Wellington College sealed their second U15 Schools Cup title in three years with a 25-5 victory over Northampton School for Boys at Twickenham Stadium.
Two tries from Finn Tawse, only recently back from a long term injury, were absolutely key to victory, coming at crucial times in the game, a game that was far closer than the score suggested, with two late scores extending the Wellington advantage.
It was a final worthy of the name though, both Wellington College and Northampton School for Boys contributed magnificently in what was a final worthy of name and the venue.
The tension throughout was almost unbearable at times as both sides threw absolutely everything at it. Each had their moments camped on the opposition line, and each showed both quality and spirit in defence to keep them out.
Indeed each showed huge quality in attack too, Tawse thrilling from the backfield for Wellington while Oliver James at full back for Northampton was dazzling with his footwork throughout.
A fast start was key for Wellington, NSB showing the superb defence that would be in evidence through much of the game managing to hold Wellington up short after just two minutes, however on a kick return from from number 8 Henry Starmer-Smith Wellington came charging back, with Finn Tawse racing in on the right hand side for a 5-0 lead after just three minutes.
From there until almost the end of the half we were treated to the most unbearable tense game of rugby as both of these fantastic sides threw absolutely everything at each other. Both sides had their chances, both showed spirit that was quite frankly exceptional. Both go home with stacks of credit.
Perhaps the difference was Wellington College’s ability in key moments to create chances and points. We had seen it in that dramatic semi final against Whitgift, and we saw it again here, under pressure this team, if anything, seems to grow.
That ability to score points when it mattered showed up again right on the stroke of half time when versatile back rower Murdoch Lock slotted a long range penalty to send them in 8-0 up.
Others in this tournament have found it hard to find their feet again after scores against them at such crucial times, but NSB came out firing in the second half. They were moving the ball wider and, while the Wellington defence was near impenetrable at times, there was a sense that if the ball got in the hands of the right people there would be chances.
The right person was Oliver James and when he got the ball in the 52nd minute he scorched deep into Wellington territory. The defence was on the backfoot then, finally, and from there they could go one phase and release second row Lucas Kitson to storm across the line for their opening score of the game, narrowing things to 8-5.
We spoke about Wellington College scoring at crucial times though, and if ever there was a crucial time, this was it. So easily they could have allowed their heads to drop, let fear kick in, but no, right from the restart they were at Northampton School for Boys with more intensity than ever before.
They battered and battered away at the defence until it simply had to crack, no matter how strong. Character from both in oodles. Eventually after losing count of the phases the overlap was there and they moved the ball wide for Tawse’s second score of the afternoon.
It was such an impressive response to Northampton’s try, and in reality it was probably the moment that the stadium believed Wellington had the game, you just felt that such was their character that they would score if they had to.
That is not to deride NSB’s character though, nobody could do that, for the next ten mintues they battered away at the leaders’ defence. They just could not crack it, and then, as they started to throw a bit of caution to the wind, Wellington pounced to completely close out the game.
First they built yet more phases, including work from inspirational skipper Monty Franks, before they sent tighthead Johannes Dreischmeier through on a hard line back infield to crash over for their third try of the afternoon.
Lock converted, leaving only about ten seconds on the clock, and at 20-5 that was that. Wellington, though, had other ideas. Ten seconds meant ten seconds more to play, and play they did. They were going to enjoy this.
They broke down the left hand side releasing the gifted Lock who showed a good turn of speed and power to cross in the corner to leave the final score at 25-5.
It was a cruel finish for Northampton School for Boys, leaving an impression of a game that far belied the incredible contest that it was, but those players on the field knew what they had done, how much they had given.
So too though did Wellington College, they proved not just that they are a top quality side but they are mentally tough as teak, and clinical in their play. All 22 players looked like they were loving both the experience and the game, as if with every ramp up of intensity came just more determination to enjoy it and to get even better.
We should have known, we saw that same revelry in intensity against Whitgift in the semi final. This is just a wonderful group of young men, whose character shines above all else.
Full Time: Northampton School for Boys 5-25 Wellington College
Northampton School for Boys
15 Oliver James, 14 Joshua Tutt, 13 George Kennedy, 12 Frankie Sleightholme, 11 Louis Castagna, 10 George Patten, 9 William Smears, 1 James Aluko, 2 Isaac Young (c), 3 Jacob Steel, 4 Tom Donaldson, 5 William Evans, 6 Lucas Kitson, 7 George Diggin, 8 Edward Baker.
Replacements: 16 Sam Arimoro, 17 Josh Khangura, 18 Harry Vesty, 19 Thomas Evans, 20 Taylor Hollobon, 21 Daniel Moon, 22 Tom Davis.
22 Finn Tawse, 15 Dan Watson, 13 Mason Archer, 12 Joe Lewis, 11 Louis Hughes, 10 Samm Daniel, 9 James Lloyd, 19 Arthur Johnson, 2 Liam Thurlow, 3 Johannes Dreischmeier, 4 Monty Franks (c), 5 Connor O’Byrne, 6 Murdoch Lock, 7 Will Ayton, 8 Henry Starmer-Smith.
Replacements: 16 Oli Percival, 17 Ollie Knight, 18 Oli Van Druten, 27 Oli Ward, 20 David Petschek, 21 Oz Henry, 14 Richie Rudd-Fathers.