Sedbergh beat Kirkham Grammar School 26-0 in the final of the Sedbergh Super 10s to claim the title for the third season in a row.
An incredibly tough thing to do once, it is an extraordinary achievement to win three in a row.
However more than all of that, this triumph sealed one of the most remarkable achievements in schools rugby history as Sedbergh secured what has been dubbed the ‘double-triple’.
For the second year in a row they have now won the Daily Mail Trophy, the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s, and the Sedbergh Super 10s. Major titles in all three disciplines, 15s, 7s, and 10s.
It serves to demonstrate their utter dominance over the past two years of school rugby, and this was a side that had a huge player turnover over the summer, it has been a massive collective effort.
It ranks with the very best of schools rugby achievements, marking this group out as one of the greats in schools rugby history. Huge credit must go to Head Coach Simon Mulholland and his coaching staff, their coaching and leadership playing a huge role as can be seen through the way Sedbergh win, it is not just that their players are good, it is their style, precision, and lines of running in attack, their eagerness, connection, and understanding in defence.
The full glory of what they have achieved will be covered here later in the week though, for now the focus should be on this singular achievement of winning the Sedbergh Super 10s for the third year in a row.
Coming two days after the end of Rosslyn Park it was a tough assignment for all thirteen teams, yet throughout Sedbergh looked a class apart, rotating their squad fully yet still producing brilliant performances.
145 point scored and just 12 conceded in their three games on Day 1 was ominous for everyone else, but Stamford gave them a fright in the opener on Day 2, leaving Sedbergh requiring a late try for a 22-17 victory.
Anyone seeing how they responded to a below par performance, in their eyes, at Rosslyn Park knew that that spelled trouble for the rest of the competition though, and so it proved, an utterly ruthless 55-0 victory over QEGS Wakefield followed.
Indeed those points against Stamford would be the last Sedbergh conceded all day as they then followed that win over QEGS with another spectacular victory, beating Brighton College 41-0 to top their Cup pool and send them into the final.
Awaiting them were their great rivals Kirkham Grammar School who, like Sedbergh, were unbeaten across the two days. Their Day 2 Cup pool had seen them win a thriller against RGS High Wycombe, who enjoyed a fine couple of days, first up, 26-21. They followed that with a 31-19 victory over Barnard Castle, who were one of the three Day 1 group winners alongside Sedbergh and Kirkham.
Kirkham’s last game of the group stages saw them seal their place in the final with an excellent 34-12 victory over a King’s Macclesfield side that had placed some excellent rugby over the two days.
Without any shadow of a doubt the best two sides in the competition were heading to the Cup final, but first there was the matter of the Plate to be wrapped up.
The five sides not involved in the Cup groups were playing a round-robin format and it was Llandovery College from Wales that ended up topping the pile. Starting their day out with a narrow win over Seaford College before picking up further wins against KES Bath, Bristol Grammar, and Millfield.
Along the way they also picked up the Spirit of the Championship award after playing some brilliant rugby to win the Plate despite being utterly ravaged by injury, at one stage it was rumoured that they were down to just 11 players.
So to that Cup final, where Sedbergh knew they were up against a different level of competition right from the off when a hounding Kirkham Grammar defence raced back to haul Michele Brighetti down short and win the penalty.
Sedbergh were dominating territory and possession but twice Kirkham Grammar put in try-savers to stop them. There was a little flicker of a thought…might it just not be their day.
Nine minutes in Will Panday, one of the outstanding players of the tournament, dampened those thoughts as he eventually broke the Kirkham dam, skipper on the day Will Haydon-Wood converting for a 7-0 lead that would hold until half time.
Within a minute of the restart that lead had doubled, George Barber crossing on the right hand side with Haydon-Wood again converting. What followed was probably the crucial period in the game. For three or four minutes Kirkham battered away at Sedbergh, they kept coming back and back again, skipper Daniel Kelly and his scrum half particularly prominent.
Sedbergh refused to yield though, they wanted this so much, they knew what it meant, and having seized the initiative, they were not going to let it go. Still though, Kirkham were unrelenting, but eventually Sedbergh forced the turnover and it was as though the pressure valve had been released, confidence seemed to flow through the men in brown.
With four minutes to play Haydon-Wood capped a brilliant final performance with a try for a 19-0 lead, and then, as if written in the stars, the final finished with a try for Ollie Melville on the final play. Michael Cooke, who had been quietly brilliant for two days, slotted the conversion for a 26-0 victory to spark the celebrations.
It read like a dominant victory but the reality was that Kirkham Grammar made Sedbergh work oh so hard for it. It was a victory that really summed up what makes this group special, a clinical and creative edge in attack and an ability to score tries at crucial moments, and, just as importantly, a defensive appetite that few can rival. The pressure they put each and every attack under is unrelenting and ultimately it is what led them to only concede in three of their seven games across the two days.
The Player of the Tournament award also went Sedbergh’s way, Theo Manihera quite rightly taking the personal accolade after a brilliant set of performances across the two days. Perhaps most impressive was his ability to step up and do something special when his side needed it most, notably against Stamford.
He was one of many in this Sedbergh side though who, to a man, were outstanding and have been all season, indeed many have been for two. Others had impressed too, notably the aforementioned Kelly of Kirkham Grammar, and King’s Macclesfield’s Will Davies, but Manihera looked in a league of his own right from the off.
As have his team throughout the two days, throughout the last week in which they have won two major titles, thoughout this treble winning season, and throughout the last two years for this most spectacular of schools rugby achievements. The double-treble. Astonishing.
At the end of a brilliant two days of competition, Sedbergh School once again come out on top. A brilliant team, an outstanding set of coaches, a superb school, and a simply wonderful group of young men who have achieved the remarkable.
Cup Champions – Sedbergh School
Plate Champions – Llandovery College
Player of the Tournament – Theo Manihera (Sedbergh)
Spirit of the Championship: Llandovery College
Cup Final Result: Sedbergh 26-0 Kirkham Grammar School
Image via Sedbergh School