Warwick School made it back to back Schools Cup triumph’s with a superb 29-7 win over QEGS Wakefield at Twickenham.
This was a victory of the sweetest kind for Warwick, avenging their defeat in 2015 as U15s here at this very same stadium against this very same QEGS group.
Warwick lost 15-6 that day, thirteen of the twenty-two defeated that day were involved today, thirteen players that knew the pain of losing in such a game and that brought with them the sort of intensity that would ensure that would not happen again.
Equally as important though was the fact that eleven of those players were also involved in last years magnificent triumph against Bishop Wordsworth’s, four of them, Kieran Curran, Ollie Thorneywork, Max Roberts, and the magnificent captain Tom Fawcett, were starters. They all saw and part of a performance in last year’s final that was of unrivalled intensity.
Until today, this triumph was a blending of the lessons learned in both victory and defeat, chiefly the intensity desired and required to succeed in this most pressurised of schoolboy games.
It was in evidence here at Twickenham right from the moment that Tom Fawcett led his side out, walking, not running, like David Sole so famously did in that Calcutta Cup of 1990. It was a statement of intent, and it set the tone.
For nine first half minutes from the kick off Warwick held onto the ball, for eight minutes and 59 seconds, QEGS defended stoically. However no side could hold off that intensity forever and eventually the wall had to crack, and how fitting that it was Kieran Curren that did it, the prop in the 2015 U15 side, flanker in last year’s U18 champions, and now terrorising defences and attacks alike from inside centre.
QEGS began to find their feet though, and of course they would they are a fantastic side. That build of momentum was stopped dead in its tracks though as fly half Fred Lowe, another starter in 2015, pounced on the final pass to intercept.
He was hauled down short, but Fawcett, typically, was on hand for the offload to give his team a 12-0 lead after 20 minutes once Lowe added the extras. Again though, QEGS came back, scoring through winger Jacob Mounsey on a brilliant line after Jasper McGuire’s break, with Tom Stephenson converting.
As the half wore on though, Warwick turned the tide back around their way again and when Kieran Curren, a man who pushed Fawcett all the way for the man of the match gong, went charging down the right hand touchline, the saw their chance. Capitalising on the front foot ball, Warwick ploughed through phase after phase until eventually the space opened up for Alex Sabin to crash over, sending his side into half time with a strong 17-7 lead.
Things tightened up a bit in the second half, both sides frayed by the sheer intensity of the opening half and the beginning of the second half, as cramp began to set in. Seeing the bodies littered across the turf stretching out, it was actually a testament to the quality of the game, so wide, so intense, so fast had it been, that it was hurting Warwick and QEGS alike.
It was Warwick that were in the ascendancy for much of it though, as in the first half, and midway through the half Fawcett, who else, converted that pressure and field position into points as he picked up the ball and charged through the ruck and over the line for his second. Mortimer, on at scrum half, converted for a 24-7 lead.
24-7, with just over fifteen minutes left, felt like a winning margin. In a game that was, despite the eventually scoreline, tight and tense for much of it, that was a strong lead.
Any lingering doubt though were ended when, with just two minutes remaining, another veteran of both the 2015 U15s and 2017 U18s, Max Roberts, sealed the victory with his side’s fifth try as the game as their intense pressure was once again rewarded.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day for Warwick. If you were from QEGS, that would be the way to view it one would imagine. For QEGS were not far off their game, indeed they made very few mistakes at all, they just came up against a side that was 100% on their game.
That is something that Warwick are making a habit of now in these finals, they did it last year too. It is something that we saw in Dulwich College’s best sides too. Playing with huge intensity yet also with a real sense of calmness to that you can produce your best rugby in this most pressurised of environments. It is quite a skill and a masterpiece of both coaching and preparation.
Overall though, what a dynasty this is that Warwick have built, back to back U18 Schools Cup champions, U18 finalists in 2014, U15 Champions in 2013 and 2014, U15 finalists in 2015, and countless semi finals in the years around those.
This might just be the sweetest of all though. Back to back is special, it separates you from other champions and elevates you to the elite club. Whitgift, followed by Dulwich, and then Bromsgrove have maybe allowed a few to forget how tough and how impressive it is to go back to back this Warwick group know, this is so very special and so very difficult to do, and doing so with the memory inside of that 2015 result will have made it all the sweeter.
U18 Schools Cup: Warwick v QEGS Wakefield
15 Fin Smith, 14 Chris David, 13 Harry Spencer, 12 Kieran Curren, 11 Henry Miles, 10 Fred Lowe, 9 Harry Hayward, 1 Zach Shirley, 2 Will Scrivens, 3 Max Roberts, 4 Will Kelley, 5 Toby Adlington, 6 Oliver Thorneywork, 7 Tom Macdonald, 8 Tom Fawcett (captain).
Replacements: 16 Oscar Roberts, 17 Alex Sabin, 18 Jozef Jones, 19 Roger Jackson, 20 Jack Forsythe, 21 Xander Eddy, 22 Henry Mortimer.
15 Harry Kelly, 14 Jacob Mounsey, 13 Joseph Gatus, 12 Oliver Wigglesworth, 11 Harry Thompson, 10 Tom Stephenson (co-captain), 9 Alessandro Longo, 1 Jasper McGuire, 2 William Towler, 3 Daniel Paxman, 4 Carter Bower Stead, 5 Patrick Snowball, 6 Sachin Gogna, 7 Max Hanson, 8 Edan Kelly (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Edward Pitchford, 17 Sebastian Bijster, 18 Archie Milner, 19 Lucas Smith, 20 Jake Adams, 21 Harrison Byrne, 22 James Crabtree.