RGS Newcastle won the St Joseph’s Festival for the first time in their history after a superb weekend of play.
The North Eastern side beat Millfield 17-9 in the final with an excellent performance. Millfield came into the tournament as the favourites and had reached last year’s final too, but once again they were thwarted at the last.
RGS actually went behind in the final, with Millfield landing an early penalty, but the men in red and white hoops responded in the style that has been typical of them throughout the tournament as they went through phase after phase of pressure before eventually barging over the line for a 5-3 lead.
Before long they had done the same again, stretching to 10-3 through another brilliant display of forward power as well as some great play from the likes of Brantingham and Obonna.
Millfield seemed to sense that they were in a tight one, and responded as they had in a similar game in their Group earlier in the day against the hosts, St Joseph’s College, taking the points whenever they were on offer.
With penalties either side of half time, that meant that the deficit was soon reduced to just a point at 10-9 in RGS’ favour.
With a reputation like Millfield’s a few murmurs crept around the crowd that maybe Millfield would nick it, but the reality was that from the very moment they arrived at this tournament, RGS Newcastle have been the side that everyone has been talking about, and with good reason.
They are utterly relentless, and while the power up front and tenacity in defence has been their stock, their back play and use of space has been excellent too.
It was that relentless forward power that ended the game in reality though as they scored their third try for a 17-9 lead. Millfield game it their best shot of launching a comeback, but with time dying out, RGS soaked the pressure up to secure their 17-9 victory.
It was a victory built on passion, a passion perhaps spurned by having such a tough opening day group with reigning champions Brighton College, this year’s Plate winners, Hampton, and the excellent St Peter’s York all with them. Those of us that didn’t know the mindset of these RGS players said they might struggle to get out of the group, such was the difficultly of it.
How wrong we were all proved to be, and you felt that sense of wanting to prove themselves. As captain Will Pettiffer said after the tournament “that’s what got us through the weekend, that passion, that team spirit”. He was right, the passion and team spirit was immense.
The coaching too. Jim Pollock and his team knew exactly what sort of side they had, and knew that if they played to their strengths they could win it.
RGS kept it tight for the most part, took their kicks at goal when on, and played for field position whenever possible. The way so much schools rugby is played these days, it was a style of rugby that few sides had come across, let alone at such high intensity.
From the moment they beat Hampton on Saturday morning we knew this was a special side, when they followed it up with wins over Brighton College and St Peter’s York to reach the Cup groups on Sunday, they had become the favourites.
Things were tighter on Sunday, as they often are, 10-8 over Denstone College and 6-0 over Hurstpierpoint before a more commanding 23-0 against Merchiston, built largely on kicks at goal, but all the way they were showing that title winning mentality and doggedness that would prove so effective against Millfield in the final.
There was some joy for Millfield though, their fullback Dan John was named Player of the Tournament and rightly so, his fleet footedness, mature game-understanding, and utterly impeccable defence were a joy to watch. There was consolation for the hosts too as winger Louis Martin was awarded the Try of the Tournament.
Over in the Plate Eltham College, who reached last year’s Plate final, and Hampton, 2016 Plate winners, both went through their groups unbeaten to reach the final. It was a fitting final, Eltham had missed out heartbreakingly on a Cup place on try countback, while Hampton were in that group of death with the eventual champions, RGS Newcastle.
In the final though, Hampton’s class shone through, with England U18 full back Louis Lynagh almost predictably proving the inspiration with a stunning solo try from inside his own 22 to inspire a 17-8 victory. Eltham College took some consolation in the new Fair Play award though.
Final word though must go to the exceptional RGS Newcastle, an outstanding rugby side who performed with passion, precision, and a huge heap of team spirt.
They were a joy to watch, and should strike fear into the heart of every opponent they face from here on out this season.
RGS Newcastle 17-9 Millfield
Hampton 17-8 Eltham College
2018 St Joseph’s Festival Day 2 Groups – Final Standings
Cup Group 1
|3||St Joseph’s College||0||1||2||1|
Cup Group 2
Plate Group 1
|3||Whitchurch High School||1||0||2||2|
|4||St Peter’s York||0||1||2||1|
Plate Group 2
|2||RGS High Wycombe||2||0||1||4|
2018 St Joseph’s Festival Day 2 Fixtures
|Pitch 1||Time||Pitch 2|
|Seaford 29-5 Whitchurch||08.30||St Peter’s 5-10 Eltham|
|Dulwich 21-5 St Joseph’s||09.05||Millfield 10-3 Brighton|
|Hampton 3-0 RGS High Wycombe||09.40||John Fisher 10-10 QEGS Wakefield|
|Denstone 8-10 RGS Newcastle||10.15||Hurstpierpoint 7-17 Merchiston|
|Seaford 0-0 St Peter’s||10.50||Whitchurch 7-13 Eltham|
|Millfield 9-5 St Joseph’s||11.25||Dulwich 15-5 Brighton|
|Hampton 17-3 QEGS Wakefield||12.00||John Fisher 5-7 RGS High Wycombe|
|Hurstpierpoint 0-6 RGS Newcastle||12.35||Denstone 24-14 Merchiston|
|Eltham 7-5 Seaford||13.10||St Peter’s 10-12 Whitchurch|
|Brighton 12-12 St Joseph’s||13.45||Dulwich 0-19 Millfield|
|Hampton 12-0 John Fisher||14.20||QEGS Wakefield 5-23 RGS HW|
|Merchiston 0-23 RGS Newcastle||14.55||Hurstpierpoint 7-5 Denstone|
|Plate Final – 15.30 – Eltham 8-17 Hampton|
|Cup Final – 16.15 – Millfield 9-17 RGS Newcastle|
2018 St Joseph’s Festival Day 1 Groups – Final Standings
|4||RGS High Wycombe||0||0||3||0|
|4||St Peter’s, York||0||0||3||0|
|2||St Joseph’s College||2||0||1||4|
2018 St Joseph’s Festival Day 1Results:
|Pitch 1||Time||Pitch 2|
|Hurstpierpoint 19-10 Seaford College||09.00||Dulwich College 26-0 QEGS Wakefield|
|Denstone College 0-13 Eltham College||09.40||Millfield 29-0 RGS High Wycombe|
|Hampton 5-23 RGS Newcastle||10.20||Brighton College 15-0 St Peter’s, York|
|St Joseph’s College 10-5 Whitchurch||11.00||John Fisher 10-19 Merchiston Castle|
|Dulwich College 22-5 Seaford College||11.40||Hurstpierpoint 17-0 QEGS Wakefield|
|Eltham College 5-31 Millfield||12.20||Denstone 22-17 RGS High Wycombe|
|Brighton College 3-15 RGS Newcastle||13.00||Hampton 24-0 St Peter’s, York|
|John Fisher 0-12 St Joseph’s College||13.40||Merchiston Castle 20-7 Whitchurch|
|QEGS Wakefield 0-21 Seaford College||14.20||Dulwich College 12-7 Hurstpierpoint|
|Eltham 17-0 RGS High Wycombe||15.00||Denstone College 26-14 Millfield|
|RGS Newcastle 15-10 St Peter’s, York||15.40||Brighton College 27-7 Hampton|
|Merchiston Castle 12-7 St Joseph’s||16.20||John Fisher 17-10 Whitchurch|