- Durham looking to extend record season
- Cheshire trio battling for Quarter-final places
Durham School will be leading the North East challenge against a trio of Cheshire schools when the Northern sector of Daily Mail RBS Schools Under 18 Cup competition resumes next week.
They travel to Wilmslow High School on Wednesday (January 16) for tie that will take the winners into the quarter finals, while at the opposite side of the county, Wirral Grammar School will be entertaining Kings School, Macclesfield at the same stage of the competition.
The Dunelmians claimed their place in the last 16 by beating local rivals RGS Newcastle 21-15 in an epic tie, the match staying in the balance until the dying seconds as visitors RGS first got themselves within striking distance in the last minute and then retained possession through a number of phases from the restart to test the home side's composure and discipline to the bitter end.
The tension at the close and the way the game was contested throughout contrasted with an earlier match this season played at Newcastle Falcons' Kingston Park headquarters, where Durham ran out comfortable 38-15 winners.
"It was a real nail-biting finish and if RGS had managed to score at the end, I think there would have been part of me that was thinking 'fair enough' because it was a really good passage of play and good decision making from a schoolboy perspective," said Durham Coach Ben Mason.
"I suspect that Christmas may have played a part in the scores being much closer this time. Usually we rely on the extra fitness that comes from being a boarding school where we can train together regularly to give us a fitness edge in the last 20 minutes.
"This time both schools have been at home for Christmas and that was a bit of a leveller, with both teams were hanging a bit at the end. Also the fact that this was a cup tie probably brought more out of RGS and they really fought hard for it right to the end. It was a really top quality tie with both sides giving their best and pushing themselves to the limit, both physically and in their decision making.
"It was man's rugby and that's what's expected of you if you aspire to play at the highest level."
Tries for Durham by centre Hardy, fly half Craig Willis and full back Redman were converted by Willis (2) and Redman, while Penny and Jones replied with tries for RGS, Penny landing a conversion and penalty.
Durham are unbeaten at home now in a year and a half and this is only the fifth time in 162 years that a Durham First XV has completed a domestic season unbeaten.
Next week, however, they go on the road when they visit Wilmslow High School, a school that has done well in recent seasons in the Daily Mail RBS competitions.
This season they have 11 wins and four defeats in 15 matches, with 478 points scored and only 149 conceded, statistics which suggest that Durham have a stiff test awaiting them on Wednesday.
Elsewhere in Cheshire eyes will be focused on an Under 18 Cup county derby between Wirral and King's, Macclesfield. The fixture calendar prevented the two most successful teams in the county from meeting in a traditional fixture, but Wirral's win over QEGS Wakefield set up the pairing which will decide who has bragging rights for 2012/13 in the land of the wheatsheaf and who goes into the Last 16.
Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup
Round Five: Lancaster RGS 6 Wilmslow High School 9, Durham School 21 RGS Newcastle 15, Wirral 17 Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Wakefield 5, Barnard Castle 18 King's School, Macclesfield 21.
Round Six (January 16): Wilmslow HS v Durham, Wirral v King's Macclesfield
Daily Mail RBS Under 15 Cup
Round Five: Bishop Heber 25 Lancaster RGS 12, RGS Newcastle 8 Bradford Grammar School 29, King's School, Grantham 22 Crossley Heath 5, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Wakefield 8 Altrincham Grammar School 5.
Round Six (January 16): Bishop Heber v Bradford Grammar, King's Grantham v QEGS Wakefield
Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Vase
Round Three: St Mary's, Menston v Horsforth, Yarm v King Edward VI, Morpeth, QEGS Penrith 0 QEGS Kirkby Lonsdale 34, Altrincham Grammar v Rossall, St Ambrose 26 Birkenhead School 0, Sandbach 7 Crossley Heath 16, Mount St Mary's v Hall Cross CS, Ashville 13 Harrogate GS 20.
Round Four (January 16): St Mary's/Horsforth v Yarm/King Edward VI, St Ambrose v Crossley Heath, Mount St Mary's/Hall Cross v Harrogate GS.
Daily Mail RBS Under 15 Vase
Round Three: Carre's School 20 Thomas Deacon Ac3, Lincoln Minster 5 Tadcaster Grammar 37, Stockport GS 27 Mount St Mary's 13, Walton High, Stafford 31 Sandbach 43, St Edward's, Liverpool 7 Ermysted's GS 31, Trinity Carlisle 17 Kirkham 17, King Edward VI, Morpeth 19 Yarm 43, Queen Ethelburga's Coll 27 Prince Henry's, Otley 26.
Round Four (January 16): Carre's v Tadcaster GS, Stockport GS v Sandbach, Ermysted's v Kirkham, Yarm v Queen Ethelburga's.