St Ambrose College put in a superb performance at Allianz Park to beat a very good Pangbourne College side, securing a place at Twickenham for the U18 NatWest Vase final.
The North Western side will face Northampton School for Boys in the final after they squeaked past Bloxham in the first semi final. You can see our report from that game here: Northampton School for Boys v Bloxham.
This game started at breakneck speed, with three tries in the opening fifteen minutes, including a brace for St Ambrose centre Connor Docherty, who was a real force all day.
Sandwiched between those was a lovely score from Pangbourne College scrum half James Costin-Pratt, who has been involved with the ISRFC Lambs lately, haring around the base of the scrum for a classic scrum half try.
It was part of a long running battle between the two nines, with Thomas Walsh of St Ambrose College perhaps the games outstanding player. Both were sniping at every opportunity and controlling the pace of the game expertly.
Up to that point things had been relatively even, but as the half wore on, St Ambrose began to settle into their rhythm, with fly half Jacob Daldry using his boot expertly to keep the ball exactly where his side wanted it.
With ten minutes left in the half, they made that pressure count, shipping the ball wide in the Pangbourne 22 for winger Tom Hughes to race away down the left hand side.
That gave St Ambrose a 15-5 half time lead, and with plenty of momentum as they headed into the second half, momentum that they capitalised on almost immediately a Daldry extended their lead to 18-5 with an excellent penalty.
Pangbourne have been excellent on this Vase run so far though, and were not about to simply keel over and let St Ambrose run away with it, far from it. They were going to take it to their opponents.
They did so in style too, as Cameron Golby-Barr tore down the right hand side before releasing another ISRFC Lambs star, Will Vaughan, with an excellent offload. Vaughan then showed a clean set of heels to the defence, racing under the sticks to give Zac Leonard a simple conversion, narrowing the gap to 18-12.
Could this be the moment for Pangbourne to turn the tide and steal away the win? It felt like it might be, but this St Ambrose College side were too composed, to well prepared, and far too determined to allow this opportunity to slip form their grasp.
Within just a couple of minutes they had extended their advantage, with openside Ben Hughes driving over from short range following a superb driving maul.
That pressure kept on coming, and as the clock started to tick ever closer towards the end of the game, that felt very much like that.
Not for Walsh though, the silky scrum half could not leave this match without leaving at least one more indelible mark on it, and what a mark it was. Showing outstanding speed, balance, and footwork, he tore away down the right hand touchline, dancing along it and somehow keeping his feet the right side of the touchline to score a sumptuous try.
It was, perhaps, the perfect ending for both the player and the team. St Ambrose were well deserving of their victory, and Walsh has the beating heartbeat of the side.
A performance like that at Twickenham on the 16th March, and they will be very much in the hunt for some silverware.
Full Time: Pangbourne College 12-28 St Ambrose College
You can see photos form the game on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby
15 Louis Ingrams, 14 Cameron Golby-Barr, 13 Will Vaughan, 12 Tom Hills, 11 Matt Atkins, 10 Zac Leonard, 9 James Costin-Pratt, 1 Finn Slevin, 2 Samuel Turner, 3 Jon Grieve, 4 Jake Easton, 5 Sebastien Bearn, 6 Stanley Walker, 7 Jamie Steljes, 8 James Matthewman.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Reardon, 17 Adam Harris, 18 Ben Hart, 19 Ben Jenkins, 20 Luke Jeram, 21 Chris Batchelor, 22 Louis Ellis.
St Ambrose College
15 Callum Francies, 14 Sam Gallimore, 13 Kieran Dunne, 12 Conor Docherty, 11 Tom Hughes, 10 Jacob Daldry, 9 Thomas Walsh, 1 Alex Oakes, 2 George Edge (c), 3 Daniel McDonagh, 4 Rory Crossan, 5 Niall Broderick, 6 Thomas Booth, 7 Ben Hughes, 8 Ciaran Booth.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Leonard, 17 Cieran Lalley, 18 Sean Donnelly, 19 Gregor Nolan, 20 Rory Devereux, 21 Ciaran Grieves, 22 Nicholas Leach.