Sedbergh School celebrated their return to the competition, after a 15 year break, with a 24-17 win over Wellington College in the NatWest U15 Schools Cup final.
After Sedbergh’s outstanding fly half, Will Haydon-Wood had opened the scoring with a first minute penalty, Wellington struck back directly from the restart, inside centre Ross Hanekom breaking down the right and providing the scoring pass to right wing Alex Wilson, brother of the 2014/15 1st XV captain, Will. Fly half Will Sinfield converted from the touchline to give his side an early 7-3 lead.
Sedbergh were however beginning to dominate at the breakdown and No 8 Harry Hill forced his way over in the corner a couple of minutes later, Haydon-Wood adding the conversion from the touchline. The northern side now had the momentum and centre Fraser Jones broke down the right but was tackled just short of the line by Wellington full back Hugo Bright. Referee Alexis Manley checked the grounding with his touch judge and awarded the try. Haydon-Wood maintained his immaculate form from the tee for his second touchline conversion of the game.
Rather against the run of play, Wellington had a chance to narrow the gap, but Sinfield’s long range penalty attempt was off target and Sedbergh’s dominance at the breakdown continued, with Wellington conceding repeated penalties. Sustained pressure inside the Wellington 22 eventually saw inside centre George Barber cross for a third Sedbergh try, Haydon-Wood again adding the extras. Wellington managed to recover possession from the restart and there was a fleeting chance of a try before halftime, but left wing Jasper Johnston was bundled into touch.
Halftime: Sedbergh School 24-7 Wellington College
The second half began with Sedbergh continuing to show their handling skills, Harry Hill combining with Haydon-Wood to put full back James Magee into space. Although Hanekom was forced to limp off, gradually Wellington started to edge back into the game. A penalty gave the chance of good field position, but Sinfield’s found touch in goal. The fly half soon made amends with a successful kick from the tee, after a strong run by flanker Bertie Pughe-Morgan had taken play up to the Sedbergh 22.
The game now entered a critical phase, as Sedbergh sought a decisive score. A Haydon-Wood kick was fumbled on the 22, and play was taken to the Wellington line. Twice, Sedbergh won penalties close to the posts, but, with captain Ben Patchett off the field with a nasty looking ankle injury and the coaches’ pleas to take the points falling on deaf ears, declined the opportunity to re-establish a three score lead and eventually Wellington cleared their lines.
There was a perceptible change in momentum, as Wellington broke down the left with a run and kick through. Hanekom – back on the field – linked with Pughe-Morgan. Play was switched to the right corner, possession was retained and Sinfield linked with scrum half Jamie Miller who scored under the posts. With Sinfield’s conversion successful, Sedbergh faced a nail biting last five minutes, knowing that another converted try for Wellington would see the Berkshire side emerge as winners, having scored the first try.
Carries by Pughe-Morgan and Wilson gave Wellington hope, but they were eventually penalised on the 22 and Sedbergh retained possession as time ran out, to secure a deserved victory, reversing the heavy defeat that they had suffered at Crowthorne before Christmas. A consolation for Wellington was the awarding on man of the Match to Sinfield.
Sedbergh coach Chris Swainson said “In the first half we played with width and pace, but Wellington came back strongly in the second half and really made us work for it. We want to be testing ourselves at the top level and all the schools we want to play are in this competition. It’s a great competition.” Haydon-Wood said of the decision not to go for goal in the second half “Everyone wanted to carry on playing and get the try and finish the game off.”
Wellington coach Kevin Tkachuk complimented Sedbergh’s first half performance at the breakdown: “they were very quick onto the ball at rucks and turned us over several times.” He praised his side’s team spirit: “one of the best groups of boys that I’ve worked with. They work very hard for each other.”
Sedbergh School: George Rigal, Max Twiddle, Ben Patchett ©, Taran Stewart, Charlie Campbell, Tom Russell, Jake Hill, Harry Hill, Michele Brighetti, Will Haydon-Wood, Hugh Hollins, George Barber, Fraser Jones, Will Panday, James Magee
Replacements: Taylor McGuire, Matthew Mitchell, Carwyn Tuipulotu, Archie Davies, Chris Park-Johnson, George Hill, Charlie Scott
Wellington College: Ted Johnson, Tom Cunningham, Fin Baxter, Albert Dean, Joe Gibbons, Tobias Scalabrini, Bertie Pughe-Morgan, Jack Reid ©, Jamie Miller, Will Winfield, Jasper Johnston, Ross Hanekom, Ben Jordan, Alex Wilson, Hugo Bright
Replacements: Lucas Brooke, Nick Teague, Olly Cash, Max Watson, James Carton, George Timberlake, Theo Burn