Northampton School for Boys and Wellington College will both be returning to Twickenham after short absences as they compete in the U15 Schools Cup final on Thursday, 12.30pm.
Northampton School for Boys have never reached an U15 final, but won the U18 Schools Vase in 2016 and were runners up in the U18 Schools Cup in 2013, the second on Dulwich College’s three-peat era. Cup runs have become a part of this schools DNA.
Wellington College have seemingly always had it in theirs. This is their third U15 Schools Cup final in four years. They lost out to Sedbergh in 2016 before winning it in 2017. Now, after a one year absence, they want another.
It is, staggeringly, their tenth U15 Cup final. Titles have come in 1994 (shared, 2000, 2008, which was a magnificent double with their U18 side that year, and of course 2017. A fifth title from those ten finals would be more remarkable still.
They nearly were not here though, they came through their semi final by the most slender of margins. At Allianz Park a week and a half ago they drew 15-15 with Whitgift, who themselves were aiming to get sides to the final at both age-groups, but went through on try countback.
It was dramatic heart-in-mouth stuff, but ultimately it was more controlled than it looked. Wellington were on the Whitgift line at the end, choosing to end the game there in the knowledge that the draw was enough.
However Northampton School for Boys must arrive with a spring in their step, knowing how close Wellington were to missing out, while they had a contrasting experience. Northampton School for Boys were outstanding in their semi final. Heading to Allianz Park themselves and Rugby School were relatively evenly rated, however on the day Northampton School for Boys responded to the pressure sensationally for an outstanding 21-0 victory.
The pressure will be on at Twickenham on Thursday, no matter what coaches or players try to say or do, running out in that stadium brings pressure. However what both sides showed in two very different ways is that they know how to play under pressure, they respond to it and perform. That will be key.
What that should make for is a fantastic game of rugby and a wonderful occasion. More than that though, regardless of outcome, this will be an occasion that both sets of players will remember for the rest of their lives. Most will never experience anything like it again, indeed more likely that not none will, these are the moments to savour, so few players ever get this chance, let alone the chance to do it alongside their mates.
That is what the Schools Cup is all about, that is what schools rugby is all about, and that is why Thursday should be such a superb occasion.
Northampton School for Boys v Wellington College: U15 Schools Cup Final – Thursday, 12.30pm, Twickenham
Routes to the Final:
Northampton School for Boys (Midlands B)
Semi Finals: 21-0 v Rugby
Quarter Finals: 10-10 at QEGS Wakefield (first scorers)
Last 16: 29-15 at The Perse
Round 4: 42-7 v Loughborough Grammar
Round 3: 27-17 v Oakham
Round 2: 24-12 at Stamford
Round 1: w/o at Malcolm Arnold
Wellington College (South West B)
Semi Finals: 15-15 v Whitgift (won on try count)
Quarter Finals: 26-19 v Harrow
Last 16: 62-10 at Marling
Round 4: 39-0 v Seaford College
Round 3: 25-7 at Marlborough College
Round 2: 21-3 at Lord Wandsworth College
Round 1: Bye
Northampton School for Boys
U18 Cup Runners Up: 2013
U18 Vase Champions: 2016
U18 Cup Champions: 2008
U15 Cup Champions: 2017, 2008, 2000, 1994 (shared with Bedford)
U15 Cup Runners Up: 2016, 2010, 1999, 1996, 1988