Three tries by No 8 James Tunney enabled Dr Challoner’s, Amersham to see off a second half fight back by Sir Thomas Rich’s school, Gloucester and take the NatWest U15 Schools Vase final at Twickenham.
Dr Challoner’s had chalked up some impressive scalps in their run to Twickenham, with wins over several famous Rugby schools, including Dauntseys’, Clifton College and Manchester Grammar School. It was clear that they were not intimidated by the setting of the final, as they dominated the first half. Although fly half Monty Weatherall was unable to convert an early penalty opportunity, good field position was retained and forwards and backs combined to give Tunney the chance to score in the left corner, Weatherall converting.
Although Tommies’ fly half Daniel Walker narrowed the gap with a penalty, a second try by Tunney who took an excellent line to receive an offload from Weatherall saw the Buckinghamshire school reach the interval with a well-deserved eleven point lead.
Half time: Dr Challoner’s G.S. 14-3 Sir Thomas Rich’s School
It seemed that coach Rhys Davies had found some inspirational words during the break, as the Gloucester school began the second half clearly bent on reducing the deficit with sustained possession inside the Dr Challoner’s 22. Good defence kept out both centre Matthew Lampitt and flanker Oliver Edginton, but finally a good offload from Walker saw Lampitt break through to touch down on the right. The conversion in the windy conditions was by no means straightforward, but Waller’s kick was beautifully struck and Tommies’ had narrowed the gap to four points.
A further try for Tommies’ looked a possibias they took play back deep into the Dr Challoner’s 22, but the ball was knocked on and centre Zac Collingbourne ran strongly out of defence to half way. An attacking scrum for Dr Challoner’s 10m from the line then gave the opportunity for Tunney to pick up from the base and the powerfully built No 8 broke through tackles to reach the line for the decisive score.
Sir Thomas Rich’s coach Rhys Davies paid tribute to his side’s second half performance: “testament to the character and hard work that they had put in over the entire season, but unfortunately for us today it was not to be.”
James Tunney, nominated as Man of the Match, trains with the Wasps Academy. Although he won’t be 15 until late summer, he is already 6’2” tall. He said he had been “full of nerves” prior to the game. Injuries had meant that he had played only a few games during the season prior to scoring two tries in the semi-final. “I couldn’t thank the school more for giving us the support we needed and the staff have just been excellent in coaching us.”
Dr Challoner’s Head Coach Chris Duggan paid tribute to Sir Thomas Rich’s second half performance: “normally we kick on in the second half, but today they didn’t let us.” While accepting the pressure of the final, he felt that the school’s successive wins on the road had prepared them for Twickenham: “they really have performed well away from home, so I wasn’t fearful of coming here.” He praised the working relationship with both Wasps and Buckinghamshire: “they are really good at supporting us.” Winning the trophy means “a lot for the school, because they are all here! We are a sporting school, but to win a team event on a national scale means a lot. “
Final score: Dr Challoner’s Grammar School 19-10 Sir Thomas Rich’s School
Dr Challoner’s Grammar School: Sid Dey, Jake Wilkins, Ben Quick, Dom Goodman Joe Long, Ed Griffiths (C), Daniel Peter’s, James Tunney, Devan Owen, Monty Weatherall, Blake Morris, Richard Dean, Zac Collingbourne, Ollie Anderson, Huey Chadwick
Replacements: Yaseen Valjy, Ben Race, Harry Spennewyn, Henry King, Matt Bellamy, Callum Hodson, Charlie Barraclough
Sir Thomas Rich’s: Guy Floyd, Cameron Wilkinson, James Emerson, Myles Wilson, William Sanderson, Oliver Edginton, Joe Hocking, Liam Richards, Oliver Gordon, Daniel Walker, Luke Paddle, Matthew Lampitt, Ben Gleeson (C), Seth Price, Andrew Hunter
Replacements: Jamie Bagnall, Ben Daniels, Conrad Holmes, Zi Rafai, William Moseley, Jack Briefly, Ethan Yip