U18 NatWest Cup Champions Bromsgrove secured their semi final spot at Allianz Park on Saturday 27th February with an excellent 31-13 away victory at RGS High Wycombe.
With Whitgift beating Wilmslow High School 10-7 on the Live Stream, it means that the 2015 Champions will now face the 2010 and 2011 Champions in the first of this year’s semi finals, with Warwick (2014 finalists) facing QEGS Wakefield, the reigning U15 Champions in the other semi final.
It was far from a routine victory for Bromsgrove though, they had to face a hugely spirited, and well supported, RGS High Wycombe side, who made life incredibly difficult.
Indeed for the opening few minutes it looked like RGS might just have Bromsgrove rattled as they went ahead through a penalty and then Bromsgrove saw yellow after a high tackle from openside Joseph Morris. With the game ten minutes old, RGS looked like the side on top though.
Like all great sides though, Bromsgrove have the ability to fall back on certain core aspects of their game, using them as a rod to beat the other side with while they wait for the time and space for their running game and faster place to be able to come into play.
For Bromsgrove, today, that was their lineout drive. It was a thing of beastly beauty, pulverising the RGS defence and eating up yards in that slow, draining, and mental crushing manner.
Twice it gave them tries, and twice they were from long range drives, energy and morale sapping stuff. Number 8 Tom Ford and substitute Harry Lloyd Jones were the beneficiaries, and with George Wootten also landing a conversion, it helped Bromsgrove to a 12-3 half time lead.
That lead was narrowed early on by another RGS penalty, but when Ford barged over for his second try of the game after 17 minutes in the second half, it felt like that was the game for Bromsgrove. They were 19-6 up with Wootten’s conversion, and were playing with much more verve than in the first half.
RGS have a long and proud history in this tournament though, and they refused to give up. Indeed with the sort of passionate support behind them that they had, including dozens from the junior school, they could hardly have responded with anything other than the unbridled passion that they displaying in response.
Suddenly they started to mount a series of powerful physical assaults on the Bromsgrove line, they were met by an equally destructive defence. Tackles could be heard from the touchline, ‘bone-crunching’ felt like a literal term.
It paid off too, as they crossed to narrow the gap to just 19-13 with seven minutes left to play. Suddenly momentum was with the home side, despite the scoreline.
It was here though that Bromsgrove displayed the quality of Champions, and it is that quality that makes them many people’s favourites to win the title again this year.
When adversity arrived, they did not just rise to meet it, they absolutely blasted the threat away, producing their best rugby of the match in the final seven minutes, with Blake Edwards and Christophe Fostier in the backline particularly stepping up.
One minute the game looked like it was swinging RGS’ way, the next it was all Bromsgrove as first Fostier, and then Lloyd-Jones for his second, crossed the whitewash. Both tries followed wonderful flowing moves, particularly Harry Lloyd Jones’, which saw them work the ball patiently from inside their own half.
So often we talk of champion teams being able to dig deep and fight their way out of adversity, but this was something else, this was digging deep and finding another gear to move into.
Scrap that. Another three gears. It was highly impressive stuff.
Life is not going to be easy for the remainder of the tournament either though, Whitgift pose a real threat and have that title winning pedigree, and should they get past there they face the hugely tricky challenge of either Warwick or QEGS Wakefield, two sides who contested the last three U15 titles. Their players all know, and are comfortable at, Twickenham.
It is going to take something very very special to beat Bromsgrove though. Just ask RGS High Wycombe, they gave everything this afternoon, but when Bromsgrove turned up the heat there was simply nothing that they could do.
Full Time: RGS High Wycombe 13-31 Bromsgrove
You can see the full semi final line-up plus a summary of the quarter finals here: NatWest Cup & Vase quarter final summary.