Samuel Whitbread Academy claimed an historic double in beating Dauntsey’s 43-25 in the U18 Schools Vase final at Twickenham Stadium.
It followed their U15s triumph in the opening game of the day against Dartford Grammar School and makes them the first side in schools rugby history to win both the U18 and U15 Schools Vase competitions in the same year, an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that they are a state school in a competition dominated by bigger budgeted independent schools.
In celebrating Samuel Whitbread’s remarkable achievement though, you also had to feel for Dauntsey’s as ultimately it was a game that neither side really deserved to lose, both sides showed such tremendous quality and character to come back from behind in a game that went back and forth over and over again until Samuel Whitbread ran away with it in then end.
As so often on this finals day though, scores at crucial time seemed to be the difference, Samuel Whitbread scoring just before half time and then in a flurry in the last ten minutes of the game when Dauntsey’s had seriously threatened to be the side to lift the Vase.
Dauntsey’s had actually taken an early lead through a Tom Lewis penalty after just two minutes, however Samuel Whitbread immediately showed the resolve that would be evident throughout the game as they responded through the outstanding Man of the Match Tom Litchfield, who scored a wonderful try and then converted his own effort for a 7-3 lead.
Dauntsey’s chipped back though, showing the character that embodied them through the game, first a Lewis penalty and then a try from Rory Case reminiscent of George Ford’s on Saturday to give them the lead, 13-7, with Lewis’ conversion.
Then came that Samuel Whitbread spirit and timing that was the hallmark of a physical day’s work for them, scoring twice in the last seven minutes of the game, including in the last play of the first half, first through tighthead Pierce Holland and then through blindside Jake Dodd.
Both tries came after incredible pressure, Dauntsey’s defending stoically, but Samuel Whitbread showing simply outstanding patience, power, pace, and accuracy for both score as they eventually took a 21-13 half time lead.
Dauntsey’s came back though, of course they came back, for both these sides were outstanding competitors. Within five minutes of the half they had narrowed things to just a point when loosehead Sam Holloway crashed over, Lewis converting, and then ten minutes later they took the lead.
Capitalising on a yellow card for Samuel Whitbread, Dauntsey’s showed patience reminiscent of their opponents’ in the first half. Going through the phases to create the overlap on the right hand side, where good hands saw full back Will Nichol scuttle over for a 25-21 lead.
Then came the most astonishing period of play from Samuel Whitbread. With eleven minutes left on the clock they trailed 25-21. Roll forward to the end of the game and they were 43-25 winners. Truly the stuff of champions.
First they had to regain the lead, and they did so when some backchat saw the ref bring a penalty ten metres forward. That allowed Litchfield to go right for the corner with his touchfinder. From there they set up a powerful maul, charging at the line only to be pulled down early. The referee was straight under the posts for the penalty try, such was the momentum of the maul, and Samuel Whitbread were 28-25 up.
Nerves were still jangling though, this game had turned plenty of times already and could easily do so again. Samuel Whitbread had no such fears though. Instead they attacked, and attacked hard, Reon Lewis bursting down the right hand side to release Reece Sweeney with the offload to score.
Even at 33-25 with seven minutes left though, this mad game still felt like there might be a twist. Instead though, Samuel Whitbread just twisted the knife even further as Lewis turned from provider to scorer as he went soaring in on the right hand side.
That was that, and yet still, having smelt blood, Samuel Whitbread wanted more. This was their moment and they wanted it to last, to be able to feel this feeling for as long as they possibly could. The momentum was irresistible, Dauntsey’s still willing, but just crushed by that hammerblow from Samuel Whitbread.
Whitbread’s relentlessness saw superb outside centre Morgan Dayes finish the job off, powering over on the right hand side to leave the final score at 43-25, the perfect end to the perfect day for Samuel Whitbread.
It was tough on Dauntsey’s, they had been so much better than the final score suggested, but they came up against a side that finished off the game in the most inspired fashion.
For Samuel Whitbread it was a glorious comeback and a wonderful victory in its own right, but in backing up what their U15s had done earlier it became history-making, a stunning achievement never before done and not likely to be done too many more times either. Quite simply exceptional.
Full Time: Samuel Whitbread Academy 43-25 Dauntsey’s
15 Alex Harris, 14 Eniola Adebayo, 13 Morgan Dayes, 12 Tom Litchfield, 11 Reon Lewis, 10 Rory Fookes, 9 Charlie Stevens, 1 Jake Bridges, 2 Charlie Garwood (c), 3 Pierce Holland, 4 Ali Gibbs, 5 Harry Charter, 6 Jake Dodd, 7 John Fudge, 8 Kacper Wencek.
Replacements: 16 Haydon Jones, 17 Harry Jarvis, 18 Reece Sweeney, 19 Adam Shelley, 20 Hlonie Mofokeng, 21 Connor Stone, 22 Dan Chalmers.
15 Will Nichol, 14 Archie Ayling, 13 Will Hodgson, 12 Tom Lewis, 11 Alex Costard, 10 Rory Case, 9 Kit Major, 1 Sam Holloway, 2 Tom Wild, 3 Ollie Reeve, 4 Lewis Maclean, 5 George Lishman (c), 6 Oliver Sweett, 7 Morgan Douglas, 8 Wilf Fitzgibbon.
Replacements: 16 Harry Poole, 17 Jordan Hills, 18 Jamie Blake, 19 Sam Ferguson, 20 Ben Boutal, 21 Finn Smith, 22 Joss Ferguson.