Reigate Grammar School secured the U18 NatWest Plate title with a 20-16 win at a wet Sixways Stadium against local side Solihull School.
Almost from the first round, Reigate have been touted as favourites to win this tournament, but with that comes a pressure of its own, the pressure to live up to those expectations.
They did so with a fine performance, this was not one of attacking flair, but a performance of efficiency, and of defensive relentlessness. They starved Solihull of a decent platform and quality ball for much of the game. Joe Gregson was a menace at the lineout, Max Coyle was defensively brilliant, snuffling out everything Solihull were offering, and all the while Lucas Overtoom’s brilliant right foot was keeping the scoreboard edging further and further away from their opponents.
They had to work for it though, Solihull came storming back at the end, and with their tails up in the closing stages, they were gunning for victory.
Reigate had been by far the better side in the opening quarter of the game, but for all their efforts they were just 3-0 up after 25 minutes thanks to a penalty from the superb boot of skipper and fly half, Lucas Overtoom.
Solihull had done well to stay in touch, and wer rewarded for that with a penalty of their own in the 26th minute, which their own captain and fly half, Tom Serle, slotted to level things up.
No sooner had Solihull got themselves on the scoreboard though, than they let Reigate get their noses back in front as the South Eastern side landed a second penalty through Overtoom’s metronomic boot.
Serle levelled thins up just before the half, but once again just as Solihull had got back on level terms, Reigate responded in style. It was the way of the game, Reigate, while under pressure at times, had too much control to let the game slip away from them.
When they did respond to that Solihull penalty, it was magnificent. Max Coyle, who was in action for England at the weekend, executed a brilliant chip and chase down the right hand side. He was eventually hauled down, and the ball was recycled, releasing the brilliant Joe Gregson to power right through the heart of the Solihull defence and into the 22.
From there the ball was again recycled and this time shifted wide to the left hand side for Joe Gregory to go flying over in the corner. It truly was a magnificent team try, with a little bit of something for everyone in it.
Overtoom landed a magnificent touchline conversion, though by then it seemed almost a guarantee that he would, to end his side in 13-6 ahead at the half time break.
It was a deserved lead for Reigate, who had had a dominant half, despite it being so tight on the scoreboard for much of it.
The second half was a different story though, this was tight on the scoreboard and on the field of play as Solihull raised their game superbly.
An early penalty closed the deficit to 13-9 as they started to increase the pressure. As in the first half though, at the first sign of pressure, Reigate responded. This time it was scrum half Alex Skinner who stepped up with a wonderful break to go darting over for a 20-9 lead.
It was no coincidence that the players making a difference, Gregson, Skinner, Overtoom, and Coyle, were all listed as captain or vice-captain on the teamsheet, this was a day for the leaders to step up, and s they did magnificently.
Still Solihull refused to go away though, and as the game entered its final stages, they finally crossed the whitewash, through their enormous tighthead, Lorenzo Sinclair, who swatted away a couple of defenders as he burst through the 22 and across the line.
All of a sudden the momentum was with Solihull, who were now within a try of their opponents, and with so little time left, it seemed like things could go either way, particularly when Reigate missed a penalty chance.
That miss gave Solihull the ball with the last play of the game, and the local side took advantage, surging downfield. The Reigate crowd, so superbly loud, and highly entertaining, all game, lost their voices for just a moment as they thought the unthinkable may happen and Solihull might steal victory.
As Solihull threw the offload though, Tom Allen intercepted, allowing Skinner to boot the ball away, handing Regiate Grammar School a deserved U18 NatWest Plate victory.
It was a tense and nervous ending, and Solihull were as valiant and brave as any side out on that pitch today, but there was no doubt that Reigate Grammar School were the worthy winners, as they have been all through this competition. They ability to adapt their style to the mood of the game was excellent, and their leadership group really rose to the challenge and lived up to the name.
Full Time: Reigate Grammar School 20-16 Solihull
|U18 NatWest Plate Final Teams|
|Reigate Grammar School||Pos||Solihull|
|Charlie Bennett||1||Henry Nicholls|
|Ciaran Nestor||2||Joshua Gee|
|Paul Marshall (vc)||3||Lorenzo Sinclair|
|Billy Elliston||4||Alistair Bevan|
|Joe Gregson (vc)||5||Charles Davies|
|Marcus Sotiriou||6||Harry Manek-Robinson|
|James Ingram||7||Alexander Holland|
|Oli Brooks||8||William Knight|
|Alex Skinner (vc)||9||Harry Mitcham|
|Lucas Overtoom (c)||10||Tom Serle (c)|
|Joe Gregory||11||Tom O’Hanlon|
|Tom Allen||12||Sam Kandola|
|Max Coyle (vc)||13||Alexander Bartley|
|Gus McGilligan||14||Arthur Townsend|
|Joe Wills||15||Benjamin Watson|
|Alex Edwards||16||Matthew Bond|
|Cameron Martin||17||Yahia Affifi|
|Tom Box||18||Cole Elleman|
|Prasoth Kirubakaran||19||William Jervis|
|James Bennett||20||Matthew Farrow|
|Sean Watters||21||Bartholomew Payne|
|George Blackburn||22||Alexander Sasse|