St John's School, Leatherhead 1st XV vs Haileybury
On: Saturday, 19 Nov 2016
Venue: at Home
Sometimes hyperbole can reign in match reports, however on this occasion classing the match as one of the best schoolboy games for many seasons is no exaggeration. Two good sides met resulting in a fast, skilful display of attacking rugby. Haileybury started the better and looked exceptionally sharp with their backs running intelligent lines and their forwards showing much physicality at the breakdown. St John's showed their defensive ability as their tackle count rose. Archie Dunnill's box kicking also proved influential as St John's soaked up the pressure and then showed their fortitude as they turned defence into attack. A quick tap from Jack Musk allowed St John's front foot ball and some additional yardage by the forwards with Kareem Swandells, captain for the day, making particular inroads, led to the ball being passed along the backline where Jack Potter scored with his first touch and in the first 5 minutes of his debut (converted by Hugo Coughlan): 7-0. Haileybury attacked with renewed vigour and seemed destined to score until Toby McRae read their play and intercepted to race 60m to score under the posts: 14-0. This soon became 14-7 as Haileybury's attacking waves saw them rewarded after St John's knocked on and their winger beat a number of defenders to score. More pressure from St John's saw them rewarded with a penalty which Coughlan kicked (17-7). But back came Haileybury (17-14). This was a becoming a titanic battle with both sets of players playing exceptional rugby. However St John's then played some of the best attacking rugby of the season and in the case of one of the tries one of the best I have seen at 1st team level for many years, if ever. Quite phenomenal handling saw support runners everywhere and slick passing allowed Jordan Bond to round things off in the corner. St John;s scored two tries in quick succession (Bond got the other too, with Coughlan converting both from the touchline), giving the home team a 31-14 lead at half time.
Haileybury are a quality side and came back with renewed intensity after the break. 31-14 became 31-21 and both teams knew the next score would be decisive. Haileybury were relentless as they changed the point of attack and had St John's under real pressure. However the St John's defence held firm repelling wave after wave. For 7 minutes they defended their line before eventually turning the ball over to relieve the pressure. All are to be commended for their defence but the team owe Jordan Bond a huge debt for some of his last ditch tackles and defensive positioning. His counter attacking and kicking were superb. Meanwhile the St John's forwards were wrestling the momentum back towards the home team. A couple of tries were almost scored before Henry Stevens sealed the victory as he managed to dive over in the corner for the final score of the game (36-21).
This was an impressive performance due to the quality of the opposition. Haileybury were a very, very good side. However the St John's attack, particularly in the first half, proved decisive. This was a squad effort of the highest quality and the team deserve all of the plaudits coming their way. The test for them is to sustain this for the remaining weeks of the season.