Champions Trophy: RGS Guildford the first to win in 2017 Champions Trophy

RGS Guildford became the first side to join those with byes in the second round of the 2017 Champions Trophy.

 

They did so with a highly impressive 38-0 win over Caterham on the carpet-like Bradstone Brook 1st XV pitch.

 

The Champions Trophy has become a huge deal in the schools rugby world since its inception in 2014 and both of these sides were more than aware of the prestige of the event as they kicked off.

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For RGS they had the perfect storm, they started with a bang, scoring twice in the opening ten minutes, but they also had dominance around the fringes of the rucks and had the upper hand in the kick return stakes. The speed with which they moved the ball out wide was too much, particularly in the first half, for Caterham.

 

In all fairness to Caterham though, they changed the way the played in the second half, opting to use the boot less and trying, where possible, around the fringes to move the ball a little further out with the big carriers trying to put in a little pop pass to the man on their outside.

 

The trouble for Caterham was that at half time they were staring down the barrel of a 26-0 deficit at the change of ends.

 

That was due to a superb opening 40 form RGS. Ten minutes in they were 14-0 up thanks to a try courtesy of their driving maul on eight minutes before returning the kick off with interest less than two minutes and releasing their left wing for a stunning response.

 

It was that fast transferring of the ball on the counter that was proving so effective for RGS Guildford, who can claim England international, and 2013 World Championship winning England U20 captain, Jack Clifford among their old boys.

 

Caterham kept trying to ask the question, with their back row carrying valiantly as a unit, but in that first half RGS repeatedly shut the door, with captain and openside Max Dobinson an absolute thorn in the opposition’s side.

 

Two further first half tries followed for the home side, the first a brilliant kick return as they turned that hugely threatening area into points. With a minute to play they landed their fourth as tired Caterham bodies, who had been defending for much of the half, began to fall off tackles, allowing a simple enough fourth try for the home side.

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Caterham changed up their tactics in the second half though, moving that point of contact and kicking with far greater accuracy and purpose. It worked, the RGS penalty count went up, largely for slightly high tackles and ruck offences as they tried to regain control of possession, eventually resulting in a team yellow card for their number 8 as he strayed offside with Caterham pressing for a score.

 

Crucially though, RGS held out. That, perhaps as much as anything else, will really stand out for them as they prepare for the next round. In this competition good defence in pressurized moments is key, because as the rounds tick on those moments go from a few minutes to entire games.

 

What was also impressive was that as the game moved into its final quarter, RGS learned from those penalties and adapted. Chopping their men early and then targeting the ball with the next man rather than aiming to wrap up the ball in the tackle.

 

It paid dividends, back to fifteen men they scored with seven left on the clock, moving the ball all the way out to the left wing, who then cut sharply back as he hit the 22 to walk under the posts.

 

Two minutes later they were at it again, seizing an opportunistic score as the ball squirted out of a ruck to a narrow blindside on the left hand side, allowing them to run free almost unopposed to seal a magnificent 38-0 victory and a place in the second round.

 

In the end it was a simple enough victory in a game that really felt pre-game like it would be a close one. As RGS Guildford move into the second round though, some seriously tough test are almost certainly awaiting. Epsom College and Eton College are both through with byes, so too the last three champions, Millfield, Bedford, and Tonbridge, plus the triple Daily Mail Trophy winners, Wellington College. They will also be joined by Stowe, who beat St Albans 47-17 on Tuesday in Buckinghamshire.

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RGS Guildford will take it in their stride though, you sense. There was a real sense of pride about their business in this first round fixture, exemplified by their captain, but shown throughout the attitude of the whole team.

 

That is what the Champions Trophy is all about, and when the rest of the first round kicks off next week, you can be sure to see more.

 

Full Time: RGS Guildford 38-0 Caterham

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