This is a report from a rugby match between two school teams, from April 2009.
After coming top of their pool in the previous round, Boston Grammar School Under16s went to the Princess Royal Sports Area with high hopes. However, after a well fought match, Kirton Middlecott came out top and were crowned champions of the Inter Schools League Cup. The build-up to the game was full of tension and nerves. After BGS beat MSK in the 2007 final, MSK beat BGS in a friendly in 2008 and the teams drew in the Rugby 10s tournament earlier this season, the 2009 Inter School League Cup Final was to be the decider. For a lot of these players, it was to be their last match together, and possibly the last time they ever play a rugby match, so both teams were determined to win. Grammar had a setback before the game had even started, with captain and fly-half Oliver Phillips out due to injury. The NLD star became manager for the game, with his first point of call choosing a new captain. Number 8 Sam Clifton was his choice.
The atmosphere in the BGS dressing room was electric, with Clifton instilling enthusiasm into his troops at every possible moment. His team talk brought out his leadership skills, and got the lads pumped up for a huge game. BGS started the game a little better than their opponents, keeping Middlecott at bay and trying to attack at every moment and within nine minutes, the deadlock was broken. Winger Dave Abell broke away down the left, skipping past Middlecott winger Tom Martin in the process, and putting down for the first try of the match. Phillips is the usual conversion taker, but with him out, BGS had to find others to take the conversions. Luke Chester stepped up to convert, but he put the kick slightly wide. The try seemed to give the team even more enthusiasm and belief, and they began to play like a real unit. However, Middlecott slowly began to get back into the game and after eighteen minutes, winger Aaron Appelby levelled the scoring with a try. Fly-half Alex Snaith stepped up to convert, but missed, leaving the scores level after twenty minutes of play.
It didn’t take long for BGS to take the lead again though. Outside-centre Alex Pycock picked the ball up in his own half and, using his fantastic speed, he ran the length of the field and put down under the posts. Again, Chester stepped up for the conversion, but he failed to score once more. For about fifteen minutes in the first half, BGS held off MSK a few metres from their try line. BGS were heavily under the cosh. Peter Brennan was brought on to give the team some new flair, and one the first things he did when he came on was to illegally challenge MSK’s outside-centre Luke Wilson. For those of you that watch wrestling, it was more like a “clothesline” than a rugby challenge. Grammar were determined to go into half-time as the leaders. They almost did, as well, but Hooker Nathan Hill had other ideas. He pushed past the Boston defence, finally breaking through and going over for the fourth try of the game. Snaith attempted to convert and send Middlecott into half-time in front. He succeeded, leaving the score at half-time 12-10 to Middlecott.
After the two teams grouped into team circles and both had some inspirational words from coaches and their respective captain, it was time to begin the second half. Danny Jackson was brought on to give the BGS team some fresh legs, and Jack Toyer was brought on to give some extra strength to the side. Within five minutes of the second-half, though, Wilson powered through the BGS team to score another try for MSK. Snaith stepped up again to have a go at another conversion, and he made no mistake, making the score gap between the teams nine. Grammar really needed to do something positive if they were going to get back into this game. Instead, they got even worse, conceding another try, this time to scrum-half Harry Gray. Snaith converted again, and it looked as though BGS were going to be getting runner-up trophies. Craig Whiley was brought on to give some of the more tired players a rest. During the second-half, both BGS’s, and MSK’s captains got called forward by the referee twice. Clifton and Gray got called forward first for bad tackling by both teams and the referee wanted it to stop. Then they got called forward again for bad language, which the referee was not tolerating. With fifthteen minutes left, it looked as though Grammar were down and out. But a long attacking move with lots of passes and, frustratingly, tackles, Grammar scored their third try of the match. Fly-half Alex Poole was the scorer, going over even with extreme pressure from the MSK defence. Fullback Alex Liu came to try and score this conversion, but he put the ball agonisingly wide. This left the score at 26-15 to MSK, so Boston still had quite a bit to do if they were to get back into the game. However, with only ten minutes left, it would have to be something pretty special.
Grammar were condemned to their fate however when Wilson scored their fifth and his second try of the match, meaning that the game was over. Snaith missed his conversion, leaving the score at 31-15 with five minutes left.
Tempers began to flair towards the end of the match, with Clifton challenging MSK’s Matthew Fitzer at head height. Grammar’s number 8 was given a yellow card and so missed the rest of the game, due to the time left. It was an illegal challenge and looked pretty painful, but Fitzer seemed to shake it off and carry on. Middlecott’s Hill and BGS’s Pycock had a little conflict of opinions, with Hill seemingly getting a little aggressive. But apart from a few strong challenges it was a quite a clean game on the whole.
The game finished with the score at 31-15. The BGS lads gave all that they had but at the end of the day Middlecott were generally the better team. The players were still upbeat after the match despite the loss, with all of them having a laugh with the Middlecott players as they waited to collect their 2nd place trophies. The atmosphere after the match was one of disappointment at not winning, but also they were very proud with the performance that they all put in.
When Phillips was asked about the result, he said that “it was the performance that was important” and that was “very good”. When asked about the team performance, flanker Haydn Roberts said that they “played very well, showing good character and everyone put in 100%”.
The Boston Grammar School team (above) pose for squad photo.