Langley School’s remarkable U18 Schools Vase campaign ended as it has long suggested it might at Twickenham Stadium on Wednesday, with yet another stunning triumph.
They beat Wirral Grammar School but a hugely impressive 48-22 margin, continuing an impressive return of having scored over forty points in every single round in this tournament.
Hats off to Wirral Grammar School though, they may have lost but they became the first since Langley’s early round routs to score more than one try against them. That in itself shows a huge amount of quality that should not be forgotten.
Naturally though, it is Langley that will draw the most praise, for they were brilliant. They took off right where they left off against Dauntsey’s in the semi final – in free-scoring form.
Just four minutes in sizzling winger Simone Panella was over to give his side the perfect start, and with Tom Poole’s conversion, a 7-0 lead.
By the twenty minute mark that lead was 17-0 thanks to further scores from co-captain Andre Dunn, who won and scored in the U18 Academy League final for Leicester Tigers on Wednesday, and full back Luke Phoenix. Phoenix, who would go on to have the sort of game that he would have been dreaming about last night before playing at this famous old stadium.
Wirral Grammar School are tough as old boots though, as their late rally showed, and they showed that they were not here just to make up the numbers as their superb captain and outside centre Tom Roebuck rally the troops and showed just why he is so highly rated by scoring a fantastic try on a Huw Jones-like line, converting it himself for 17-7.
Such is the nature of this Langley side though that they were not going to allow Wirral to have the last score of the half, and so it proved just a few minutes shy of the half when Roebuck’s opposite number, Max Otis, scored on a similar line to send his side in at the break 24-7 to the good.
Again though, Wirral showed that they were here to play and within five minutes of the second half restarting they had closed the gap again with another try. These men from the North West were digging deep.
So too were Langley though, they may have sailed through this competition but they have hard to work to establish the platform to do so. Here was the moment where they did that today.
At twelve points ahead, a score for Wirral could have changed the game however Langley turned in their best spell of the game, scoring three quick tries, inspired by the outstanding Phoenix.
The elusive fullback scored a beauty of his own first, before his crowning moment of the match. He pounced on a loose ball on his own 22 and surged forward, the length of the field. With just a couple of yards to the line though came the moment that set him apart as he unselfishly gave the pass to his winger, whilst on a hat-trick remember, to give Panella his brace.
Five minutes later his side were over again, this time through loosehead Frank Scott, showing the pace of a man with a much higher number on his back as he surged around the left to score.
That was the game, Poole’s conversion made it 43-12. From there, coming back was not an option. Wirral Grammar School still kept going though, what spirit they showed, scoring tries through Hack Nelson and Jack Purnell to narrow the gap again.
However, typically, it was Langley that had the final say, and perhaps rather fittingly it was the co-captain, Dunn, who along with his co-leader Thomas Smith was excellent.
It sealed a 48-22 victory for his side, but the story was not the score. The story was what this tournament, this final, this victory meant to the players, the staff, and the supporters of the Norwich School. From start to finish their passion was infectious, and when the final whistle went you could hardly help but applaud them. This was a performance and a series of performances that have clearly been the product of a huge amount of hard work and the source of an unending amount of pride.
To witness the exclamation of joy from the many hundreds of Langley supporters at the end was to witness all that was good about Schools Rugby. As was Wirral’s performance, to keep sticking at it in the face of such ferocity was quite something, typified by a try saving tackle with time up on the clock. Fine stuff.
It is Langley with the silverware though, and deservedly so. What a truly fantastic team this is, and a truly fantastic Vase run this has been.
U18 Schools Vase Final: Wirral Grammar School 22-48 Langley
Wirral Grammar School
15 Will Tyrer, 14 Tom Saunders, 13, Tom Roebuck, 12 Louis Botes, 11 Jack Nelson, 10 Jacob Ainscough, 9 George Manger (captain), 1 Dan Carrol, 2 Ben Thomas, 3 Matthew Austin, 4 Sam Gregory, 5 Tom Lockwood, 6 Will Sass, 7 Euan Alldis, 8 Josh Kenyon.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Pederdy, 17 Lewis Hayes, 18 Charlie Carter, 19 Morgan Christian, 20 Jack Purnell, 21 Sam Wood, 22 Liam McGowan.
15 Luke Phoenix, 14 Simone Panella, 13 Max Otis, 12 Andre Dunn (co-captain), 11 Tyreece Simpson, 10 Tom Poole, 9 Sam McClusky, 1 Frank Scott, 2 William Bicknell, 3 Ryan Green, 4 George Easton, 5 Hamish Kenward, 6 Tane Dunn, 7 Oliver Ashworth, 8 Thomas Smith (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 James Vinall, 17 Sam Hughes, 18 Alex Houghton, 19 Joe Hollidge, 20 Bart Lowden, 21 Daniel Fox, 22 Daffyd-Rhys Tiueti.