A strong second half performance saw Wellington College secure the U15 NatWest Cup with a 25-12 victory over Warwick School at Twickenham Stadium.
After losing in last year’s final to Sedbergh, Wellington’s team from that game showed their class to win the U16 title at Rosslyn Park, and now the U15s have avenged that final defeat last year here at Twickenham.
In destroying Warwick’s hopes of being the only school to equal their stunning achievement of winning both the U15 and U18 titles on the same day, Wellington College have also achieved a quite brilliant record of their own in winning this U15 NatWest Cup title.
They are now the holders of the U18 Daily Mail Trophy, the U16 Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s, and the U15 NatWest Schools Cup, a quite stunning trio of achievements that surely makes them the most dominant school in the country across all age-groups.
They had to work as hard as they have all season for this title though, for if any school right now is in a position to challenge Wellington’s claim to be the most dominant school across the age-groups, Warwick are, such has been there record in the last few years of reaching, and winning, U13, U15, and U18 finals.
Most sides that have faced Wellington College this season have buckled under their physical prowess, but not Warwick, not in this final. Though smaller, they absorbed everything that Wellington College threw at them, but sometimes even that is not enough.
Skipper and tighthead Fin Baxter, a player already showing signs of a big future, played a huge part in making the difference between the two sides, scoring a brace of tries in an all-action performance.
His first try came after just three minutes, a well worked move from a 5 metre lineout that gave his team an early lead with the conversion from full back Max Thomas.
Well worked set-piece moves were to prove something of a theme through this game, some of which were quite something to behold.
Perhaps the move of the game came some ten minutes later as Warwick levelled things up with a try of stunning mystery an beauty. A midfield scrum near halfway gave them a superb attacking platform, and as they feigned the entire team to the left, openside and captain Jack Forsythe popped up with the ball on the right. Tearing away into the open field, he put in a wonderful step on Thomas to saunter under the posts for the most spectacular leveler once scrum half Jack Aston’s conversion was landed.
As far as first half points went though, that was it; this was a tense and physical battle, a battle of wills as much as skills, as these two schoolboy heavyweights went in at the break tied at 7-7.
As in the first half, Wellington College came flying out after the kick off, scoring through full back Max Thomas with a clever move of their own from a scrum, he picked a glorious line to scythe through, sending his team 12-7 clear.
Five minutes later it was time for Baxter to add his second as he tied up the man of the match award. Lurking on the wing, the big prop was there to pounce when his winger went close, picking the ball up and driving over from close range for a 17-7 lead.
From there the game could easily have been taken away from Warwick, and against many others that is exactly what this impressive Wellington College group have done, however this Warwick group is a special group indeed, and they were not going to wilt. Just four minutes after Wellington had scored, Warwick hit back, with full back Ethan Evan-Cook clutching onto a superb crossfield kick to dot down and close the gap right back up again at 17-12.
For ten minutes the game was truly in the balance, only for another stunning set piece move, completed by the most gorgeous line from substitute winger George Morrison, sent Wellington back out to a ten point lead at 22-12.
As time ticked on, Wellington slowed down the pace of the game, knowing that Warwick had to chase it, and a Thomas penalty with five minutes to play gave them a thirteen point lead, meaning Warwick would need two converted tries to win the game.
It was mature stuff from Wellington College, as was their entire performance. What this school has achieved, both today and throughout the year is truly outstanding and they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those legends of 2008.
Warwick deserve their mention too though, they have been excellent all season, and contributed enormously to a game with a skill level and physicality that would not have looked remotely out of place at a higher age-group.
It was the end of a history chasing dream for them, but for Wellington College this truly was a victory that adds to their already outstanding legacy. This group of players could well go on to achieve even more as the years go on, on today’s evidence, they are that good.
Full Time: Wellington College 25-12 Warwick
Image Credit: Wellington College Rugby
15 Max Thomas, 14 Paul Dewey, 13 Harry Cain, 12 Charlie Bradbury, 11 Alex Teague, 10 Michael O’Donoghue, 9 Finn Livingstone-Learmouth, 1 Marcus Rhodes, 2 Lucas Brooke, 3 Fin Baxter (c), 4 Arvind Singh, 5 Max Watson, 6 Nick Teague, 7 Cassius Forshaw, 8 Ted Johnson.
Replacements: 16 Ben Murrin, 17 Alessandro Heaney, 18 James Kinnear, 19 Tommy Offer, 20 Guy Bryer, 21 Monty Bradbury, 22 George Morison.
15 Ethan Evan-Cook, 14 Max Hayward, 13 Harry Spencer, 12 Tom Boorman, 11 Ben Beresford, 10 Finlay Smith, 9 Jack Aston, 1 Tom Durant, 2 Matt Rigby, 3 Tom Hales, 4 Will Pugh, 5 Dan May, 6 Kai Nwangwa, 7 Jack Forsythe (c), 8 Will Banfield.
Replacements: 16 Will Dudley, 17 James Parker, 18 Giles King, 19 Cameron Dunn, 20 Will Mobberley, 21 Tom Patrick, 22 Kunwoo Ha.