A brace of tries from Alex Winter guided Solihull School to their first ever U18 Daily Mail RBS Vase as they overcame a spirited St. George’s College, Weybridge side 28-21.
Fly half Max Rodman broke the deadlock with a penalty on 11 minutes after an even start to the match that saw neither side exert pressure for any significant period of time.
Rodman doubled Solihull’s tally four minutes later, but his opposite number Chris Hanson halved the deficit almost immediately with three points of his own.
Hanson slotted an equalising penalty in the 20th minute, and St. George’s were given a huge boost when Solihull’s giant number eight and captain Conor Joyce was yellow-carded for persistent infringement.
Although St. George’s elected to kick the resulting penalty to touch rather than goal, they were awarded another within seconds that Hanson nailed to hand his side the lead for the first time in the game, but Rodman restored parity with his third penalty just short of the interval.
Solihull scored the first try of the match six minutes after the restart through centre Winter, who rounded the St. George’s defence after the Midlanders had built a number of phases inside their opponents’ 22, with Rodman adding the conversion to bring the score to 16-9.
Hanson spurned the opportunity to take his side to within four points when he pushed a penalty wide on 46 minutes, and just 60 seconds later, Winter pounced on a wayward St. George’s pass and scorched home under the posts for a try converted once again by Rodman.
In control of the game and with a comfortable 14-point cushion behind them, Solihull were widely expected to go for the jugular, but they allowed their opponents to enjoy a sustained spell of possession and eventually St. George’s mercurial England U18 fullback Anthony Watson, well shackled by Solihull up to that point, went over for an unconverted score.
St. George’s put themselves on the brink of staging a remarkable recovery when scrum half Eoghan Sweeney strolled in under the posts after Matt Bennett’s clean break, particularly when Hanson kicked the extra two points to make the score 23-21, but Solihull replacement Jack Hobbs’ try in the last play of the match ensured that his side would return to the West Midlands with the trophy.
Losing captain Alex Hall was gracious in defeat, although he could not help but wonder about what might have been.
“Congratulations to them, they played fantastically,” Hall said.
“We defended for large periods of the game. We came from behind in the semi so when Anthony scored that try, I was sure we would come back but it wasn’t meant to be. The interception was the turning point in the end.”
Solihull’s hero Alex Winter revealed his team’s tactics heading into the game and reflected on a memorable experience at headquarters.
“We really targeted their danger man Anthony Watson, we really stuck to our game plan and made sure he didn’t come into the game much because we knew what a threat he was,” Winter explained.
“It’s just unbelievable to play at Twickenham. Obviously the most important thing was to win, but to score the tries was just brilliant,” he added.