Congratulations to all the players and coaching/support staff of the Wharfedale U18 Colts who beat Old Elthamians U18s 31-21 at Worcester on Sunday in the final of the National U18 Cup with a truly memorable performance.
The club would also like to extend its thanks to all the members of the Green Army for their vociverous support who once again provided the 16th man!
Neutrals, looking at the two teams warming up for this final, could have been forgiven for thinking they were about to witness a mis-match. The Old Elthamians side, containing players in the Saracens Academy and other top London outfits, were physically massive compared to Wharfedale’s colts. But the Green Army, which had travelled in force down to Worcester, knew from experience that size would be not be everything. Old Elthamians found this out for themselves within ten seconds of the kick-off, when Maddison Hunting’s mobility and superb jackaling technique won him a penalty, and gave Dale an early lead.
Old Elthamians responded to this early set-back brilliantly, off-loading to give scrum-half Jacob Buckley a fine sniping try. Converted, this gave the Londoners a 7-3 lead after 5 minutes. Within two minutes Dale had restored their advantage – Hunting slicing through the heart of the Elthamians defence to create space out wide for Tom Doherty to fly in on the right wing.
The crucial phase in the match came mid-way through the first half. After a period of Elthamians pressure, Hunting was yellow carded. Down a man, and defending their own line, Wharfedale not only kept the opposition scoreless for the next ten minutes, but gradually moved up field. No sooner were they back to fifteen men than a sublime feint from Louis Verity put Oscar Canny through under the posts. The Londoners came straight back with a converted try from impressive wing Jed Hamilton. At half-time Wharfedale held a 15-14 lead.
Throughout the game Wharfedale’s instinct was to attack. Although this did not always yield direct results, the indirect result became clear at the start of the second half. The sizeable Elthamians pack started to tire, and despite a huge weight advantage, were time and again pushed back in the scrum. With Elthamians out-muscled up front, out-run in the backs, and out-thought around the park, it was only a matter of time before Dale’s advantage began to tell. First a penalty in front of the posts put them four points up. Then a sniping run from scrum-half Henry McNab put a speedy Owen Bullock in on the wing.
Replacement wing Jordan van Beek was unlucky to have a try ruled out in the corner, but moments later the Dale pack drove through Elthamians to give them a 28-14 lead with 6 minutes to play. The Green Army in the stands was showing a similar dominance in decibels, but they were momentarily silenced by a second fine try from Elthamians’ wing Hamilton. Wharfedale calmed their supporters’ nerves by playing out the remaining minutes on the attack. The final act of play led to a Dale penalty, and a final scoreline of 31-21. Credit to both sides for a game played with tremendous verve and in a great spirit.
However tempting it is to single out names from this Wharfedale team, that would be to miss the point. They are a team. Obviously it has been superbly coached, and obviously it includes remarkable individual talents, but ultimately the team’s great success has come from their strength as a unit. In an age when rugby players move from club to club, this group of lads has been together for over a decade. If they were still together in another decade, and still in green shirts, these Colts might even form a team to surpass the one their fathers played in. For the time being, they should take honour in having made a great Wharfedale team, and having won a distinction of immense pride for the club as a whole. National champions.
Wharfedale: – 15.Ryan Hodgson, 14.Owen Bullock, 13.Tom Russell, 12.Oscar Canny,
11.Tom Doherty, 10.Louis Verity, 9.Henry Macnab (c), 8.James Robinson,
7.Jack Pinder, 6.Omari Samuels, Kemp, 5.Joseph Myers, 4.Finlay Brewster, 3.Sam Dickinson, 2.Madison Hunting, 1.Frank Watkinson,
Replacements: -16.Ben Patchett, 17.Rob Lancaster, 18. Jack Thompson, 19.Harry Driver, 20.Chance Marsden, 21.Nick Brewer, 22.Jordan Van Beek
The match (along with the other three matches held at Worcester on the same day) is available to view by clicking here. NB Our match is the third of the four on the recording.
See also the item on the RFU web-site by clicking here.
The match and “after match” photographs are now available under the Photos tab – follow the link to Flickr Album.