Langley School rampant at Twickenham as they clinch U18 Schools Vase victory
PUBLISHED: 13:14 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:06 16 March 2018
Langley School’s remarkable U18 Schools Vase campaign ended as it has long suggested it might at Twickenham Stadium – with yet another stunning triumph.
The Norfolk school beat Wirral Grammar School 48-22, continuing an impressive return, having scored over 40 points in every single round of England rugby’s biggest national competition.
Wirral Grammar School may have lost but they became the first since Langley’s early round routs to score more than one try against them.
Just four minutes in and slick handling allowed centre Max Otis to feed winger Simone Panella who went over to give his side the perfect start, Tom Poole’s conversion gave the Norfolk boys a 7-0 lead.
Further scores quickly followed as co-captain Andre Dunn dived over in the corner and shortly afterwards full-back Luke Phoenix was put away on the opposite side of the pitch to make it 17-0. Phoenix would go on to have the sort of game that he would have been dreaming about the night before playing at this most famous of stadiums.
Wirral Grammar School were no pushovers, though, as their late rally showed. They proved that they were not there just to make up the numbers as their powerful captain and Sale Academy player Tom Roebuck rallied the troops and scored on a fantastic running line, converting it himself to bring the score back 17-7.
Such is the nature of this Langley side though that they were not going to allow Wirral to have the last score of the half, and so it proved just a few minutes shy of the half when Roebuck’s opposite number, Otis, scored on a similar line to send his side in at the break 24-7 to the good.
The men from the north west were digging deep, though, and Wirral closed the gap again with a second try.
At 12 points ahead, another score for Wirral could have changed the game, but Langley demonstrated the level of focus and hard work that have allowed them to produce so many scoring opportunities. The hugely combative back row combination of Tane Dunn, Ollie Ashworth and co-captain Thomas Smith, meant momentum stayed with the Norfolk side.
In what was Langley’s best spell of the game, three quick tries were scored, inspired by the outstanding man of the match, Phoenix.
The elusive full-back scored a try of his own, before his crowning moment of the match when he pounced on a loose ball on his own 22 and surged forward, the length of the field. With just a couple of yards to the line, though, came the moment that set him apart. He unselfishly gave the pass to deny himself a hat- trick at Twickenham and allow Panella to record his second score of the day.
Five minutes later his side were over again, this time through loosehead Frank Scott, showing the pace of a man with a much higher number on his back as he surged around the left to score.
Poole’s conversion made it 43-12. From there, coming back was not an option. Wirral Grammar School still kept going though, showing great spirit. A last-ditch tackle only just kept flying winger Tyreece Simpson out, and further tries came for them through Jack Nelson and Jack Purnell narrowing the gap.
However, typically, it was Langley who had the final say, and perhaps rather fittingly it was the captain Dunn, who along with his co-leader Smith, had been excellent all day.
It sealed a 48-22 victory for his side, but the story was not the scoreline. The story was what this tournament, this final, this victory meant to the players, the staff, and the supporters. From start to finish their passion was infectious, and when the final whistle went you could hardly help but applaud them.
To witness the exclamation of joy from the many hundreds of Langley supporters who had travelled down to the self proclaimed home of rugby was to witness all that was good about schools rugby.
Delighted Director of Sport, Tim Malone said: “The vast majority of these boys joined us in our main entry years in Year 7 and Year 9, and I think that it is not just the result, but the manner of the victory, that reflects so well on the investment in time and effort that we have put into developing players from a young age.
“We have been touched by the messages of support and congratulation that we have received from superstars in the professional game, such as Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi and from schools, clubs and individuals across the county and we really hope that this victory puts Norfolk Schools’ rugby on the map.”
Wirral Grammar School: 15 Will Tyrer, 14 Tom Saunders, 13, Tom Roebuck (captain), 12 Louis Botes, 11 Jack Nelson, 10 Jacob Ainscough, 9 George Manger, 1 Dan Carrol, 2 Ben Thomas, 3 Matthew Austin, 4 Sam Gregory, 5 Tom Lockwood, 6 Will Sass, 7 Euan Alldis, 8 Josh Kenyon. Replacements: 16 Cameron Pederdy, 17 Lewis Hayes, 18 Charlie Carter, 19 Morgan Christian, 20 Jack Purnell, 21 Sam Wood, 22 Liam McGowan.
Langley: 15 Luke Phoenix, 14 Simone Panella, 13 Max Otis, 12 Andre Dunn (co-captain), 11 Tyreece Simpson, 10 Tom Poole, 9 Sam McCluskey, 1 Frank Scott, 2 William Bicknell, 3 Ryan Green, 4 George Easton, 5 Hamish Kenward, 6 Tane Dunn, 7 Oliver Ashworth, 8 Thomas Smith (co-captain). Replacements: 16 James Vinall, 17 Sam Hughes, 18 Alex Houghton, 19 Joe Hollidge, 20 Bart Lowden, 21 Daniel Fox, 22 Daffyd-Rhys Tiueti.