Epsom College will return to the Champions Trophy final to face Wellington College after beating Hurstpierpoint College 22-13 on Thursday.
The game followed Wellington College’s tense 19-16 victory at Bristol Grammar School on Tuesday to see them into their first ever Champions Trophy semi final. For Epsom College though it is a second bite at the cherry having been beaten by Bedford in the 2015 final.
There can be few complaints about the identity of the two sides that will take to the field at Allianz Park on Wednesday 5th December, 1pm, from the outset they were both among the three or four sides that most neutrals would have picked to reach the showpiece fixture.
A word first though to Bristol Grammar School and Hurstpierpoint College, both of whom have absolutely shone through this Champions Trophy run. Both picked up memorable victories along the way, Bristol beating Eton, Bryanston, and St Paul’s, while Hurstpierpoint saw off Eastbourne College, former champions Bedford, and, memorably, Hampton.
Both gave a great account of themselves in the semi finals, Bristol digging in through tough conditions against a Wellington College side that had swept all before them up to that point. Hurstpierpoint meanwhile were behind the 8 ball, 22-3 down at half time and facing a literal uphill task in the second half. They showed stunning spirit to edge their way back into the game, scoring two second half tries for a ten nil second half win, but ultimately still leaving themselves just short with a final score of 22-13.
To the victors the spoils though, and for Epsom a return to Allianz Park, for Wellington a first chance of fifteen-a-side knockout silverware at U18 level since the 7-3 Schools Cup win over St Benedict’s in 2008.
These are two exceptionally hard-working and skillful sides, Wellington’s ability to turn over a high number of players due to a busy schedule and still have very little drop of in quality just shows the sheer depth of their squad, while on Thursday the game management of Epsom was clear to see.
Epsom will need to watch their penalty count, referee Richard Haughton found himself using the whistle rather more than he would have wanted to on Thursday, and against Wellington a similar count will likely be punished, such is the length of their kicking game.
Whatever the outcome in a fortnight’s time though, we can be sure that we have a cracking contest lined up, two fantastic teams that more than deserve their place in the final.
Both should be proud simply of getting to this point. A day out at Allianz Park is an experience that every schools rugby player will treasure forever. In this era of focusing on keeping players in the game and looking at their development, it should still never be forgotten that for the majority of players schools rugby is as good as their rugby will ever be, and that experiences such as this Champions Trophy final will be the greatest experiences of their rugby lives.
It is a big deal, it will matter to each and every player, and so it should. After all if it does not, what is the point.
So enjoy the experience, soak it all in, but give it everything. These are the days that will be treasured forever.
Champions Trophy Final – Wellington College v Epsom College – Wednesday 5th December, Allianz Park, 1pm Kick Off
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Champions Trophy Semi Finals:
Bristol Grammar 16-19 Wellington College
Hurstpierpoint College 13-22 Epsom College
Champions Trophy Quarter Final Results:
Berkhamsted 24-50 Wellington College
Bristol GS 15-7 St Paul’s
Hurstpierpoint College 34-22 Hampton
St John’s, Leatherhead 14-27 Epsom College
Champions Trophy Last 16 Results:
Bedford 11-26 Hurstpierpoint College
Berkhamsted 63-14 Kingswood
Bryanston 17-46 Bristol Grammar School
Epsom College 38-5 Grammar School at Leeds
Hampton 25-22 Dulwich College
Oakham 20-22 St Paul’s
St John’s Leatherhead 20-5 Blundell’s
Wellington College 47-0 RGS Guildford
Champions Trophy Round 1 Results:
Berkhamsted 39-12 Haileybury
Bristol Grammar 33-10 Eton College
Eastbourne College 7-24 Hurstpierpoint College
Hampton 57-10 St Albans
Monmouth 23-24 Bryanston
Oakham 36-19 Stowe
Tonbridge 22-33 RGS Guildford
Bedford, Blundell’s, Dulwich College, Epsom College, Grammar School at Leeds, Kingswood, St John’s Leatherhead, St Paul’s, Wellington College