1st XV vs. Adams’ Grammar School, NatWest Cup Round 7 – match report
The Perse School 1st XV travelled to a wet and miserable Shropshire to face Adams’ Grammar School in what was to be a clash of the underdogs in Round 7 of the U18 NatWest Schools Cup. An impressive number of travelling supporters for the aptly named ‘purple army’ made the long journey across, with a large and vocal crowd composed of parents and Old Perseans alike.
The pressure of a cup clash mixed with the awful conditions meant the game was never going to be a spectacle of free-flowing running rugby; the opening exchanges were full-on with both teams trying to exert their physical dominance over each other. An early charge down on Captain Harry Hitchcock’s clearing box kick in The Perse 22m did little to settle the nerves of the visiting team, but thankfully indiscipline from the Adams’ Grammar side in the form of two late hits allowed The Perse side to establish some good field position in opposition territory. The usually incisive Perse side were unable to take full advantage of their opportunity and the Adams’ line held strong with some resolute defence. The first half was played out blow-by-blow with both teams refusing to yield an inch; eventually something had to give and unfortunately it was Perse tight-head prop Nick Cox, sustaining a head injury following a trademark courageous tackle. Both sides continued to flex their muscle and apply their kicking game to gain a foothold in the game, but half-time came around with the scores still locked at 0-0.
Both teams looked to lift their game another gear going into the second half, with the set piece battle being one for the rugby purists; the absence of Nick Cox in the front row allowed the Adams’ Grammar pack to exert its dominance at scrum time whilst the lineout remained a tense and tactical contest, with Oscar Giles and Sam Behagg looking to make their presence felt. Pressure eventually told on The Perse side with a hurried clearance kick being charged down by the hard working Adams’ defence, their back row winning the foot race to ground the ball, and the referee awarding a try. The Adams’ kicker was unable to add the extras, leaving the score at 5-0. The injuries began to mount for the Cambridge side, with pivotal Perse full-back James Knoop also removed from play with a head injury; pressure began to mount as time ticked away. The Adams’ pack seized the initiative and muscled over for a second try, putting the writing on the wall for The Perse. A lack of field position or good quality ball frustrated the side into mounting increasingly high-risk attacks. The boys fought bitterly to the end to try and salvage some pride, with old heads Tom Sherrington-Scales and Nathan Henry finishing their school rugby careers bravely leading one last hurrah from the midfield, but sadly it was not to be. The final whistle rang out to rapturous cheers from the home support, Adams’ winning through 12-0, with a difficult quarter final away to Durham School to come.
A full credit to Adams’ Grammar school on a smart and superbly executed performance in the conditions; The Perse 1st XV boys for their endeavours over the course of the season and, more widely, for the Upper 6th over the course of their highly successful school rugby careers; and finally to our parents, for their invaluable and unwavering support through it all.
After the half-term break, the boys will be switching their attention to the 7s circuit, hoping to make an impact at the Oakham School (Sunday 9 March), Cambridge RFC (Wednesday 19 March) and Rosslyn Park National School (Tuesday 25 March) 7s tournaments.