Cranleigh became the first side to win back to back Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s Cup titles since Millfield in 2009 and 2010 with their 28-7 victory over Brighton College in the 2017 final.
It was the most wonderful tribute to their friend and former schoolmate Jake Andrews, who so sadly lost his long and difficult battle with cancer just a fortnight ago.
His funeral was this afternoon, and the players were all offered the opportunity to attend rather than continue their defence of the title they won so brilliantly against Harrow last year, deciding to a man that the most fitting tribute to Jake would be to go out there and battle for this most famous of schoolboy trophies in the same inspiring manner that he fought his own battle.
Perhaps there was an element of fate to it, often we like to attribute victory in such circumstances to being written in the stars, but the truth is this was hard earned. Be under no illusions, Cranleigh are a good side, but they were by no means favourites in this most competitive of year’s in the Cup.
They fought and scrapped for every single victory, every single point in this tournament. Throughout they had the feel of a side that was not going to be found left wanting for effort, no, that simply would not do as a tribute.
It came through in last gasp covering that extra yard for a tackle, working that bit harder to support the ball-carrier, and most strikingly of all, it came through in scoring crucial late tries.
In their opening game of the day, the elimination round, they went into extra time against Beechen Cliff, who had beaten them last week in the Surrey 7s. Extra time meant sudden death, and boy did they respond. If anything their workrate increased, and when they broke the length of the field, what was striking was the number of players ready in support to clear the ruck and set up the next phase, which eventually led to the crucial try.
In the quarter final pool the key game was against Brighton College, and again it was a late drama and that sense of never ending effort that paid off for Cranleigh as they scored in the last place to seal victory and top place in their quarter final pool.
Brighton College still progressed, with the top two in each pool reaching the semis, and secured their place in the final with a 24-17 victory over surprise packages Cardiff and Vale, all done without their best player, Marcus Smith. They were genuinely outstanding throughout most of the two days, as their record showed, they knocked out Filton College, Wellington College, and plenty of others on their way to the final.
Having finished top, Cranleigh, meanwhile, beat Bedford 15-12 in their semi final, to set up yet another game against Brighton College.
These two have been inextricably linked all season, they drew 10-10 at the St Joseph’s Festival, Cranleigh lifting the trophy by virtue of scoring first, Brighton College then won in their block fixture by the tightest of margins, 6-3, before another draw at the Hampton 7s, followed by today’s dramatic last gasp Cranleigh win in the quarter final pools.
The talk of the touchlines ahead of the final was to expect a close one, as that is clearly what happens when these two rivals meet, however in the end it was not, at least on the scoreboard, with it finishing 28-7 in Cranleigh’s favour.
The reality was far removed from that though, this final was a fierce and physical contest, every score hard earned, and every defensive set celebrated just as wildly as a great piece of attack from a vociferous crowd.
Cranleigh took a 14-0 lead, but Brighton College pulled one back just before the break for 14-7 as the teams headed into the half time break. It had been a pulsating half, and though Cranleigh were the next to score, for a 21-7 lead, the game felt far from over.
Brighton College dominated the ball, straining every sinew to secure the vital score, if they could just cross the whitewash they would get one more shot at scoring to level the game.
Cranleigh’s defence was unyielding though, through phase after phase they refused to crack forcing Brighton College to come back and try again over and over again. Eventually they had to try something a bit more risky, and when a long pass was intercepted and hacked along, Cranleigh had their chance to score that vital try, and run down the clock with the final play to secure a famous victory and back to back Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s titles, and with it a place in the history books alongside the great schoolboy rugby teams.
Over in the Plate competition there was plenty of excitement too. Wellington College, the side that Brighton knocked out in the Elimination round, went all the way to the final but came undone, having led, against a brilliant Woodhouse Grove outfit, for whom victory meant everything.
The men in green eventually ran out 19-14 winners, capping a brilliant day for the school, which also saw them claim the U14 Plate competition, the only school this week to lift two separate pieces of silverware.
Ultimately, though, the day was about Cranleigh’s wonderful achievement and the most fitting tribute for their friend, Jake. It was, truly, and inspiration to watch.
Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s U18 Cup Results:
U18 Cup Final:
Cranleigh 28-7 Brighton College
U18 Plate Final:
Woodhouse Grove 19-14 Wellington College
U18 Cup Semi Finals:
Cranleigh 15-12 Bedford
Cardiff and Vale 17-24 Brighton College
U18 Cup Quarter Final Pools:
|Group A||Group B|
|Cranleigh||Cardiff and Vale|
|Kirkham Grammar School||Hartpury College|
U18 Plate Semi Finals Pools:
|Group A||Group B|
|Wellington College||Woodhouse Grove|
|Beechen Cliff||Barnard Castle|
|SGS Filton College||Merchiston Castle|
U18 Cup Elimination Round Results:
Cranleigh (Winner A) 17-10 (AET) Beechen Cliff (Winner B)
Whitgift (C) 22-7 Caterham (D)
Wellington College (E) 0-19 Brighton College (F)
Merchiston Castle (G) 22-28 Millfield (H)
Woodhouse Grove (I) 0-34 Hartpury College (J)
Bedford (K) 29-10 Henley College (L)
Kirkham Grammar School (M) 19-7 SGS Filton College (Runner Up 1)
Cardiff & Vale (N) 22-17 Barnard Castle (RU2)
HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s Cup Final Group Standings (1-5), 70 Teams:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Coleg Llandrillo||St Benedict’s||John Fisher||Ivybridge Community|
|Utah Lions||Coleg Gwent||Coleg y Cymoedd||Queen Ethelburga’s|
|Brooksby||Peterborough Regional College||Nottingham HS||Hurstpierpoint College|
|Tasker Milward||Ryde School||VIIs Barbarians||Newport HS|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|Wellington College||Brighton College||Merchiston Castle||Millfield|
|Barnard Castle||SGS Filton College||Dulwich College||Canford|
|Cowbridge Comprehensive||Haileybury||Neath Port Talbot||Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf|
|Leicester Grammar School||Rydal Penrhos||Giggleswick||St George’s College|
|Old Swinford Hospital||St Ambrose College||Myerscough College||London Oratory|
|Group I||Group J||Group K||Group L|
|Woodhouse Grove||Hartpury College||Bedford||Harris City Academy|
|Tonbridge||St Paul’s Catholic College||Dollar Academy||Llandovery College|
|Moulton College||Sedbergh||City of London Freemen’s||Sherborne|
|Worcester 6th form College||Oundle||Bishop Burton College||Henley College|
|Oaklands College||Denstone College||Warwick||Wimbledon College|
|Group M||Group N|
|Kirkham Grammar||Cardiff and Vale|
|Coleg Sir Gar||St Joseph’s College|
|Hampton||Chislehurst & Sidcup|