Wednesday will see one of the mostly hotly anticipated U18 Schools Cup finals for some time at Twickenham Stadium as Warwick take on QEGS Wakefield in a 3.40pm kick off.
Over the last few years these two sides have seem to be inextricably linked in this tournament and that, with the greatest of respect to both Whitgift and Northampton School for Boys, makes this perhaps the final the most neutrals would have wished for.
Why, because there is a quite incredible story. In three successive years these two met in the U15 Schools Cup final, Warwick winning in 2013 and 2014, QEGS finally getting their own back in 2015.
In 2016, with a side mainly made up of those losing U15 finalists, QEGS reached the U18 final, where they lost to a Bromsgrove side completing the second of back to back titles.
The following year, 2017, Warwick reached the final with a side made up mainly of the winning U15 finalists of 2014. They also met Bromsgrove but halted their Midlands rivals’ challenge to become just the third side to win three in a row, claiming a first U18 title for Warwick since 2007.
A year on and these two both reach the final, the question is, will it be a repeat of that 2015 U15 final with QEGS winning, or will Warwick turn the tables and emulate Bromsgrove by claiming back to back U18 titles.
What both sides have done across the U18 and U15 tournaments truly is remarkable. Between them they have fifteen finals appearances, not including Wednesday’s.
Warwick have the greater conversion rate though, in three U18 finals they have won twice, only losing in 2014 to that remarkable hat-trick of titles from Dulwich College. At U15 level they also have two from three, only that QEGS win in 2015 denied them three from three.
QEGS on the other hand have reached Twickenham an incredible four times at U18 level in advance of Wednesday’s final, 2016, 2000, 1996, and 1995, and yet on each occasion they have come away on the losing side. Ending that run perhaps might not be the motivation for those on the field, but for those in the stands that is a record that they will want to change.
So for a remarkable 6th year in a row, there will be a Warwick/QEGS presence at Twickenham, but who are the favourites.
Taking that U15 victory with the same group into account, QEGS must feel confident. However Warwick are reigning champions are will be fuelled with confidence from that.
Warwick have certainly round the going easier in terms of getting to the final, they breezed through the early rounds in relative comfort, including a stunning 57-12 quarter final win over Canford.
They found the going tough against Whitgift in the semi final at Allianz Park though. At 10-0 down they were staring down the barrel, however it was a mark of their quality, composure, and character, that they were able to get out of that with a 15-10 win. Mentally that will have done so much for them, but physically it will have taken its toll, and nine days is not a lot of time.
QEGS were made to work hard in their quarter final by Northampton School for Boys for their 19-12 win too, but it was nothing like as bruising or emotionally draining as Warwick’s.
Until that point their campaign had definitely been the more challenging of the two, indeed they could so easily have fallen at their first hurdle. After walkovers in their opening two games they drew 27-27 with a St Peter’s York side that were good enough to have gone all the way to Twickenham themselves. They just squeaked through as the away side. That game was followed by another tough one, this time in the last 16, as they just edged RGS Newcastle 12-7.
Like Warwick overcoming Whitgift though, these tight wins are what makes teams and QEGS’ strength as a group will have jumped considerably as a result of progressing through those games in such tight circumstances.
That is what is so impressive about both of these teams, not only are the outstanding rugby teams that play superb rugby. Nor is it just that they have remarkable Schools Cup records, intertwined with a brilliant shared history and rivalry in the competition. It is that both of these sides a mentally outstanding, they know what it takes to win in knockout rugby, they work themselves to the ground, and they play with supreme passion.
Wednesday afternoon is going to be a very special occasion indeed.
U18 Schools Cup Final – Wednesday 14th March, 3.40pm, Twickenham Stadium
Warwick v QEGS Wakefield
Route to the Final
Warwick (Midlands B)
15-10 v Warwick – Semi Finals
57-12 v Canford – Quarter Finals
30-18 v Solihull – Last 16
50-0 v Newcastle-Under-Lyme – Round 3
38-7 v Sandbach – Round 2
50-0 v King Edward VI, Camp Hill – Round 1
QEGS Wakefield (North B)
19-12 v Northampton School for Boys – Semi Final
29-0 v King’s Macclesfield – Quarter Final
12-7 v RGS Newcastle – Last 16
27-27 v St Peter’s, York – Round 3 (Through as away side)
w/o v Hartlepool 6th form College – Round 2
w/o v John Fisher – Round 1
Warwick – 2017 & 2007 U18 Cup Champions. 2014 U18 Cup Runners Up. 2014 & 2013 U15 Cup Champions. 2015 U15 Cup Runners Up.
QEGS Wakefield – 2016, 2000, 1996, 1995 U18 Cup Runners Up. 2015 U15 Cup Champions. 1998 U15 Cup Shared Winners. 2014, 2013, 2006 U15 Cup Runners Up.