QEGS Wakefield are into the U18 Schools Cup final for the second time in three years after they beat 2013 finalists Northampton School for Boys 19-12 at Allianz Park on Tuesday.
QEGS, who won the U15 Cup with this yeargroup in 2015, will face reigning Warwick in Wednesday’s final at Twickenham, a repeat of that U15 final three years ago.
It was a controlled second half performance that did it for QEGS at Saracens’ home in this semi final. The two sides went in at half time with QEGS ahead 14-12, but the Yorkshire side squeezed the life out of their opponents in the second half, eventually scoring through star centre Joe Gatus late in the half to seal the game and their place in the final.
The game started with a madcap opening ten minutes before things finally began to settle down. As the time ticked by, Northampton’s star backline featuring the likes of Connor Tupai, Ollie Sleightholme, and Jake Johnson started to fire, and a little past the quarter point of the game they unlocked the defence.
Moving the ball wide openside Henry O’Donnell proved the perfect link man as his short run and offload released Jake Johnson, who performed so memorably at Twickenham in 2016 in NSB’s U18 Vase triumph, down the left wing to score.
Tyler Mills converted from wide out, perhaps unsurprisingly given that former England fly half Paul Grayson has been helping out at the school.
QEGS responded just five minutes later though, number 8 and eventual man of the match Edan Kelly, so hard to miss in his bright pink boots, powering over from short range as QEGS flooded the NSB tryline.
Tom Stephenson landed the conversion to level the scores at 7-7, and from there it always felt as though this game was going to stay close.
It was a quick double whammy from QEGS, NSB received a yellow card and the 2016 finalists marched upfield. It looked as though they were in on the right hand side only for Sleightholme, the son of the former England winger, to pull off an excellent try saver.
QEGS set up a scrum out wide though and, taking advantage of the extra man, shifted the ball to the left wing, where Harry Thompson ran in virtually unopposed, with Stephenson landing a beauty of a conversion from the touchline for a 14-7 lead.
NSB were not going to go away though, and as half time ticked on their forwards started to power away down the right hand side, forcing QEGS to defend their tryline. As the pressure built, they moved the ball to that all star backline. Johnson chucked a huge miss pass out to Sleightholme, who showed great footwork to beat his man and dot down in the corner, sending the sides into the break barely separable at 14-12 in QEGS’ favour.
If the first half had been tight, the second half took that even further. The two simply could not be separated, each missing with penalties early in the half. As the half wore on though, the brutal and tireless work of the QEGS pack began to take effect though. Territory and possession started to come to them more easily as NSB tired, and with it the sense that if anyone was going to score, it would be them.
NSB refused to go down easily though, twice they held the QEGS juggernaught up, and only when stretched to the absolute extreme did they concede as QEGS moved the ball left to Joe Gatus, who skipped in for his side’s third try and a 19-12 lead.
That was just about that, there was time left on the clock, though barley any, but in a passable impression on a mid-2000s Munster side, QEGS just picked and went until time was up and the celebrations for a fantastic win could begin.
It will be QEGS’ 5th U18 Schools Cup final, but in all of that time they are yet to pick up the famous trophy. This group is different though, this group have experience as winners having won the U15 Cup in 2015. Even better for them, it was against the side that they face in this year’s final, Warwick. The only problem, Warwick are the reigning champions, they have been there and done it at U18 level.
Whatever happens, with so much history and tension, this is sure to be a fantastic U18 Schools Cup final.
Full Time: Northampton School for Boys 12-19 QEGS Wakefield
Northampton School for Boys
15 Tyler Mills, 14 Josh Lack, 13 Jake Johnson, 12 Connor Tupai, 11 Oliver Sleightholme, 10 Joe Heslop, 9 Sam Connor, 1 Dan Hughes, 2 Sam Donald, 3 Fin Mosley, 4 Harry Stacey, 5 Charlton Reid, 6 Matt Parry, 7 Henry O’Donnell, 8 Ben McDonald.
Replacements: 16 Luke Wilmot, 17 Dom Shaw, 18 Isaac Christie-Fidoe, 19 Harry Relf, 20 Sam Tutt, 21 Lewie Evans, 22 Ben Rivans.
15 Harry Kelly, 14 Jacob Mounsey, 13 Joseph Gatus, 12 Oliver Wigglesworth, 11 Harry Thompson, 10 Tom Stephenson, 9 Alessandro Longo, 1 Jasper McGuire, 2 William Towler, 3 Daniel Paxman, 4 Carter Bower Stead, 5 Patrick Snowball, 6 Sachin Gogna, 7 Max Hanson, 8 Edan Kelly.
Replacements: 16 Edward Pitchford, 17 Sebastian Bijster, 18 Archie Milner, 20 Lucas Smith, 20 Jake Adams, 21 Harrison Byrne, 22 Jack Cherry.