Nobody knew it at the time, but Sunday’s Mount St Mary’s 7s was to prove to be the last U18 tournament of the season, the last matches of the season, just as well it was a good one, then!
Indeed so much has changed in the days following it that we simply forgot to talk about it, in the space of a few short days actual rugby feels like a lifetime ago.
Nevertheless, eight side were in action at Mount St Mary’s and eight top sides at that. Back to back Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s champions Sedbergh were there, North of England Schools 7s champions Barnard Castle too.
Joining them were other massive names on the circuit, St Peter’s York and Woodhouse Grove, a resurgent Uppingham, Bradford Grammar School, Pocklington, and of course the hosts, Mount St Mary’s.
The eight sides were split into two groups of four, the top two in each heading to the Cup semi finals, the bottom two to the Plate semi finals. The losers of those semi finals would play in 3rd/4th play offs, the winners in the finals.
Mount St Mary’s were in Group 1 and were joined by Sedbergh, Uppingham, and Bradford Grammar, while in Group 2 St Peter’s, Barnard Castle, Woodhouse Grove, and Pocklington were all in action.
Group 1 saw Sedbergh win all of their games, the men in brown looking formidable as ever to reach the Cup quarter finals, and it was Uppingham that joined them after good victories over Bradford Grammar and the hosts.
Over in Group 2 it was St Peter’s York that topped the group ahead of Barnard Castle, a surprise after Barnard Castle’s performances at the North of England Schools 7s. Nevertheless they qualified for the Cup semis behind St Peter’s, with Woodhouse Grove and Pocklington in the Plate.
Woodhouse Grove would go on to win that Plate competition, beating Bradford Grammar School in the semi finals to set up a final against the hosts after Mount St Mary’s had beaten Pocklington in their semi finals. There was plenty of home support in the final, but the men in green got the job done to head home with some silverware, one of the two final pieces of the season.
The Cup saw Uppingham beat Group 2 winners St Peter’s York to reach the final, a result that only serves to highlight what a shame it is that this season is cut short as this Uppingham side might have had one of their strongest Rosslyn Park showings in years.
Over in the other semi final we were treated to a game for the ages. Barnard Castle and Sedbergh had met in a bruising semi final at the North of England 7s a week before, Barnard Castle coming out on top there, here it was even tougher. The two just could not be separated, drawing 21-21 after extra time, Barnard Castle progressing to the final as a result of having scored the final points of the game to come from behind.
That sent Barnard Castle to the final against Uppingham, where riding the high of that dramatic semi final win and showing their undoubted quality, Barnard Castle took the victory to claim what was, as it turns out, the final piece of silverware of the season.
In doing so they confirmed their position as one of the top sides of the season, having had a wonderful fifteen-a-side season and then perhaps topping it with an even better 7s season, albeit shortened. It has been quite a year for the school that has produced some of English rugby’s most storied talents.