Tuesday’s U18 Schools Plate Final will see Bloxham and Sherborne meet in the final game of the day at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium at 3.40pm.
Despite the Plate being a senior tournament to the Vase, its finals take place at Sixways with the Vase at Twickenham in two days time. Nevertheless it is set to be a wonderful day for both Bloxham and Sherborne as they take each other on in the superb home of Worcester Warriors.
Both sides have been superb through this tournament, and one need only look at Woodhouse Grove’s form this season to see the springboard that success in this tournament can be.
Woodhouse Grove won last year’s tournament and have gone on to be one of the very best teams in the country this year, reaching the U18 Cup semi finals last week.
The winners on Tuesday will be just the third side to lift the Plate, Reigate Grammar won the inaugural title in 2017 before Woodhouse Grove’s triumph has year.
For Bloxham it would cap what has been an unbelievable season both in and out of the Plate. They have lost just three times, once early on to Magdalen College, once to a Dean Close side with 3 England internationals, and in the Cup by just four points to a Rugby School side that was one of the best in the country.
Since then they have been rampant, beating Oundle, reigning Vase champions Langley, and Cheadle Hulme in the Schools Plate rounds. They then faced Old Swinford Hospital in a delayed semi final, which meant the were missing out on their superstar Alfie Barbeary as he was due to play for England U20.
Despite that loss in personnel though they were still magnificent at Old Swinford Hospital, winning 20-5 to reach the final. Regardless of the outcome on Tuesday afternoon it will be their best ever result in the national competitions, their previous best being a run to the 2016 U18 Vase semi finals, where the went out despite a draw against Northampton School for Boys, who went on to win the title.
Sherborne carry a little more knockout pedigree, though generally at U15 level, where they won the Vase in 2015 and reached the Cup final in 2004. Most recently the closest they have come is an U18 Cup quarter final in 2013.
Their return to the Schools Cup after three years in the Champions Trophy has been superb in this Plate run, and while they will rightly be weary of Bloxham’s quality, they will also be aware that they have plenty of their own.
Since defeat to Bishop Wordsworth’s knocked them out of the Cup they have gone on to beat KES Southampton, Exeter Schools, and Skinners’. That set up a semi final against Christ’s Hospital were the Dorset side were again superb as they controlled the game for a 24-5 victory to send them to Sixways.
They have only been defeated twice since October, by two of the best sides around, Clifton College and Schools Cup semi finalists, Marlborough College.
What it sets us up for on Tuesday afternoon is a magnificent game of rugby in a superb setting. Win or lose it will be an occasion that both sets of players will remember forever.
Moments like these are few an far between in the lives of most school rugby players, indeed most are lucky to even get close to an occasion like this. Both teams will undoubtedly appreciate that and soak in the atmosphere not just in the game but over the day as a whole.
The game itself promises to be a cracker, two excellent sides that play some wonderful rugby.
Bloxham v Sherborne: U18 Schools Plate Final – Tuesday, 3.40pm, Sixways Stadium
Routes to the Final:
Bloxham (Midlands A)
Semi Final: 20-5 v Old Swinford Hospital
Quarter Final: 39-3 at Cheadle Hulme
Last 16: 43-7 at Langley
Round 2: 27-3 at Oundle
Round 1: Bye
Cup Round 1: Lost 23-19 at Rugby
Sherborne (South West A)
Semi Final: 24-5 v Christ’s Hospital
Quarter Final: 25-15 v Skinners’
Last 16: 29-14 at Exeter
Round 2: 50-0 at KES Southampton
Round 1: Bye
Cup Round 1: Lost 25-7 v at Bishop Wordsworth’s