Photo: Capture the Event
Two sides with very contrasting styles will meet at Twickenham for the 2014 NatWest Schools U18 Vase final, as Exeter College take on Trent College for what should be a thoroughly entertaining contest.
Exeter College will return to Twickenham for the first time since 2005 when they won the U18 Cup. Their quarter-final against Worth School went down to the wire as they managed a narrow one-point win (28-27) and in the semis they beat Wirral Grammar School 17-13.
The path to the finals has definitely been a tough one for the boys from Devon, after they went out of the Cup early, losing 25-26 to Bicton College in the third round, and were then entered into the Vase competition. Along the way, they have beaten Yeovil College (55-0, third round), Exmouth Community College (46-10, fourth round), Wycliffe College (31-14, sixth round after fifth-round bye), Brockenhurst College (24-10, seventh round).
Head coach at Exeter College, Jon Hill, said: “There’s a real buzz about the college. It’s taken a couple of days to sink in, but there are lots of smiles on faces and we’ve been taking stash orders which have added to the excitement for the boys.
“We’re expecting plenty of supporters to travel up for it. Our sports academy totals up into the hundreds with all the teams, and we’re a social bunch so there should be plenty of support. Similarly to the semi-finals, it will be the team with the least amount of errors on the day that wins it.
“Psychologically players have to get it right, it will be something they’ve never experienced before so it’s hard to prepare for. We’ll try to focus on processes not the occasion. I remember in 2005 the first 30 minutes was just error after error from us.
“But I think going down early and walking around the stadium to soak up the atmosphere will help.”
Exeter’s forward play has given them the upper hand in the set piece whereas their opponents, Trent College from the Midlands, favour a fast, flowing brand of rugby, as they showed by running in seven tries in their 41-7 semi-final win over QEH Bristol.
Their Cup campaign was also cut agonisingly short, when they lost to Oakham School 14-10 in the second round. But they have since gone on to register some impressive wins on route to Twickenham in the Vase, including Bishop Stopford School ( 53-0, third round), Welbeck (39-0, fourth round), Hereford Cathedral School (27-17, fifth round), Hereford Sixth Form College (19-10, sixth round), Hills Road Sixth Form College (39-7, seventh round), before a dramatic 10-10 draw saw them go through on tries scored in the quarter-final against Bishop Vesey’s.
They also have two players pushing for international honours with England U18 in front row James Fish and Flanker Will Allman (both Northampton Saints Academy.)
Trent College Head Coach, Guy Hope, said: “The situation with the boys is that it probably won’t sink in that they’re playing at Twickenham until they travel down the day before.
“It’s been business as usual with how we’ve gone about our training in the meantime. We were lucky with how good the weather and surface was for the semi-final, which is why we were able to play a fast, offloading game.
“Yes Exeter are a big side who like to dominate up front and in the set piece, so we’ll need to make sure we get at least parity in those areas, and be disciplined around the breakdown.
“But we’ve got some big, physical specimens ourselves, so we’ll look to use them as well. There’s a real buzz around the school, so hopefully we’ll get plenty of supporters down on the day!”
NatWest Schools Cup Finals Day, March 29 - free entry
U15 Vase: Altrincham Grammar School v Graveney School – 11am
U15 Cup: QEGS Wakefield v Warwick School – 12.30pm
U18 Vase: Exeter College v Trent College – 2pm
U18 Cup: Warwick School v Dulwich College – 3.40pm