Oundle lost their big semi-final against Bromsgrove in the NatWest Schools Under 18 Cup today (March 7).
Bromsgrove took the honours 27-18 to reach the final for the first time after a high-quality and richly entertaining Midlands derby at Allianz Park.
Bromsgrove’s win denied John Olver, the former England hooker who is now Oundle’s director of rugby, the chance of going back to Twickenham for a final having led Harlequins to National Cup success there in 1988.
Oundle played their part in a fast and furious contest and gave Bromsgrove plenty to think about by taking the lead three times in the first half inspired by the strong running of centre Toby Warner.
But Bromsgrove refused to panic and used their driving maul to turn the pressure on Oundle and repeat their win in a regular Saturday fixture earlier in the season.
Oundle caught Bromsgrove cold when Warner crossed for the opening try after just three minutes.
Warner latched onto a rubber kick from scrum-half George Chatterton and dotted down for an unconverted try but Bromsgrove soon regained their composure.
They used a powerful driving maul to effect to send loosehead prop Harry Ferguson over from close range and took the lead when Luke White, their fly-half and captain, added the conversion.
The lead lasted only a minute before McRae struck a penalty when Bromsgrove went off-side at the re-start.
But Oundle’s defence was put under pressure again when Bromsgrove shunted them back 20 yards with a series of driving mauls. When Oundle went off-side, Bromsgrove kicked to the corner and hooker Henry Walker went over for the try which White improved.
But Oundle remained a threat in attack and a quickly-taken tapped penalty from Chatterton set up blindside flanker Ben Curry, who played alongside his identical twin Tom in the back row.
McRae levered over a difficult conversion attempt from out on the right to regain the lead for Oundle much to the delight of their sizeable contingent of supporters in a large crowd.
But Oundle’s supporters were silenced ten minutes into the second half when centre Chase Edwards broke free and linked with his supporting wing Cooper Bent. With Oundle’s defence at full stretch, Bent kept his composure and popped the scoring pass to inside centre Alexander Nisbet who rounded off a thrilling attack.
White banged over the conversion from the touchline and then stretched the lead by adding a more straightforward penalty three minutes later.
Oundle pulled back three points through another McRae penalty when Bromsgrove lost lock Justin Clegg to the sin bin for killing the ball. But that was the only score that Oundle managed while Bromsgrove were depleted in numbers.
White put the match beyond Oundle’s reach when he kicked his second penalty two minutes from time when Oundle were penalised under pressure from Bromsgrove’s pack.
“That was very similar to our game earlier in the season. That could have gone either way and so could this,” said Bromsgrove director of rugby Tony Windo.
“It’s testament to the boys’ character. They are a great bunch of lads, they work exceptionally hard and I have just said to them, you get out of life what you put into it and they have put a lot of effort into this season.
“In the last three rounds of the competition we have gone 7-0 down. We talked about making a good start but it was probably the kiss of death.
“It’s our first Twickenham final and it is testament to those boys’ work ethic that has got us there. It will be the chance of a lifetime. Some of these boys may never go again.
“We are going to encourage them to enjoy the experience. We have got where we are are by playing a bit of rugby. “
Olver took consolation in the contribution of his Oundle players to an outstanding contest.
“I take great consolation in the fact that our lot have turned up and performed well. I was very proud of the way the boys played. They were under the cosh a couple of times but came back at them,” he said.
“But there is huge consolation from the fact that they turned up and were part of a fantastic game of rugby.
“One of the big factors is that ten of the squad are lower sixth boys we will have them back next year and another year on and another older and more experienced. How knows? It depends on the draw because I think we have had a good draw this season.
“At some stage you have got to come up against a team like Bromsgrove. But I thik they acquitted themselves very well, we acquitted ourselves very well and on reflection we will all think what a cracking game of rugby that was.”
Oundle School: Tristan Tusa; Oscar Marshall, Toby Warner, Freddie MacNaughton, Angus McRae; Freddie Johnsrud, George Chatterton; Myles Keane, Alistair Taylor, James Keating, Max Howard, Doug Russell, Ben Curry, Francis Cundell (captain). Replacements: Alastair Wright, David Golding, Charlie Bradbeer, James Tarbatt, George Baker, Angus Wright, Ollie Trotter.
Scorers: T Warner, Curry . C McRae. P McRae 2
Bromsgrove School. James Taylor; Jonty Thornton, Chase Edwards, Alexander Nisbet, Cooper Bent; Luke White (captain), Paolo Parisi; Harry Ferguson, Henry Walker, Harrison Fowke, Joseph Morrice, Justin Clegg, Ben Schmermund, Harry Lloyd-Jones, Tom Ford. Replacements: Jack Weston, Nikita Khatin, William Hands, Benjamin Tibbetts, Beck Cutting, Wootten George, William Lockhart.
Scorers: T Ferguson, Walker., Nisbet. C White 3. P White 2
Referee: Mr Rob Warburton