The 2017 U18 NatWest Cup semi final line-up has been confirmed following Bishop Wordsworth’s 34-24 victory in the final quarter final yesterday at Judd.
It was thrilling game, that also served as the opening of Judd’s new 3G pitch. That artificial surface helped to negate the effects of a cold day, aiding some brilliant running rugby throughout.
Both sides contributed wonderfully as they gave everything they could to join Bromsgrove, Felsted, and Warwick at Allianz Park for the semi finals on Saturday 4th March.
Judd have been in sensational form this year, producing some great games against theoretically superior opponents, and they would need that again on their new 3G. In the first twenty minutes they did just that, and though Bishop Wordsworth’s took the lead through Bath U18 full back Xavier Hastings, Judd tore into the visitors with incredible intensity in that opening twenty minutes.
They were rewarded with two superb early tries for their efforts, with hooker Tom Barnes being put through by Alex Walker, with winger Tom Kendrick following shortly after for a wonderful second try for his team.
That put them 12-3 ahead and looking inspired. Their intensity at the breakdown, in the tackle, and with the ball in hand was superb and Bishop Wordsworth’s were going to have to dig deep to stay in touch.
Dig deep they did though, they regrouped and came flying out at Judd hard, from all angles. The Salisbury side are likely to have a good 7s side too this year, and that showed as their all-court game began to really stretch the home defence.
As the half passed its midpoint, Bishop Wordsworth’s attacked down the right hand side from inside their own half, with their electric winger Callum McTaggart burning his way around the outside from halfway before passing inside to the rangy and pacy second row Tom Boxer, who finished from the 22.
It was a stunning score, converted by Hastings, and marked a change in the game as the away side found their confidence. Barley two minutes later they were at it again, this time with their captain and potential England U18 centre, Cadan Murley, bursting away from deep inside his own half. He streaked down the left hand touchline before a tap tackle just clipped him, but not before he manage to squeeze in a beautiful offload to his scrum half, Finley Lloyd-Gilmour, who held his balance brilliantly before streaking away to finish for his side.
With Hastings converting, Bishop Wordsworth’s had turned a 12-3 deficit to a 17-12 lead, and there was more to come before the half time break, with Lloyd-Gilmour again crossing the whitewash. The livewire scrum half spotted half a gap as the referee a penalty from close range, Lloyd-Gilmour opted to tap and wriggled his way over to send his side into the break 22-12 up.
The away side were on a roll and playing with real pace and intensity, the sort of play that has seen them claim some huge scalps this year and take some of the best teams in the country very close. That pace to their play continued into the second half, with another tap penalty yielding results as this tide Murley opted for the quick tap from a central penalty on halfway. He burst away from the defence before accelerating away for a simple score under the posts, giving Hastings an easy conversion for a 29-12 lead.
Unfortunately for Bishop Wordsworth’s, their inspirational leader had to come off injured shortly after, but there was still plenty of inspiration across the rest of the team, notably from McTaggart, who scored one of the tries of the game. Starting on halfway on the right hand side he stepped his way across the defence, showing superb pace and vision, before finishing in the left hand corner for a simply sublime individual score.
It gave the away side a dominant 34-12 lead, and at the moment in time the only possibility looked like more points for the Salisbury side and a truly commanding win. However Judd have too much pride to allow that to happen. Summoning the spirit that had seen them jump to that early lead. They raised their intensity, put pressure on Bishop Wordsworth’s, and slowly turned the tide.
Eventually a try followed, with Henry Filce crashing over for 34-17. Suddenly, despite being behind, the home side were in charge. Wave after wave of attack came, while Bishop Wordsworth’s discipline began to creak too. As the game neared the close, Judd were again across the whitewash, though it did take confirmation from the touch judge. Suddenly 34-12 was now 34-24 and the momentum shift was such that if the score was going in any direction, it was tighter.
Time would be the only issue for the home side, they had all of the play, but with barely any time on the clock, ten points was a tall order. Still they pressed though, knowing that one quick try could give them half a chance.
With a minute left, they though they had found the chink. A grubber through saw a footrace for the line, one that Judd was winning. All they needed was for the ball to sit up, but the bounce of a rugby ball is an unpredictable and sometimes cruel thing.
So it proved for Judd as it hopped sideways just as the line approached. Bishop Wordsworth’s cleaned up the loose ball, and that was to be that, the away side cleared the ball and the referee’s whistle quickly followed, confirming Bishop Wordsworth’s deserved place in the semi finals, 34-24.
It was a brave and exciting performance from Judd, but Bishop Wordsworth’s deserved their win, their play in the middle two quarters of the game was sublime, and on a fast artificial surface their ability to go from anywhere is a real threat. With Allianz Park the semi final venue, that could prove crucial.
It truly was a wonderful quarter final, and one that bodes well for the quality of the semi finals in six weeks time.
Full Time: Judd 24-34 Bishop Wordsworth’s
15 Hugo Carter, 14 Tom Kendrick, 13 Alex Walker, 12 Matthew Livingston, 11 Scott Thomson, 10 Henry Carter, 9 Harry Costello (c), 1 Adam Fidler, 2 Tom Barnes, 3 Harry Dunmall, 4 William Diaz, 5 Joey Crook, 6 Henry Filce, 7 Chris Dubec, 8 Alfie Scoper.
Replacements: Digby Walsh, 17 Barnie Skinner, 18 Alex Jewson, 19 Toby Seal, 20 Joshua Hartman, 21 Harvey Dunn, 22 Josh Mudge.
15 Xavier Hastings, 14 Callum McTaggart, 13 Cadan Murley (c), 12 Ollie Dykes, 11 Chris Nichols, 10 Joseph Tully, 9 Finley Lloyd-Gilmour, 1 Harvey Platt, 2 Archie McEwan, 3 James McDonald, 4 Tom Boxer, 5 Toby Peebles, 6 Harry Mould, 7 Jarrod Cardew, 8 Jamie Ellis.
Replacements: 16 Adam Mercer, 17 Luke Sainsbury, 18 James Kennedy, 19 Dan Petraeus, 20 Patrick Bates, 21 Tom McFarland, 22 Andy Norris.