Marlborough College were unable to turn first half territorial advantage into points and found themselves two scores down at the interval, before Sedbergh School turned on the pace to pull away after half time.
These two schools had last met at fifteen a side in the St Joseph’s Festival way back in the 1990s, and are believed never to have met before in a full length game. With Sedbergh opting out of the Champions Trophy this season and consequently looking for an additional midweek fixture, coach Simon Mulholland was delighted at Marlborough’s positive response. It had originally been hoped to play the game at Sixways, but that was unavailable and Stourton Park was an excellent and appropriate venue: only a few miles from the industrial heart of the Black Country but beautifully situated in rolling countryside.
Marlborough were coming off a narrow defeat to Bryanston, following a highly successful tour to Japan, and most if not all the boys were experiencing their first game under lights. Sedbergh had triumphed at the Tyndale festival and then won away to Esher President’s Cup winners Whitgift, but were without their international halfback pairing of Tom Walsh and Cameron Redpath, both newly arrived at the school, from King’s Macclesfield and St Ambrose respectively.
Sedbergh kicked off and enjoyed early possession and territory. As ever, they looked to move the ball wide at speed and Sam Moore was put into space on the left. The powerful and athletic No 8 was able to stretch his legs and broke a couple of tackles to score out wide. The conversion was a difficult one, especially for a left footed kicker, but right wing Josh Hodge added the two points.
Although Sedbergh secured the restart, the Wiltshire side came close to evening the scores when Sedbergh were penalised at the line-out and the ensuing kick was put deep into the left corner. The hooker’s throw was on the money and, although the maul was immediately sacked, the forwards set up a second drive over the line. Referee Mr Wigley judged that the ball was held up, but a free kick was conceded and the ball cleared to the 22.
The respite for the Brown was only temporary as they were penalised from the lineout, and Marlborough were able to put the ball back into the left corner. This time however they were penalised, Sedbergh taking a quick tap and running the ball out. A superb passage of play then saw Sedbergh stretch their lead. First Hodge combined with full back Alex Mullins before the ball was moved left to outside centre Kyle Kitney who displayed tremendous pace to reach the Marlborough 22 where he exchanged passes with left wing Max Silvester before scoring close to the posts. The conversion was slightly easier but Hodge’s kick unluckily struck the post and stayed out.
Any sense that the floodgates might open at this stage were quickly dispelled, as Marlborough regained possession from the restart and won a penalty. Unfortunately the kick to the corner found touch in goal, but although the ball was cleared from the resulting drop-out, it was Marlborough’s turn to show their handling skills and their No 8 and inside centre combined to take play back deep into the Sedbergh half. A period of sustained pressure on the Sedbergh line followed, with successive penalties conceded by the defence and run by Marlborough. The pressure was eased momentarily but then a kick to the left corner eluded Mullins and Marlborough took over again, their left wing looking a constant threat. Hodge was then caught in possession from another kick and although two more attacking tapped penalties by Marlborough followed, they were unable to turn the pressure into points. The interval was reached with a two score advantage to Sedbergh that did not really reflect the possession and territorial advantage that Marlborough had enjoyed in the second quarter.
Half time: Sedbergh School: 12-0 Marlborough College
The first ten minutes of the second half saw Sedbergh raise their game with some clinical finishing. A break by inside centre Joel Pearson and an offload to Silvester saw the left wing dive in under the posts. Mr Wigley judged that the ball had gone forward, but Marlborough conceded a free kick at the ensuing scrum and Sedbergh moved play quickly to the left where Silvester dived over. Although Hodge’s conversion attempt again hit the post, Sedbergh kept the score moving with another try following the restart Moore produced an upstoppable run in midfield before slipping a pass to Hodge who went clean through from the 10m line to score under the posts, Hodge converting.
With the scoreline at 24-0 Marlborough coach Budge Pountney sensibly opted to rotate players from the bench, giving all the squad the opportunity to gain valuable experience at this level. It is to the credit of all those players that they stuck to their defensive duties against a Sedbergh side that was now beginning to string together some unstoppable passages of play.
Sedbergh were now looking to run the ball at every opportunity and more scores inevitably followed. First the outstanding Moore again found space on the left and muscled his way over. Then after some sniping by replacement scrum half Harry Laidler, hooker Wade Williams crashed over. Finally blind side flanker Charlie Papworth, having been narrowly denied by the defence on two occasions, dived over close to the posts. With Hodge having been replaced earlier, fly half Alex Pepper kicked the conversion to complete the scoring.
The Marlborough squad, who are being urged by Mr Pountney to aim for a fast, running brand of rugby will no doubt have learned much from the experience of playing a side who traditionally rarely kick away possession. They will return to their tough circuit, including a Champions Trophy visit to perennial rivals Canford. Sedbergh once again look to have an outstanding side. Their late season games against Kirkham, Wellington, Millfield and Llandovery look like being classic encounters.
Final score: Sedbergh School 41-0 Marlborough College
Sedbergh: Bevan Rodd, Wade Williams, George Martin, Will Green, Will Hill (Captain), Charlie Papworth, Jack Hutchinson, Sam Moore (Vice-Captain), Oli Rudd, Alex Pepper, Max Silvester, Joel Pearson, Kyle Kitney, Josh Hodge, Alex Mullins.
Replacements: Theo Smith, Jack Hill, Niall Combe, Harry Laidler, Ben Watson (Vice Captain), Rory Canham.
Marlborough (squad number order): Harry Bunn, Daniel Charnaud, Dominic Coulson, Benedict Hall, Matthew Hook, Mason Hunt, Thomas Hunt, Angus Lorimer, Benjy Parrott, Toby Baines, Jay Cooke(Captain), Alex Green, Hugo Hentenaar, James Orr, Joshua Short, Charlie Thomas, David West, Tom Elvin, Finn Gordon, Myles Hart, James Isaacson, Jack Kirkwood, Rhodri Campbell, Oliver Paton, Will James, Ned Seagrim, James Wright.