wills, an electric threat all day, down the right hand touchline to secure a most crucial of tries.
It sent Reigate in at the break 18-10 up, perhaps not as much as they might have liked, given the wind, but enough to give them something secure to hold on to through the second half.
It certainly felt crucial as the second half began. The wind picked up and was now followed by a nasty rain being blasted through the pitch too. With it, Harrow were on top and putting pressure on Reigate right from the off.
A Ford penalty narrowed things to 18-13, a straight from the kick off Harrow put boot to ball, sent themselves back into Reigate territory, and camped there.
Reigate simply could not escape and eventually Harrow secured possession and launched a series of narrow attacks. With defenders sucked in, they looked wide, but as they floated the ball wide it was plucked from the air by the Reigate paw of who else but Max Coyle.
He was on his own five metre line as he gobbled the ball up but showed superb pace, and stamina, once again to go coast to coast and finish off underneath the sticks for the most sensational of tries. Overtoom converted easily and suddenly, almost against the run of play at this stage, Reigate were 25-13 up.
It was a sensational moment, but it was the reaction to it that was perhaps what made it the decisive moment of the match. Reigate’s intensity at the breakdown became something that Harrow could not live with. While Harrow dominated possession, Reigate’s work at the breakdown was making it slow and scrappy, and was forcing a lot of handling errors from Harrow at close quarters.
On the rare occasion that Reigate did get some phase ball, they looked able to make yards at will if they ever got to the thirteen channel or beyond. It was impressive stuff from both forwards and backs.
Harrow’s quality found chance to shine through though with little more than five minutes left on the clock, their substitute outside centre barging though about four or five tackles down the left hand touchline in a manner that evoked memories of Jonah Lomu, who so sadly died last night. It was the sort of try of which he would have approved.
It also drew Harrow to just seven points behind at 25-18, but with a draw still sending Reigate through, the last few minutes were frantic, with Harrow knowing they had to score twice and Reigate doing everything that they could to stop them.
Stop them they did, and how at outstanding for Reigate Grammar School it was that they did. This group did wonderful things as Colts, and have been superb all year. Their fixture list means they are perhaps given less recognition that is deserved but after a win of this magnitude, they will be well and truly on the nation’s schools rugby radars now.
Full Time: Harrow 18-25 Reigate Grammar School
You can see photos of the game plus links to more in our Gallery: Harrow v Reigate GS, Gallery