Saffron Walden County High School put on a superb exhibition of attacking rugby as they claimed the U15 Daily Mail RBS Vase courtesy of a comprehensive 32-14 triumph over Harrogate Grammar School.
The Essex side were in control from the first whistle, but the deadlock was not broken until centre Dan Procter crossed for a try converted by Ivan Karsten on 12 minutes.
Karsten extended Saffron Walden’s lead to 10 points five minutes later with a simple penalty, before inspirational captain Ed Low embarked on a lung-busting 60-metre dash down the touchline to make the score 15-0.
Procter and winger Joyal Gurung then went close for Saffron as they turned the screw, and Gurung ensured that his name was written on the score sheet on the stroke of half time when he went over in the corner.
Slippery Saffron fullback Hamish Richie danced his way past three defenders to score his side’s fourth try of the morning with just 42 seconds on the second half clock and Walden were seemingly out of sight, but Harrogate’s Toby Hall bludgeoned his way over the whitewash in the 37th minute to offer the Yorkshiremen faint hope, with James Finney adding the extras for a 25-7 score line.
A comeback that once appeared impossible became slightly more realistic for Harrogate when, with seven minutes remaining, Finney scored and converted a solo effort from 80 metres that, certainly in terms of awe-inspiring stamina, topped even Low’s effort earlier in the match.
Harrogate dared to dream, but their hopes of a miraculous turnaround were quashed two minutes from time when Sam McReynolds, in keeping with the spectacular nature of the game’s previous tries, streaked down the left wing from halfway and touched down for five points that, along with Oli Bennett’s conversion, sealed a deserved victory for Saffron Walden.
Saffron Walden coach Paul McNally was evidently delighted at the manner of the victory.
“I’m absolutely over the moon with the win. We’ve come here as real outsiders. I’m thrilled for the boys – they played their hearts out,” McNally beamed.
“The boys upped their game for the final. We came out to hit the game from the start. It all went to plan, really.”
“Half the boys spent the weekend traipsing over the Shropshire Hills for the Duke of Edinburgh, which was not the most ideal preparation but it seemed to work!”
McNally also heaped praise upon his peerless skipper Ed Low and back rower Max Clay, stating his belief that they are both capable of presenting a strong case for representative honours next year.
“The stand out players were Ed Low and Max Clay, the number eight, but all the lads played well,” he said.
“If they [Low and Clay] believe in themselves, they can definitely push on to represent England. We just don’t know how good they can eventually be.”
Harrogate coach Gordon Tweedle admitted that Saffron Walden were superior to his side, both as a team and as individuals, and rued his team’s defensive errors.
“They deserved it – they were the better team, very strong, especially the 12, 13 and 15,” Tweedle explained.
“We failed to put them on the ground, and that’s what caused the damage. We weren’t good enough defensively.”
“Saffron played a lot better than in their semi-final, a lot better structure, organisation and nous.”