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Six-try Trent College have become the first team to win the national U18 Natwest Schools Vase twice after a convincing 43-7 victory over the Royal Latin School at Twickenham on Wednesday 29 March.
Exactly three years to the day since they lifted the Vase for the first time in 2014, the Long Eaton school became the only team to do the Vase double since the competition was first contested in its current guise in 2000.
Trent got off to the perfect start, with captain Jack Dickinson scrambling the ball over the line after relentless pressure in the corner, and his younger brother Ben converting, within the opening two minutes. By half-time Trent had a commanding 22-0 lead thanks to season top scorer Emmet McDonnell and Jack Dickinson’s second try of the game, while Ben added another conversion and fly-half George Finney a penalty.
Trent had to absorb a sustained period of Royal Latin pressure after the break, the Buckingham school getting themselves on the scoresheet for the first time in the match through Tom Bacon, converted by Max Nagy.
But when man-of-the-match Charlie Livesey charged down an attempted Royal Latin clearance on the 22, to himself touch down the loose ball with 20 minutes to play, any jitters were instantly quelled as Trent ran in a further two converted tries through McDonnell and replacement Joshua Stanley.
Skipper Dickinson felt Trent saved their best performance of the season until last. He said: “We talked about it in the changing room before the game that this would be the last chance for our group of 23 to really prove what we could do; that this is what we’ve wanted to achieve since the start of the season and if we achieved it collectively no-one could take it away from us. It’s very special to have done this.
“We’ve said all season we’ve had good 15-20 minute periods, where we’ve played really good rugby, in many games but today we came out and outdid ourselves. That’s the best performance we’ve had and what a stage to do it on.”
Winger McDonnell admitted before the game he had let himself imagine what it would be like to score in the famous England stadium. But to go over the line twice, both times finishing off beautifully executed team moves, the first running on to a ranging Ben Dickinson pass out wide and the second chasing on to a clever Finney chip to the corner, was something else.
He continued: “It surpassed any expectations I ever could have had about what it would feel like to score at Twickenham, it was such a good feeling. But more than anything it was the feeling of helping out the team, getting a score on the board for the boys who had worked so hard to get me in the position to do so. I get the glory but the lads on the inside of me work so hard so it’s huge credit to them.”
A number of the class of 2014 were amongst the more than 700 strong Trent College crowd who had descended on South West London to back the 2017 team. Head Coach Steve McGinnis insists it is no accident that his side delivered so emphatically on the day.
He added: “We won today’s game in July last year, when we started back for pre-season. They set the standard for what they wanted to do then. You could sense before the game they were in the right frame of mind to go out and produce that performance. They were bubbling yesterday, but we talked at the hotel about being professional and they were professional and focused from the off.
“It was really important to get a good start, to get our hands on the ball and feel comfortable. To score so early settled any nerves. All credit to Royal Latin they could have crept back into it very easily, they made us work very hard especially in that second half, but we kept the faith and came through. We’re so proud of what this group has done on and off the field this year. They have been a great credit to the school and, as a coach, a dream to work with.”
The Natwest Cup and Vase is the biggest schools rugby tournament in the world, with over 1,000 entries in the U18 and U15 competitions from across England, Wales and the Isle of Man. It has served as a springboard to launch the careers of some of England and the British Lions' biggest stars including Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Tom Croft and Elliot Daly.
Trent College: 1 Hendry-Briars. 2 Smith. 3 McCallum. 4 Boddington. 5 Nath. 6 G Dickinson. 7 Benstead. 8 J Dickinson. 9 Goddard. 10 Finney. 11 Doleman. 12 Livesey. 13 B Dickinson. 14 McDonnell. 15 Joss. Replacements: 16 Beresford. 17 Rudkin. 18. Hartman. 19 Crick. 20 Stanley. 21 Spencer-Pickup. 22 Kimmitt.