Sedbergh School is the back to back 2019 Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s champions after a quite sensational two days of rugby.
They put in a truly outstanding display in the final a 38-5 victory over Dulwich College, who had been exceptional as well, including a victory over Sedbergh in the quarter-final pools, which in a strange way maybe paved the way for Sedbergh’s eventual crowning.
This tournament has been one of the warmest and most enjoyable in years, but it has also been one of the toughest, the quality of sides in this U18 Cup was simply sensational.
Any side winning it was going to have to do it the hard way, and so Sedbergh did. Their initial group saw them take on Eltham College, Coleg Llandrillo, Haileybury, and Windsor Boys. By the end of the opening day they were the talk over the town, ‘have you seen Sedbergh’ could be heard whistling around across all four site venues.
This brutal competition does not just give you one group stage, though, it gives you two. The second day beginning with three quarter-finals pools. If day one seemed tough, day two was going to be a killer.
Sedbergh’s pool contained Dulwich College, Brighton College, and Blundell’s, three outstanding sides. The other two were hardly shabby either, Clifton College, Millfield, Hurstpierpoint and Kirkham in one, triple finalists Cranleigh, joined by Hampton St Paul’s Catholic College, and Wellington College in the other.
The winners would progress to the semis along with one runner up – tension guaranteed before a ball had even been kicked, and once there was, boy, did the tension ramp up. The key games came in the second round, Cranleigh was pretty much home and hosed as Group 3 winners after 2 rounds but in Group two Millfield went from 21-0 up to lose 24-21 against Clifton, handing Clifton top spot. Dulwich College meanwhile stunned onlookers as they beat Sedbergh 12-10, though it was a performance absolutely in keeping with their performances all competition.
What it meant was that the runner up spot was realistically going to be between Millfield and Sedbergh and boy was it close. Really close. It came down to a handful of points, the key moment for Sedbergh came at the death against Brighton College, the call from Brighton came to kick it out but when the kick came it was a sky shot. Sedbergh gathered it and scored, in the end, the vital try that would just give them the edge. Millfield still had their chance though, with seconds to go against Hurstpierpoint they were in the semi-final, only for Hurstpierpoint to score. How fine the margins, how tough the competition.
The semi-finals were less tense, but no less challenging, nonetheless a fast start from Sedbergh saw them claim a 24-5 victory over the side they beat in last year’s final, Cranleigh, while Dulwich College beat Epsom in a cracking game 28-19, Clifton had been in fantastic form all day.
So to the final, where there was already a sense building that Sedbergh was annoyed with themselves for losing to Dulwich in that quarter-final. A wounded Sedbergh is a dangerous animal, everyone here should have known it, they did it last year, losing to Harrow at the same stage before going to lift the title.
They came flying out of the traps, showing the same intensity in defence that had been their hallmark for two days, and that clinical edge in attack that separates them.
Two minutes in George Barber had opened the scoring for them, with skipper Tom Curtis, a magician across the two days converting. Barber then crossed for a wonderful second shortly after with Curtis nailing the conversion and suddenly 14-0 looked like a long road back for Dulwich College.
That road got longer, shortly before half time when the magnificent Will Panday, another player of the tournament contender for many, crossed for a 19-0 lead. Ollie Melville then stretched things even further, doing twin brother Cam proud after his injury earlier in the tournament.
At 24-0 the game really was done, yet Dulwich had done little wrong. They were just being stretched to breaking point at the end of a very very long two days of rugby in unseasonable, but welcome, heat.
Sedbergh just kept on coming though, relentlessly, and how. Curtis turning on the magic to ghost through a gap before throwing the blind offload to Will Haydon-Wood for the score.
With Curtis converting, Sedbergh was now a stunning 31-0 ahead, however, this Dulwich side does not know the meaning of giving up, and certainly not on a stage like this. They kept coming and kept coming and kept coming and eventually got their reward through a score from Isaac Gleave.
If you thought Sedbergh might shut up shop after that though, you would be mistaken. The touchlines were imploring to them to keep it safe, but not this group, not with back to back glory on the line, they wanted to finish it in style. Boy did they, Will Panday scoring his second of the game to send the sizeable home support absolutely bananas on the touchline, sealing the 38-5 victory with Curtis’ nonchalant conversion.
They were, quite simply, sensational. Over the two days, only the most diehard of people from other schools would argue that this group were not the standout group. Just winning once at Rosslyn Park is immensely challenging, to do it back to back, and in a year as tough as this, is utterly sensational.
The names of Haydon-Wood, Panday, Manihara, Wrankin, Barber, Lanni, Bundage, McGhee, Shiel, Cooke, Brighetti, the two Melville’s, and skipper Curtis can now add themselves to the list of Sedbergh legends of Rosslyn Park.
A word on Dulwich College though, who were magnificent throughout this tournament too. Over both days they gave everything for their shirt and quite simply could not have given more, both physically and mentally. They can rest easy, knowing that despite the pain of defeat it was to a side that was just the pick of the bunch.
As for Sedbergh, back to back Daily Mail Trophy champions, back to back Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s champions, could they add a second Sedbergh 10s title on Monday to seal a double-triple? At this point, nothing would surprise you.
For those sides that finished as runners up in Thursday’s groups, the Plate competition was the prize on offer on Friday. It mirrored the Cup competition in format, and almost mirrored it for drama throughout.
Eventually, when all was said and done it was Coleg Sir Gar who took it, beating Dean Close 26-17 in a magnificent final. There was plenty of tension and a late Dean Close try had people wondering if a dramatic comeback might be on but this excellent Sir Gar outfit and they had been superb through the day, sealed the title and deservedly so.
There had certainly been twists and turns along the way though, like in the Cup it was the points difference that decided who would be the last of the semi-finalists between Denstone College and Northampton School for Boys, NSB just edging it and then only just missing out on the final, losing 31-28 to Dean Close.
Sir Gar was the class act though, topping Group 1 before beating Warwick 32-19, and then a performance full of power, pace, and energy to beat Dean Close in the final.
Back to back & Player of the Tournament
Ultimately though, the day, indeed the tournament was about these young men in Brown. Schoolboy titles are hard to come by, Rosslyn Park ones even more so. Just have a read through the honours list in the programme, very few players ever get the chance to lift this famous old Cup. The touchlines were littered with pros and ex-pros all week, but very few of them have ever had this particular piece of silverware.
There was no official Player of the Tournament this year but we put together an unofficial panel that cast votes the way of Curtis, Haydn-Wood, Manihera, Panday, and Dulwich’s Olu Odunlame. In truth, any deserve it, all were superb and as it is unofficial, all can share!
It isn’t about the Cup though, or the achievement, or the individual awards, though all are obviously outstanding. It is about the who and the how, it is about the fact that it is alongside your mates, the people you are with and choose to be with day in and day out, it is about how hard you have to work, not just in preparation, but at the event itself.
It is the essence of what school rugby is all about, and on days like today, in the sunshine at Rosslyn Park, it is about as good as it gets.
Article by: http://www.fifteenrugby.com