Reigate Grammar School were deserving winners over St Columba’s College in this NatWest Schools U18 Plate Quarter Final, after the St Albans based school had kept the scores close for the first twenty minutes
With the side based around the team that won the U16 Rosslyn Park Sevens two years ago,
Reigate’s will have had hopes of a run in the NatWest U18 Schools Cup but those were dimmed by an injury strewn start to the season and they lost a close first round fixture to Christ’s Hospital. However they have since enjoyed smooth progress through the inaugural Plate competition, including a 42-3 win at Downside in the third round. Their opponents, St Columba’s had lost to Aylesbury Grammar School by a similarly close margin in the Cup, but have since earned Plate victories against Magdalen College School and Plymouth College.
Although many fixtures elsewhere were called off on this day due to frozen pitches, the well grassed Hartswood 1st XV pitch was in good condition under sunny skies. After the visitors had kicked off, Reigate were quickly on the scoreboard, inside centre Tom Allen putting a well-judged grubber kick into the right corner, which for which right wing Gus McGilligan vied with the cover defence to reach. Referee Phil Bowers was well up with play and awarded the try, fly half Lucas Overtoom converting from wide out.
St Columba’s came close to evening things up with a period of pressure inside the Reigate 22 after charging down a kick, but conceded a scrum 5m out from which the ball was cleared to touch. After good work down the left touchline by centre Max Coyle and wing Joe Gregory had established field position on the St Columba’s 22, the defence were penalised in front of the posts and Overtoom took the three points.
The Hertfordshire school’s 10-12-13 trio were starting to make an impact in midfield and a break and exchange of passes with inside centre James McCallum by fly half Joe Dootson took play into the Reigate 22, where the defence were penalised. From the ensuing lineout, the ball was worked infield by the forwards and Dootson crossed close to the posts, outside centre Michael Mullens converting.
Although the Reigate lead was soon extended by another Overtoom penalty, St Columba’s threatened with a kick downfield after a turnover, but Overtoom was back to clear up and he found support from McGillican. The right wing ran from midfield avoiding several tacklers, and although he was eventually stopped on the 22, the ball was moved quickly to the left and centre Max Coyle had the pace to squeeze in at the corner. Overtoom made light of the touchline conversion.
The momentum was now with the home side. Overtoom stepped several defenders before off- loading to scrum half Alex Skinner. He was stopped but Mr Bowers judged the tackle to be high, and Overtoom kicked to the right corner. With the lineout won, the Reigate maul was stopped but, despite desperate goal line defence, sustained pressure finally brought a try on the left, prop Charlie Bennett crashing over in the corner and Overtoom converting. Although, following the restart, Mullens found an excellent line to break through in midfield, offloading to McCallum, a knock-on allowed Reigate to clear and the half ended with Reigate camped on the St Columba’s line.
Half-time: Reigate Grammar School 27-7 St Columba’s College
Reigate started the second half as they had finished the first, second row Joe Gregson making some hard yards and offloading to prop Paul Marshall who carried to the one metre line before being stopped by good defence. The respite was brief however and, after pressure in the right corner, play was switched back to the left where a long pass from Coyle created an overlap for left wing Joe Gregory, who touched down under the posts, Overtoom converting.
The home side followed this score a few moments later with a fifth try, good handling by the backs on the right creating an overlap for No 8 Oliver Brooks. The touchline conversion attempt was again beautifully struck, but for once was judged to be off target. With the game opening up, the Reigate backs were finding running space and Allen crossed in the corner, Overtoom converting from the touchline.
Although the lead was now clearly insurmountable, St Columba’s stuck to their task with tenacity and at last gained good field position before flanker James Gamblin crashed over on the left. Reigate were now going to their bench and it was replacement left wing George Blackburn who found room along the touchline to squeeze in at the corner, Overtoom yet again converting from the touchline. There was time for a final consolation try by St Columba’s, McCallum finding a great line to cut through the defence on the 22 and running unopposed to score under the posts, Mullens converting.
Reigate have one more regular season fixture against local rivals Caterham and have two games scheduled with touring Australian sides, while they await their Plate semi-final.
Final score: Reigate Grammar School 53-19 St Columba’s College
Reigate Grammar School: Charlie Bennett, Ciaran Nestor, Paul Marshall (Vice-Capt), Joe Gregson (Vice-Capt), Billy Elliston, Marcus Sotiriou, James Ingram, Oliver Brooks, Alexander Skinner (Vice-Capt), Lucas Overtoom (Capt), Joe Gregory, Tom Allen, Max Coyle (Vice-Capt), Gus McGilligan, Joe Wills
Replacements: Thomas Box, Cameron Martin, Prasoth Kirubakaran, Sean Watters, George Blackburn, James Bennett, Harry Swann
St Columba’s College: Joseph Price, Harry Deeks, Dan Jones (Captain), Alex Meredith, Stephen Turner, James Gamblin, Olly Pontefract, Sean Walsh, Ruari McGowan, Joe Dootson, Joseph Bates, James McCallum, Michael Mullens, Ned Robinson, Charlie Griffiths
Replacements: Harry Brow, Jamie Darvill, Ryan Owen, Jack Amor, Haydon Wheeler, Miles Lear, Chris Stevens