Old Swinford Hospital’s 1st XV competed for the first time in the St Joseph’s College National Schools’ Rugby Festival.
The competition, now in its 27th year, took place over two days in October and featured 16 of the top rugby schools in the UK, including Millfield, RGS High Wycombe, Dulwich College, Whitchurch High School, Merchiston, Abingdon and St Joseph’s. With the teams split into four Pools and only 30 minutes per game, the action was always going to come thick and fast; it did not disappoint.
OSH was placed in a strong group with St Joseph’s, RGS High Wycombe and Lions’ Captain Sam Warburton’s old school Whitchurch High School. OSH’s first game was a loss against Whitchurch, who had a great deal of firepower at their disposal, especially in the backs, where their creativity and pace caused us problems throughout. Despite this, Sam Smith, Huw Taylor, Josh Feek and Dominic Luxton showed their quality and leadership as Upper Sixth players.
Then we came up against RGS High Wycombe, who had a monstrous squad in terms of size and power. We also happened to be sharing a hotel with RGS and the two squads spent a great deal of time sizing each other up, adding spice to the occasion. During the warm-up, you could sense the OSH boys were ready for this game and from the first whistle; they tore into their opponents with a total disregard for reputation or the obvious size difference. RGS was simply not allowed to get into a rhythm, due to the intensity of the OSH defensive press and counter ruck at the breakdown. RGS squeezed through 12-10 at the final whistle, but the OSH boys had won something far more important than the game; they had the respect and admiration of their opponents, watching spectators and watching England U18 Coach Peter Walton.
The third and final game of the day was against St Joseph’s who were scoring freely at over 30 points a game. Again, OSH attacked their prestigious opposition with physicality and aggression in the contact zones and dominated the game…..falling only to three tries from their England U18 Winger. OSH was applauded by the huge crowd for their efforts during the game and ensured that despite their losses, no one was going to want to play OSH on the next day.
On Day Two, the top eight teams qualified for the Cup competition and bottom eight placed in the secondary tier, the Plate. Teams were re-drawn into sub groups and OSH was grouped with Belfast Academy, Stamford and RGS Newcastle. A well fought draw against Stamford earned the OSH boys their first points of the tournament, with the squad showing the same battling qualities from the previous day. Defeat to a very physical and streetwise RGS Newcastle followed but the boys left the best until last, beating Belfast Academy thanks to pacey winger Toyosi Olurotimi-Coker.
Despite not gaining many wins over the weekend, the squad had clearly bonded and grown as a unit. Their refusal to bow down to reputation and more physically blessed and talented teams, displayed the hallmarks of a quality OSH side in the making, especially with the number of Year 11 players featuring over the weekend. The team now needs to focus on the remainder of the season and remember the levels of both individual and team intensity required to play rugby at this level. The future looks bright.
Many thanks to all the boys for their efforts over the weekend and special thanks to Mr Keightley, for giving up his entire weekend to drive the squad to Ipswich.
Mr Simon Daws – Coach