Cranleigh School added the Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s title to their list of illustrious recent title victories at the Richmond Athletic Ground on Wednesday.
They beat the 2016 champions Harrow, whom they would go onto beat in the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s final later that year, 29-0 in a hugely impressive display in the final.
It makes Cranleigh the holders of both the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s and the Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s titles now and this victory will send them into the Rosslyn Park nationals in a fortnight absolutely brimming with confidence.
So it should, this was a tournament that was won the hard way. They came through a tough Group B, a group that included Berkhamsted, and such was their quality that they also went through as one of the best 3 runners up, losing out to eventual finalists Harrow by a single score in the last 16.
Cranleigh’s reward for winning that group? An incredibly tough last 16 tie against the reigning champions, Hampton, who had topped Group A. It turned out to be arguably the tie of the tournament. Leading 17-12 in the final minute, Cranleigh went behind to a sensational play from Hampton, who took a 19-17 lead.
The kick off was the final play of the game, and when it went sailing beyond the Cranleigh receiver, Hampton must have though they had it won. However Cranleigh reacted to the bouncing ball first and raced away virtually unopposed to send themselves into the quarter finals with a 24-19 victory.
There they would be joined by heavyweight from across the country, St Paul’s Catholic College, Brighton College, Epsom College, Kirkham Grammar School, former champions Wellington College, and of course the finalists, Harrow.
Before they could worry about any of them though, Cranleigh faced the most successful side in this tournament’s history, Millfield. They had topped Group C and had seen of Truro College, from the AASE League, in their last 16 tie.
Another thriller ensued, with Cranleigh taking this one 29-24 with some stunning tries to set up a semi final with Brighton College. Yes, Brighton College, the side that they could barely be separated from last year and it looks as though it will be more of the same this.
The South Coast side had topped their group impressively and had come through their last 16 tie in style, dominating SGS Filton College for a 47-5 victory. The quarters saw them face a second AASE side, and again they secured the win, this time a slightly tighter one at 28-17.
The other side of the draw, meanwhile, saw Epsom College face Harrow after Harrow had beaten Wellington College 26-5 and Epsom had put in a superb quarter final effort to defeat Kirkham Grammar School 28-12.
Cranleigh started the semi final on fire, racing to a 19-0 lead. It looked bleak for Brighton College, but a late first half try narrowed it to 19-5, giving them a glimmer of hope. That glimmer became a huge ray of hope in the second half as they came roaring back to level the game at 19-19.
It is in these moments where the character of a side can so often be laid bare, and Cranleigh showed that the have character by the bucketload as with the final play of the game they scorched down the right hand touchline to seal the game in sensational style, winning 26-19 to send them into the final. Harrow, meanwhile, had secured a 26-17 win over Epsom College in their semi final, a win that was more comfortable than the score suggested as a couple of late tries gave the score a more favourable look for Epsom, who had performed well throughout the day.
Before Cranleigh and Harrow could meet though, there was the small matter of the hugely exciting Plate final. The Plate at the Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s is competed for by the top 8 Surrey Schools from the Groups that are not already in the main Cup draw.
Those eight were Dulwich College, Reed’s, KCS Wimbledon, St John’s Leatherhead, Wimbledon College, Caterham, RGS Guildford, and Whitgift.
From the pack, St John’s Leatherhead and Caterham emerged, St John’s beating KCS in their quarter followed by Dulwich College in their semi, while Caterham beat Wimbledon College first, followed by Whitgift.
Heading into the final, Caterham were looking for back to back Plate titles here, and took an early 5-0 lead. However from there the impressive St John’s, who finished 3rd in a horribly tough group featuring Harrow and last year’s finalists Beechen Cliff, began to pile on the pressure.
Two first half tries game them a 12-5 half time leading, before a quick double-whammy after half time took the score out to 24-5, effectively securing the title with a few minutes to spare. All credit to Caterham though, they kept the effort and their quality up and pulled back a couple more to give the final score a very respectable look at 24-15. It was a deserved victory for St John’s though, who looked the class of the field in the Plate from the off.
Over in the main Cup final, anyone that had seen Cranleigh and Harrow would have expected a cracking game, but also would have seen the sheer amount of effort that these two had had to put into the day’s play.
Perhaps that tiredness caught up with Harrow, certainly a few felt the effects through cramp, but perhaps it was simply Cranleigh’s quality and their knowledge of how to play in these high-pressure, high-quality, games of knock out rugby.
Two powerful first half tries gave Cranleigh a 12-0 lead at half time in what was a physical and even game of sevens. From there, they had the platform to give themselves the confidence to have a go in the second half and run the life out of Harrow. That they did, scoring early on with a lovely dancing try from a simple cut back inside, followed swiftly by a simple numbers try as they kept the ball alive for well over a minute.
At 24-0 up they were in complete control now, and the icing was added to the cake with virtually the final play when they pounced on a loose ball to on the Harrow line to secure a brilliant 29-0 win and with it the 2018 Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s title.
It truly was a brilliant performance from Cranleigh throughout the day, from winning a tough group to knocking out three of the toughest sides in the competition in Brighton College, Millfield, and Hampton in their knockout games. To retain the energy and quality in such style in that final really was remarkable, and sets them up superbly for a tilt at going for an historic 3rd Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s title in a row.
Can they do it? At the rate that Cranleigh have been collecting major trophies of late, it would be a brave person that would say no. That in itself shows just what a remarkable group this is.
Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s Results:
Cup Winners – Cranleigh
Cranlegh 29-0 Harrow
Cranleigh 26-19 Brighton College
Epsom College 17-26 Harrow
Cranleigh 29-24 Millfield
St Paul’s Catholic College 17-28 Brighton College
Epsom College 28-12 Kirkham Grammar School
Wellington College 5-26 Harrow
Hampton 19-24 Cranleigh
Millfield 20-15 Truro College
Henley College 17-19 St Paul’s Catholic College
Brighton College 47-5 SGS Filton College
Eton College 15-31 Epsom College
Kirkham Grammar School 33-14 St Joseph’s College
John Fisher 5-19 Wellington College
Harrow 24-17 Berkhamsted
Surrey Plate Winners – St John’s Leatherhead
St John’s Leatherhead 24-15 Caterham
St John’s Leatherhead 24-19 Dulwich College
Caterham 24-17 Whitgift
St John’s Leatherhead 47-0 KCS Wimbledon
Reed’s 17-42 Dulwich College
Wimbledon College 12-22 Caterham
RGS Guildford 19-35 Whitgift
Final Group Standings:
Filton 19-19 John Fisher, Eton, Berko points diff
|Pos||Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|3||Stowe||Weston College||St Benedict;s||Wimbledon Coll|
|4||UCS||Gordon’s||George Abbot||London Oratory|
|Pos||Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|1||Henley College||St Paul’s CC||Brighton College||Epsom College|
|3||Dulwich College||Caterham||KCS Wimbledon||Emanuel|
|4||Tiffin||Coopers||Hampton 2nds||St Paul’s CC 2nd|
|Pos||Group I||Group J||Group K||Group L|
|1||Kirkham GS||St Joseph’s Coll||John Fisher||Wellington Coll|
|2||Whitgift||Moulton College||SGS Filton Coll||Brighton 2nds|
|3||Seaford College||Christ’s Hospital||Eastbourne Coll||Sevenoaks|
|4||Pangbourne||St George’s||Caterham 2nds||Wallington CGS|