Royal Grammar School High Wycombe survived a late comeback by Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School Wakefield for a narrow victory in freezing conditions at Aylesbury RFC
With the severe frost playing havoc with fixture lists, Friday night games on 3G or 4G pitches under lights are providing a rare opportunity to watch some to quality schools games. RGS and QEGS, despite being based 180 miles apart, have established a regular fixture in addition to meeting periodically at the St Joseph’s Festival. They also played a classic U18 Cup Quarter Final game in 2010, the powerful QEGS pack dominating the first half before RGS staged a comeback to clinch a 16-10 victory. This year’s game was also a game of two halves, with the Buckinghamshire school dominating before the interval before their Yorkshire visitors found their rhythm.
Both schools had been on the wrong end of close scores in this season’s U18 NatWest Cup, RGS going down 23-24 to Sir Thomas Rich’s in Round 3 and QEGS 11-13 in the Quarter Finals to perennial rivals Warwick, so a tight match was in prospect. The curtain raiser was played out by the 2nd XV sides, RGS taking a close game 20-17, with tries by captain Harrison Meadows, a brace from fly half Jamie Thompson and centre Liam Dudley adding a conversion and a penalty. QEGS replied with three penalties by scrum half Alessandro Longo and a try from centre Tom Macrow.
In the 1st XV game QEGS had the first chance to get on the scoreboard but Jake Adams’ penalty just missed and RGS took play down to the other end of the field. Successive penalties kicked to touch on the left enabled RGS to set up a maul 5m out. When that was taken down a third penalty and a stern warning from the referee ensued. This time the RGS forwards drove across the line and prop forward Harrison Glover touched down. Fly half Freddie Roddick’s touchline conversion attempt was just wide.
QEGS threatened to reply, charging down an attempted clearance kick, but were penalised 5m out. RGS then came close to scoring, flanker Dan Edgar looking momentarily through in midfield but called back for a forward pass, and centre Ben Harris breaking the defensive line in midfield before being pulled down short of the line. Captain and No 8 Matt Handcock made successive effective carries to maintain the pressure and after another penalty kicked to the right corner the second try followed. Although the backs were stopped after play had been switched to the left, possession was retained and Roddick crossed to score, adding the extras himself.
RGS continued to dominate possession and territory, right wing Sibu Zulu being stopped just short of the line, and flanker Ben Ward intercepting on halfway and carrying to the QEGS 22. Finally the pressure delivered a third try just before the interval. An attacking scrum in the right corner gave the backs a chance to run first phase ball: although they were stopped on the left, the ball came back to Handcock on the right and he crossed close to the posts, Roddick converting.
Halftime: RGS High Wycombe 19-0 QEGS Wakefield
Any thoughts that the game might be over as a contest were swiftly dispelled. QEGS were unable to retain possession from an attacking lineout, but the RGS clearance kick was run back with interest and flanker Edan Kelly dived over to score, Adams converting. The momentum was now with the visitors and a side entry at a ruck by RGS saw Adams successful from the tee to reduce the deficit to 9 points.
Normal service appeared to have been resumed when Roddick made an excellent break and, after the ball had been recycled, QEGS were penalised on their 22. The referee issued a stern warning and replacement centre Josh Gurton stepped up to kick the three points. The referee had shown a consistent zero tolerance approach at the breakdown and he was similarly tough on a put-in at a scrum by RGS replacement scrum half Ollie Brown. This seemed to trigger another shift in momentum and good running by scrum half Sam Tovey and centre Luke Adams saw sustained QEGS pressure. A try in the corner seemed certain but a tremendous tackle by hooker Rhys Gillespie kept them out.
The siege on the RGS line continued. Kelly drove to within a few metres but the defence held firm. Finally good hands created an overlap on the left for Harry Feeney. Again an excellent tackle was put in and the QEGS wing was turned onto his back as he crossed the line, but the referee judged that he had grounded the ball legally and awarded the try. With Adams’ kick from wide out successful, a converted try would give QEGS victory with several minutes left, by no means unlikely with the momentum now wholly with them. A frantic finish to the game ensued with, perhaps unsurprisingly, tempers becoming frayed, but the defence held out.
Full-time RGS High Wycombe 22-17 QEGS Wakefield
RGS High Wycombe 1st XV: Harrison Glover, Rhys Gillespie, Dominic Harris, Tim Pope, Cameron Logan, Dan Edgar (Vice Capt.), Ben Ward, Matt Handcock (Capt.), Adam Phimister , Freddie Roddick, Scott Clare, Jamie McGurk, Ben Harris, Sibu Zulu, Andrew Macdonald
Replacements: Henry Chilcott, Josh Gurton, Ollie Brown, Matvey Boguslavsky, Efan Morris, Hugh Britton
QEGS Wakefield 1st XV: Harvey Farrar, Tom Jewson, Nathan Youngs (Capt.), Jack Mann, Joseph Selim, Edan Kelly, Max Hanson, Charnock, Sam Tovey, Jake Adams, Harry Feaney, Luke Adams, Harry Thompson, Bennett, Harry Kelly
Replacements: Gogna, Snowball, Jasper McGuire
RGS High Wycombe 2nd XV: Rory Hunt-Cooke, Michael Everett, Kai Saunders, Harrison Meadows (Capt.), Ciaran Duncan, Oscar Wright, James Sendall, Sean West, Michael Jobling, Jamie Thompson, Louis Wardle, Liam Dudley, Lewey Newton, Oscar Benson-Gaunt, Matt Millard
Replacements: Matt Hudson, Ollie King, Matt Bowen , Harry Bradshaw, Tommy Allen, Faris Umar, Callum Padfield, Jay Salmon, Rees Thomas
QEGS Wakefield 2nd XV: Vickers, Towler, Walker, Granger, Eames B, Pitchford, C Eames, Crabtree, Longo, Wigglesworth, Hughes, Morgan, Macrow, Sanderson, Byrne
Replacements: Stockdale, Williams, Carter Bower Stead