Last Saturday saw the Daily Mail Cup semi finals take place at Broadstreet RFC in Coventry. In the top competition, the boys U18 Cup, last year’s finalists, Whitgift took on Wilmslow High School and Oakham played Old Swinford Hospital. In two physically fought games, Whitgift held off Wilmslow 20-17 and Oakham downed OSH 17-10. Two excellent games will really help reenergise a competition that has lost some of its vaunted veneer in the last few years.
It was to be a show of centres, with each side possessing cutting backlines. The young and unbeaten Wilmslow side were confident going up against perennial favourites Whitgift and showed it taking an early lead after a 70m interception try from centre skipper Ethan Harding. Whitgift replied with their own centre, England U20 player, Elliot Daly making a long break with fullback Chris Crane soon crossing over. After two penalties from Daly, the score stood at 13-7 when Daly cut a sensational line that the Wilmslow defence could not handle and he went under the posts.
With the score at 20-10, Wilmslow seemed dead in the water but set up a frantic finale when centre Harding scored a try; fly half McCall converted the try to set up the tantalising finish. Wilmslow had the chance to tie the game, but McCall’s penalty kick from a tight angle sailed narrowly wide and that was the game. Whitgift look good going in the final for a second year running and will hoping Daly can replicate last year’s centre Marland Yarde’s feat of scoring a hat-trick in the final. Wilmslow will be disappointed but will no doubt be back to challenge again.
In the other semi final, Oakham were led to victory by their own England U20s centre, Charlie Walker. Old Swinford started well creating a number of opportunities to get ahead but were not clinical in taking their chances; two missed penalties and a spilled ball over the try lane lost OSH an early 13 point lead. Oakham capitalised and a quick cross kick from Walker found winger James Harris for an easy try; yet Swinford, led by their big pack controlled by scrum half Oliver Simcock, came back with Simcock crossing over the line following a driving maul. With the try converted, things were level at 7-7.
Yet, despite Swinford’s momentum, the class of Walker took over as he scored a dazzling try, sidestepping through the Swinford defensive line and went under the posts. His conversion and a penalty kick soon after were successful and Oakham took control. Swinford scored a penalty to make the score 17-10 but Oakham controlled the game well to ensure their place in the final.
The stage is now set for Whitgift against Oakham at Twickenham on April 6th in what should be quite the finale to an excellent competition. St. George’s, Weybridge scored in the last minute to get through to their first U18 Vase Final, just beating Ravens Wood 15-13. They’ll face Solihull who downed Woodhouse Grove 20-0 in their semi final.