Whitgift won a tight and tense U15 Schools Cup final at Twickenham on Wednesday afternoon, beating Manchester Grammar School 22-12.
It was their third U15 Cup triumph, following on from their efforts in 2003 and 1999, and their fifth Cup triumph in total, having won back to back U18 titles in 2010 and 2011.
This was far from easy though, Manchester Grammar School proved, as expected, to be one of the toughest sides imaginable to put away. They had shown that in their stunning semi final comeback against Warwick, and they did it again here at Twickenham, twice coming back from behind to level the scores, until Connor Slevin’s score midway through the second half gave Whitgift the lead that they would hold onto for the rest of the game.
It was a physical and bruising game, both sides using their organised and powerful mauls to great effect. Tries came through concerted pressure for both sides, almost breaking the energy reserves of the opposition in a fashion not dissimilar to Ireland’s.
It all began in the tenth minute when Whitgift loosehead Lucas Bibb went crashing over to give his side a 5-0 lead. To that point the game had largely been Whitgift’s, but we all should have known better, Manchester Grammar were not going to let the Croydon side have things all their own way and they came right back into things with some superb forward play and some excellent passing from their fly half and captain Ben Simpson.
The pressure that was created eventually saw tighthead Fraser Hartley go crashing over, levelling the game at 5-5 at the mid point in the half.
That was to remain it in terms of first half scoring, but the next fifteen minutes were full off energy-sapping intensity as each side probed for an opening.
Come the second half though it did not take long for that opening to be created. Right from the kick off Whitgift stepped up the pressure again, surging into the Manchester Grammar 22 through captain Connor Slevin, they went through the phases until giant prop Malachi Opara went bursting through the defence to score.
Slevin converted for a 12-5 lead, but again it was to be short-lived as eight minutes later Manchester Grammar levelled things up again, hooker Alex Campbell the man to cross the line after his side put Whitgift under all manner of pressure through their combination of forward and back play, Simpson converting the eventual try.
From there though Whitgift really showed the strength in their play that has seen them conquer so many top sides this season.
They kept the physicality up, increased the tempo, increased the physicality yet again and once more surged into Manchester Grammar territory. This time it was Slevin finishing off the chance on the right hand side after his team’s fantastic work, a fitting reward for the captain for a fine performance.
At 17-12, Whitgift were only narrowly ahead but were controlling the territory in the game now, but the icing on the cake was still to come. In the very last play of the game they attacked the Manchester line again and this time it was hooker Piero Noah, eventually named man of the match, who crashed over to spark the celebrations for a superb third U15 Schools Cup triumph for Whitgift.
All credit to Manchester Grammar School, as expected they were incredibly tough to beat, but this brilliant Whitgift outfit just kept plugging away and keeping the pressure on until they got their just rewards.
U15 Schools Cup Final: Whitgift 22-12 Manchester Grammar School
15 Gon Declerq, 14 Theo Saitch, 13 Connor Slevin (captain), 12 Edward Volley, 11 Fola Adedeji, 10 Eoin Finn, 9 Jake Murray, 1 Lucas Bibb, 2 Piero Noah, 3 Pierre-Loic Pennaneac’h, 4 Malachi Opara, 5 Jack Sharpe, 6 Omari Malcolm, 7 Reis Norman, 8 Angus Sheahan.
Replacements: 16 Nathaneal Adegoke, 18 Oliver Matthews, 18 Seb Driscoll, 19 Tristan Faillenet, 20 Ben Clark, 21 Freddie Greene, 22 Jack Hawkins.
Manchester Grammar School
15 Haeden Johnson, 14 Oliver Johnson, 13 Alfie Meir, 12 Archie Jones, 11 Jordan Oluwadare, 10 Ben Simpson (captain), 9 Tom Archer, 1 Sam Rushton, 2 Alex Campbell, 3 Fraser Hartley, 4 Joseph Whittle, 5 Noah Ellis, 6 George Arnold, 7 Jack Whiteley, 8 Seb Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Miles Monaghan, 17 Oliver Hoggart, 18 Nick Grimshaw, 19 Ben Montague, 20 Will Torevell, 21 Will Richardson, 22 Isaac Ogunyemi.