Wednesday’s U15 Schools Cup final will see 1999 and 2003 champions Whitgift take on the remarkable Manchester Grammar School at Twickenham Stadium, 12.30pm kick off.
Above their dressing room at Allianz Park for Sunday’s semi final, against 2013 and 2014 champions Warwick, Manchester Grammar School placed a poster reading, “Never give in”. Never has a team encapsulated those words than this young group of Manchester Grammar School players, surely.
In that semi final they came from 21-3 down, and they really were down, to win a dramatic and utterly enthralling game 22-21. It was a remarkable comeback, made all the more remarkable for it being against a side that is such a threat in this competition.
We all should have known better though. Bar a brilliant 60-19 win over Cheadle Hulme in the opening round, Manchester Grammar have not won a game by more that nine points.
At first glance that might read as a slight weakness, but it isn’t. Just look at the names that have gone down in their last three Cup games, Sedbergh, Woodhouse Grove, Warwick, these tight wins are glorious and dogged victories.
What they are is a demonstration that not only is this a fantastic rugby team, it is a team that is absolutely spot on mentally. Those tough close games are as much about spirit and determination as anything else. About never giving in.
They will have to do it all again on Wednesday though, because in Whitgift they face yet another giant of schoolboy rugby. Twice winners of the Cup as U15 level and twice more at U18 level.
Whitgift have come through some tough tests of their own, not least against Hurstpierpoint Colleg in the last 16 where they had to scrap for their lives for a 27-24 win.
They have impressed in varying capacities throughout, be it that tight Hurstpierpoint game, or in their 62-12 quarter final win over St Joseph’s College in the quarter final. Their semi final win was a great example of how to win in a tough and top level game of schools knockout rugby as they beat a strong Hampton side 21-10.
That Twickenham factor could be important for them too, no this group of players has never been, but do not underestimate what having a school history of Twickenham appearances can do. It stops it seeming unusual or from being too big a deal. That has a downside too though, with plenty of success in previous years, there can be a pressure and expectation to win.
Everything builds here to what looks as though it will be a remarkable final. It is going to be a spectacular occasion.
U15 Schools Cup Final – Wednesday 14th March, 12.30pm Twickenham Stadium
Whitgift v Manchester Grammar School
Route to the Final
Whitgift (London & South East B)
21-10 v Hampton – Semi Final
62-12 v St Joseph’s College – Quarter Final
27-24 v Hurstpierpoint College – Last 16
19-10 v Trinity – Round 4
45-8 v Howard of Effingham – Round 3
w/o v Epsom College – Round 2
60-7 v Caterham – Round 1
Manchester GS (North B)
22-21 v Warwick – Semi Final
19-12 v Woodhouse Grove – Quarter Final
17-13 v Sedbergh – Last 16
17-12 v King’s Macclesfield – Round 4
12-3 v Stockport GS – Round 3
10-3 v St Ambrose College – Round 2
60-19 v Cheadle Hulme – Round 1
Whitgift – 2003 & 1999 U15 Cup Champions. 1997 U15 Cup Runners Up. 2011 & 2010 U18 Champions.
Manchester Grammar – 2018 Best Performance