Whitgift School scored five tries as they became only the fourth school to win the U18 Daily Mail RBS Cup for two consecutive years, eventually overcoming a plucky Oakham School 45-24 in a high-scoring Grand Final.
A ferocious start by the defending champions saw Olly Dickerson open the scoring after just five minutes following a break by impressive centre Sam Cooke, with the latter’s midfield partner and England U20 international Elliot Daly kicking the conversion and then a monster penalty from inside his own half to increase Whitgift’s lead to 10 points.
Oakham’s centre De La Rey Veenendaal intercepted a loose pass on halfway and raced towards the line before being dragged down just short, and although his side won a penalty directly in front of the posts, England U18 star Charlie Walker felt the pressure of the occasion and failed to take the three points on offer.
Rutland school Oakham finally got on the score sheet on 22 minutes, when Veenendaal released winger Sam Tipper after a scrum deep inside Whitgift territory.
Oakham did not have to wait long to draw level, as the outstanding Veenendaal sliced through a soft Whitgift defensive line from a scrum on the halfway line to touch down in the corner.
Penalties either side of half time from Daly edged Whitgift back in front at 16-10, but a converted try from his former England colleague Walker after the latter’s clean break and superb sidestepping finish saw Oakham take a surprise 17-16 lead with half an hour remaining.
Whitgift, however, regained the ascendancy six minutes later through prolific fullback Chris Crane, and although Daly missed a penalty on 49 minutes, the floodgates were not long in opening.
Another three points from the talismanic Daly initiated a period that saw the Londoners register 24 points in just a quarter of an hour, as a short-range, burrowing try from hooker Simon Hugkulstone, an opportunistic effort from captain Tommy Nicholls and a 50-metre dash from replacement George Smith ensured that Whitgift would be bringing the trophy back to South Croydon.
A shell-shocked and dejected Oakham did grab a consolation score just before the final whistle through the ubiquitous De La Rey Veenendaal, a try that Walker converted, but it was only scant consolation as Whitgift stormed to victory once again.
Whitgift head coach Chris Wilkins was delighted with his side’s performance, particularly in the absence of key players George Merrick and Harry Ledger, who missed the match through injury.
“I’m obviously very pleased, it was a very good team effort. We had a couple of injuries and the lads who came in were outstanding,” Wilkins said.
“I thought we worked really hard. I thought the breakdown was good and allowed us to get some quick ball and play with a bit of width.”
“We’re very pleased and very proud for the boys that all their hard work has come to fruition.”
Wilkins’ counterpart at Oakham, Ian Smith, was also keen to sing Whitgift’s praises, but admired the effort that his own side had put into the game.
“We came up against a very, very powerful Whitgift side and all credit to them, they were superb in all areas of the game,” said Smith.
“Although they had a couple of changes, you wouldn’t have thought so. I thought there were players of skill and ability all over the field.”
“It was a classic game of PPP – power, pace and performance – and we saw it all there, from both sides at times, but sadly for Oakham, not as often as from the Whitgift side.”
“Walker and Veenendaal in the centre are as talented a pairing as we’ve had in a long time, both scoring tries, and Charlie [Walker], the captain, deserves a special mention because he was here, there and everywhere.”