Woodhouse Grove demonstrated exactly why the U18 Schools Plate exists as they secured victory in the final at Sixways Stadium against Trinity, SCORE.
Knocked out in the first round of the Cup narrowly by St Peter’s, who went on to draw with tomorrow’s Cup finalists, QEGS Wakefield, Woodhouse Grove were handed a lifeline in the form of this Plate competition.
They have taken that chance and then some, proving that with a kinder draw they could have gone very far in the Cup indeed.
Forget that though, this was all about this Plate competition, and what a performance it was in this final. If 43-5 against St Peter’s Gloucester in the semi final was good, SCORE against Trinity with the added pressure of it being in a final and in the professional setting of Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium, was simply outstanding.
Bear in mind as well, Trinity have romped through much of this competition, and had some genuinely excellent spells in this game too.
They were on the back foot from early on though as a high-pressure Woodhouse Grove attack tempted Trinity hooker Joseph Casey into going for the intercept near his own tryline. It was out of reach though, and the slap down was adjudged not only as a yellow card, but as a penalty try too, leaving Woodhouse Grove 7-0 ahead.
Woodhouse Grove seized that initiative, playing a powerful and intelligent game, full of neat support lines and a clever use of advantage. It was that power side that came through for them a quarter of an hour in though as their Leicester Tigers and England U18 prop James Whitcombe went crashing over for 14-0 thanks to Luke Punton’s conversion.
It felt like a really clinical opening period from Woodhouse Grove and that clinical, professional, approach was in further evidence on the stroke of half time as Punton banged over a penalty to send his side in 17-0 to the good.
They say there are good and bad times to score and concede and if that was not a great time for Trinity to concede, Woodhouse Grove’s next score was even better timed from their perspective. Just three minutes into the second half Whitcombe went absolutely crashing over for his second try of the game, an absolute killer for Trinity who would have spent half time talking about working their way back in. As it was, with Punton’s conversion, 17-0 was now 24-0.
The tide was stemmed for a while but then in a mad five minute period Woodhouse grove added another excellent score through substitute Joe Pearson before Trinity then saw yellow for a second time, this time for taking the man in the air.
If anything though, losing a man seemed to spark Trinity back into life and three minutes later they had a score of their own as Casey went haring away for a score from inside his own half, making the scores 29-7.
With fifteen minutes on the clock, hopes of a comeback were minimal but being whispered, however when Joe Carpenter scored for Woodhouse Grove to put them 36-7 ahead after a stunning Kieran Wilyman break, there really was no way back.
Trinity though had bags of spirit and though the game was up, they were not, and credit to them because they were rewarded with a second try of the game through fly half Luke Medcraft, who looked a classy player throughout.
As it was though, they would have to hold their hands up, they were beaten by what was simply a better side. Woodhouse Grove were truly magnificent, and shining examples of what this tournament is supposed to represent – a chance at silverware for those hard done by early on, boy did Woodhouse Grove deliver on that.
They can now add this title to their 2007 U15 Vase title, making them one of the few sides around to have silverware at both U18 and U15 level, a very special elite club.
15 Sam Heape, 14 Ralph Edwards, 13 Zuriel Makele, 12 Sam Moran, 11 Alexander Willis, 10 Luke Medcraft (co-captain), 9 James Hammond (co-captain), 1 Alexander Roberts, 2 Joseph Casey, 3 Connor McGrath, 4 Krishna Lall, 5 Joseph Bennett, 6 Thomas McKinnon, 7 Archie McMilliam, 8 Maclaren Crawford.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Savvas, 17 John Petty, 18 Caleb Broomfield, 19 Alfie Velasco, 20 Archie Warren, 21 Samuel Leigh, 22 Chris Lipczynski.
15 Luke Fairbank, 14 Joe Carpenter, 13 Kieran Wilyman, 12 Will Sagar, 11 Eddie Wainibuli, 10 Luke Punton, 9 Joe Green (captain), 1 James Whitcombe, 2 Ryan Gibson, 3 Archie Rika-Rayne, 4 Edward King, 5 Tom Thorpe, 6 Paddy Ziegler, 7 Frank Malier, 8 Matt Burke.
Replacements: 16 Will Linkogel, 17 Harry Beckwith, 18 Jonah King, 19 Max Nesbit, 20 Harley Robertshaw, 21 Joe Pearson, 22 Kobe O’Brien.