St John's School, Leatherhead 1st XV vs Epsom College
On: Saturday, 10 Dec 2016
The 1st XV were determined to end on a high and also end the 13 year losing streak at this level against local rivals Epsom College. The there was also the cup defeat to avenge. Both teams were missing key players however a St John's/Epsom derby will always be full of passion and intensity. This game was no different. The skill level in the early exchanges was notable by its absence as both teams struggled with the fact that for many it was their last game at schoolboy level.
St John's created a number of chances but unforced errors allied to some excellent Epsom defence kept the score locked at 0-0. Eventually it was Epsom who took the lead as a missed tackle in midfield allowed Epsom to score under the posts (0-7). Momentum ebbed and flowed, as yet more mistakes by both sides had coaches and supporters groaning as chances were missed. It was a mistake at the base of a 5m scrum by Epsom which saw the ball shoot out and Archie Dunnill was first to react, scoring an opportunist try (the conversion attempt by Hugo Coughlan went agonisingly wide; 5-7). Epsom extended their lead as St John's were penalised (5-10) and despite half chances for both sides the score remained the same at half time.
The second half saw St John's beginning to play their more recognisable style of rugby. The tempo and offloading increased and the decision making became more clinical. A reversed penalty decision gave St John's field position and from another penalty Coughlan closed the gap as he held his nerve to kick the points (8-10). Momentum was now clearly with St John's as their attacks became more dangerous. Toby McRae and Cameron Hyne were making good yardage, running with aggression, and the vision was much improved across the team. The pressure soon told as some excellent interplay by the backs saw Silas-Paul Johnson almost score before his deft pass found McRae, who dived over to touch down despite carrying a couple of Epsom players with him. Coughlan coolly kicked the conversion (15-10) giving St John's a 5 point lead with about 10 minutes to play. St John's almost scored on another couple of occasions but Epsom were defending for their lives. With time running out and St John's in touching distance of a famous win, Epsom launched their own attack and it was St John's left defending to save the game. A lineout 5m out in the dying seconds gave Epsom an ideal platform to score but a hard line by their talented number 8 was halted by Kareem Swandells. The ball was still recycled and St John's remained under pressure. Kimball Klintworth then stepped in to halt the attack in midfield. Seconds later the St John's players were jumping in the air in celebration as the referee blew for full time; the goal had been achieved.
It has been an outstanding season with the team having played some phenomenal rugby along the way. The defence has held firm but it is perhaps the attack which will live long in people's memories. Some of the tries scored have been quite sublime. The Haileybury win was heroic but perhaps the win against Epsom will mean the most for many of the players. It was also a fitting end for all of the Upper Sixth who pulled on the jersey for the last time. They were asked to create a lasting memory - they did!