RUGBY ROUND-UP: It’s a red-letter day in the history of Whitgift School rugby next Wednesday, when both their under-15s and under-18s sides will run out on to their South Croydon playing fields to play in the quarter-finals of the national schools’ cup competition.
The 2016 generations have plenty to live up to: their school’s under-15s have won the cup in the past when Danny Cipriani was in the side, and the first XV won the under-18 age group two years running when Elliot Daly was in the team alongside Marland Yarde.
The teams won through to the top eight in the country in this season’s NatWest Cup matches last week, played in attrocious conditions, with the under-15s beating Brighton College 28-10 and the under-18s winning a nail-bitingly tight encounter against St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, 11-8.
In the younger age group, the home side had to come from behind in the second-half, after Brighton had held a 10-8 half-time lead. Whitgift scored three tries, one conversion and a penalty in the second half, and the master-in-charge, Adrian Norris, said, “There were some excellent displays by the whole team, but most notable from the Benz-Salomon brothers and Charlie Cassar on the right wing.”
The older side had the daunting prospect of taking on the same Suffolk school which had dumped them out of the competition at the same last-16 stage a year ago. And, like their younger schoolmates, Whitgift conceded an early lead.
“It was a really tough game against a quality St Joseph’s team,” Chris Wilkins, Whitgift’s director of rugby, said. Whitgift, having played into the worst of the weather in the first period, were 8-3 down at half-time. “I felt the key period was the last quarter of the match, as, after sustained pressure from the forwards, team captain, Sid Holland, broke through a couple of tackles from the 22, and drove powerfully over for an excellent try.” A further penalty by Whitgift finished off the scoring.
That put Whitgift’s 1st XV’s playing record this season at 20 wins from 24 games, including wins over Warwick School, RGS High Wycombe and the two-times cup-winners Dulwich College.
It’s a rare achievement for a school to get a side into the last-eight of the national cup competition, and rarer still for one school to be represented at this stage in both age groups.
Next Wednesday’s quarter-finals will see both Whitgift sides playing northern opponents, the under-15s v Sedbergh (1.30pm kick-off) and the under-18s v Wilmslow High (with a 2.30pm kick-off).
Meanwhile, it’s been a water-logged and slow start to 2016 for the area’s club sides.
It was the weekend before Christmas when Warlingham last played a London 2SW fixture, and suffered a thorough thrashing, 69-5 against Cobham.
But they bounced back in their first playable home fixture of the year a fortnight ago to beat the division’s whipping boys, Basingstoke, 60-0, scoring nine tries, two of them by centre David Priest.
Paddy Dennien, Warlingham’s coach, said, “We’ve tried to keep focused despite the lack of game time and that commitment was shown on the pitch today. Basingstoke caught us on a good day. If we can keep injury-free then we can certainly climb back up the table.”
A 26-10 defeat at bitter rivals Old Reigatians last Saturday leaves Warlingham in ninth place in the table, but with games in hand, one of which is due to be played this Saturday, at home against Andover, when most other clubs are “resting” for the first week of the Six Nations.
In London 3SW this Saturday, there’s the local derby between Purley-John Fisher and Old Mid-Whitgiftians at Parsons Pightle in Old Coulsdon, with both sides in need of a change of form, as they languish in the bottom three places of the division, with PJF propping up the table and doomed to relegation back to the county divisions after their penalty points deductions earlier in the season.
The new year hasn’t brought with it a change of fortune for Purley-John Fisher, who have suffered two heavy defeats in January. Likewise MidWives, who lost 71-6 at Camberley and 34-0 to Tonbridgians at home a fortnight ago, when they were under the cosh from the start, losing their first line-out and having their pack pushed back 10 metres in the second scrum.
Even in Surrey 1, recent results have not gone the way of the local side, where Old Whitgiftians suffered their first defeat in five games last Saturday, 26-5 at Chipstead, slipping to third place in the league table and possibly jeopardising their promotion prospects.
Last Saturday, in Surrey 2, Old Walcountians scored 80 unanswered points against Croydon, whose losing streak began in April 2014 and has now extended into another calendar year. Croydon have now conceded 500 points this season more than they have scored.
A 20-12 win for Streatham and Croydon over Old Ruts last Saturday maintained the Frant Road club’s 2016 unbeaten streak, their third win in January, and moved them to the top of the Surrey 3 table as their promotion rivals, Reeds-Weybridge, were beaten 23-22 at home to bottom side Old Glynonians.
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