Heartbreak for QEGS — but a cup run to be proud of
THERE was heartbreak for the Penrith Queen Elizabeth Grammar School under-15 rugby team as they lost their NatWest Vase semi-final tie, played at Allianz Park in London — the home of Aviva Premiership side Saracens.
After going 15-0 down in the first 12 minutes against Kenilworth School, Warwickshire, they fought back magnificently to lead 17-15 at the break, but were then kept scoreless in the second half as their opponents reasserted themselves and eventually ran out 32-17 winners.
Three days off school due to the weather was not great preparation for the QEGS side, but they arrived in London ready to face the challenge.
The Penrith side travelled with a large amount of support, and more family members and friends joined them for the game.
QEGS were given the home dressing room at Allianz Park, and as kick-off drew closer the tension inside the stadium began to build.
“It was different to a normal school game”, said scrum half Matthew Rogerson. “We were more nervous because we knew it was being streamed live, and there was a big crowd.”
Vice-captain Adam Wilson added: “The atmosphere in the build-up to the game was incredible. It was great having so much support from our parents and families in London. The support in every round has been great.”
The Kenilworth side raced into an early lead, scoring three tries in the opening 12 minutes and it looked as though it would be a comfortable victory for the Warwickshire side.
However, with all three tries unconverted, QEGS still fancied their chances and fought back with tries from Archie Rattray and James Ellis. Both were converted by fly half and captain Louie Johnson to make the score 14-15.
The Cumbrians had all the momentum and went into half-time 17-15 up after Johnson slotted a penalty following an infringement at the ruck.
Kenilworth composed themselves after half-time and kept QEGS scoreless in the second half despite superb efforts from the Penrith team, who were forced into some early changes — one when the influential Rattray had to leave the field after one of his many tackles.
As the second half drifted away from QEGS, they rang the changes as they began to chase the game. All 22 players took the field during the match, and every one of them gave everything they could.
The final whistle brought an amazing cup run to an end for the Penrith team, and the disappointment was evident on the faces of everyone involved.
QEGS vice-captain Adam Wilson said: “It just felt horrible when the whistle went, it’s hard to describe. It was a great experience to play in that kind of game, but losing was hard.”
The team left the field and were greeted by the many supporters who had made the trip to Allianz Park for the game, including former QEGS student Will Addison. who now captains Sale Sharks.
QEGS coach Rob Dawson was immensely proud of his team and said: “It was such a rollercoaster of a day. Before kick-off the boys were really fired up, but we found ourselves three scores down just 12 minutes in. To be honest it looked like we were totally out of it, then we played so well to fight back, we couldn’t believe we had the lead at half-time.
“We just couldn’t sustain enough pressure in the second half, and ultimately Kenilworth were better at the breakdown than we were.
“The mood in the changing room after the game was low; it was hard to say anything to pick them up.
“As we travelled back to Cumbria the disappointment began to fade slightly, and looking back over the seven games we have played in the competition, we’ve done amazingly well to get this far.
“All the coaching staff are so proud of the players’ efforts. We played some great rugby at times, and the character we showed to overturn a 15-point deficit was tremendous.”