There were tears all the way home for at least one player, as Whitgift under-15s lost their Daily Mail Cup rugby semi-final on Saturday by just one point, going down 16-15 against Truro School in the match played in Coventry.
The agonising defeat came after Whitgift’s young rugby stars – most of whom are in the Surrey County squad or on the books of Harlequins and Wasps’ academies – held the lead with just five minutes left to play of the national schools competition.
The South Croydon school’s rugby hopes for the season now rest on their under-18s, the defending champions, who play their semi-final at Broadstreet RFC in the Midlands this Saturday.
Last weekend, Whitgift’s tyros made a poor start to their game, conceding a penalty and two first-half tries to Truro to go in to the break 13-0 down, and looking out of the match altogether.
But the second half saw Whitgift start a dramatic comeback, getting on to the scoreboard within 79sec of the restart thanks to a try from powerful winger Jubril Adamson.
In quick succession Geddy Stringer and Adamson each scored further tries. Crucially, though, both players went over in the corners, making the conversion chances extremely difficult, so Whitgift were unable to add the extras, putting the score at 15-13.
Five minutes from time, the Whitgift youngsters showed their inexperience when, with possession in their own 22, instead of kicking long for territory to run down the clock, they tried the run the ball out.
Whitgift prop Seb Adeniran-Olule was caught with the ball, conceding a penalty and received a yellow card for handling in the ruck for his pains. Truro skipper Ned Warne stepped up to slot his second penalty.
Yet still Whitgift had a chance to seize the game, when Adamson got the ball after the re-start and went charging downfield in search of his third try.
But with the try line beckoning, on the last play of the game, the ball was spilled, and with that the referee blew for no side.
It will be a harsh lesson for the promising talents in the side, although they can take heart from the fact that their senior squad, when playing in the under-15s age group three years ago, did not even manage to make it through to the quarter-finals.
Now, the Whitgift under-18 side including Tom Nicholls, Chris Crane and Eliot Daly is just one game away from its second Twickenham final in two years, with Daly, the England under-20s centre, in fine form, having scored four tries for England against Italy two weeks ago.