Dauntsey’s sealed their place in the U18 Schools Vase final with the most dramatic of 24-22 victories over Hayes at Allianz Park.
Dauntsey’s will face Samuel Whitbread Academy in the final at Twickenham Stadium on Wednesday 20th March after they had earlier beaten Worksop College.
It was two years in a row at Allianz Park for Dauntsey’s after they had lost out to eventual champions Langley at this stage last year. For a long time it felt like heartbreak would repeat itself for them as they trailed Hayes at half time, and were still 22-19 down with the referee minutes into the red on the clock.
They had utterly dominated the second half but a stoic, heroic, Hayes defence had held them out. It could have been for ten minutes, it might have been fifteen, it felt like hours. Eventually they did crack through, with the very last touch of the game.
Outside centre Will Hodgson was the man to crash over in the corner, the most dramatic of dramatic finishes. Dauntsey’s were joyous, Hayes were utterly broken. There is no more thrilling manner in which to win, no more devastating manner in which to lose.
All that could be said in the end was that both sides come away with so much credit, neither could have given more.
The tone was set early on with fifteen minutes of real intensity before Hayes eventually struck with an absolute beauty of a try as Matthew Smith burst through on halfway before releasing his namesake and centre partner, Jack, to score under the sticks for a 7-0 lead with Mulholland’s conversion.
In a sign of the spirit they were later to show though, Dauntsey’s immendiately hit back with a superb score from fly half Rory Case. The conversion sailed wide, but they had killed any surge in Hayes momentum before it could start.
Hayes then scored a second, a high ball bouncing loose for second row Zac Corrigan to seize on it and charge clear, but again Dauntsey’s hit back. This time through their own second row, and captain, George Lishman. After a huge period of pressure eventually, after great patience, Dauntsey’s had got through. Those of us in the stadium should have taken note at that point.
However as half time arrived it was with Hayes that most observers would have placed the momentum for they had scored a sensational try right on the stroke of the half. Winger George Pope crossing in the corner after a sensational break through the middle with three well judged offloads before fly half Miles Entwistle called for the ball to release his winger, sending Hayes in 17-12 ahead.
The second half was almost like a different game though, right from the off Dauntsey’s were piling on the pressure, Hayes unable to escape their own half yet just at the crucial moment always able to secure the turnover or force the error.
With twenty minutes gone though, against the run of play, Hayes dug out yet another stunning score. Number 8 Liam Massingham broke from deep inside his own half right into the Duntsey’s 22. From there loosehead Lamar Sinclair raced away to the left corner for a 22-12 lead.
From being under the cosh, suddenly they had a ten point lead. However Dauntsey’s, superbly, refused to let that change their approach and they simply picked up right where they left off. Piling on ever more pressure. They were rewarded fast, loosehead Sam Holloway producing a powerful surge to crash over.
Tom Lewis converted, and suddenly we had a 3 point game with ten minutes remaining. And for ten minutes, and plenty more, Dauntsey’s simply camped in Hayes territory. Again and again and again they battered away, and again and again the Hayes defence came up with the answers.
They coughed up penalties, who wouldn’t, but having scored first they knew a draw would suit them. Dauntsey’s had to win it outright.
Hayes were magnificent in defence, to the point where even in the stands you began to think that perhaps it was not Dauntsey’s day. Those on the pitch had other ideas. It was a testament to the sheer character and patience of this Dauntsey’s side as they just kept plugging away and plugging away waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for that one chance.
Then it came, they took a quick tap for the penalty, charging up the middle before moving it right. Two passes, three, and then it was in the hands of Hodgson. The big centre looked up and knew this was the chance, but so did the defence. They wrapped him up two yards short, giving everything to get between him and the line.
Hodgson, though, had the presence of mind to keep the ball safe and his legs pumping as he powered ever closer. The question became would the touchline get him first.
But gloriously, oh so gloriously, for Dauntsey’s, it did not. It was utter heartbreak for Hayes, they had given everything to cause. So too though had Dauntsey’s, their spirit and patience a lesson for any side.
In the end, for both sides it was sheer exhaustion at the end of one of the most dramatic games in U18 Schools Vase history.
Full Time: Hayes 22-24 Dauntsey’s
15 Frank Mulholland, 14 Tom Lewis, 13 Jack Smith, 12 Matthew Smith, 11 George Pope, 10 Miles Entwistle, 9 Lucius Raggett, 1 Lamar Sincalir, 2 Louis Weber, 3 Beau Farrance, 4 Zac Corrigan, 5 James Ansell, 6 Henry Edmonds, 7 Joel Chance, 8 Liam Massingham.
Replacements: 16 Joe Green, 17 Kurtis Pinkerton, 18 Jamie Walker, 19 Wahidullah Azizi, 20 Ben Murphy, 21 George Fisher, 22 Cameron McCracken.
15 Will Nichol, 14 Archie Ayling, 13 Will Hodgson, 12 Tom Lewis, 11 Alex Costard, 10 Rory Case, 9 Kit Major, 1 Sam Holloway, 2 Tom Wild, 3 Ollie Reeve, 4 Lewis Maclean, 5 George Lishman (c), 6 Oliver Sweett, 7 Morgan Douglas, 8 Wilf Fitzgibbon.
Replacements: 16 Harry Poole, 17 Jordan Hills, 18 Jamie Blake, 19 Sam Ferguson, 20 Ben Boutal, 21 Finn Smith, 22 Joss Ferguson.