The Under-15’s have made another semi-final of the NatWest Schools Cup after a cagey 10-5 victory over historic rivals, Warwick School.
The pre-game atmosphere matched the enormity of the occasion, with what can only be described as one of the biggest crowds the school has seen for many years. To put it into context, excluding the two years lost to COVID-19, QEGS vs Warwick has been a fixture in the NatWest Schools Cup competition for seven of the previous eight years across both U15 and U18 age groups.
In blustery conditions, both teams began cautiously, throwing metaphorical jabs without landing a knockout blow. Despite the home side having a strong wind behind them, they seemed reluctant to put boot to ball, instead opting to keep the ball in hand.
As has been the theme all season, though, the QEGS pack were gaining dominance at scrum time, laying down a solid platform for the backs. The huge QEGS crowd were brought to life midway through the first half thanks to an explosive carry from winger, Will Evans, who powered through his opposite number before needing three Warwick defenders to bring him down. Despite not leading to points on the scoreboard, QEGS certainly grew in confidence.
The deadlock was finally broken as the end of the first half drew near. Once again, the powerful QEGS forwards ate away at the Warwick defensive line, eventually resulting in second-row, Xander Leighton, carrying himself over from short range for the first try of the game. The half-time score read QEGS 5-0 Warwick.
The second half began in a similar trend to the first with both teams having half chances but nothing clear cut. Again, like QEGS, Warwick chose to keep the ball in hand instead of making the most of the windy conditions.
Warwick finally pierced the solid Black and Gold defensive wall when the away sides fly half burst through the defensive line. With evident speed in their armoury, the number 10 looked to outrun the last defender but QEGS’ Jack Ounsley did brilliantly to stop him in his tracks.
Warwick were slowly turning the screw, creating chance after chance, including a huge missed opportunity right under the posts. However, QEGS’ never say die attitude meant the visitors couldn’t turn their pressure into points
They then paid for it in the biggest fashion as QEGS went over again for their second try of the match. After a string of penalties allowed QEGS to kick their way up the field; another solid set piece from the home side meant they were now in a strong attacking position in the Warwick 22. QEGS stayed patient in their pursuit of the Warwick line, working phase after phase before crossing the white wash through Fergus Kelly.
With the clock now fully on QEGS’ side, the home crowd were in full voice – realising what a massive effort the whole 18 player squad had put in.
As is typical of this fixture, there was still time for drama as with only minutes remaining, Warwick breached the QEGS line, pegging the score back to 10-5. And, with the away team only needing a draw to go through, we were in for a grandstand finish.
QEGS snuffed out any chance of late heart break with some brilliant game management, keeping the ball patiently to see out the game. As captain Lance Barker belted the ball into touch, the whole place erupted. QEGS 10-5 Warwick. QEGS into the national semi finals.
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