After a very successful season, the JC1 reached the Continental Tyres U15 National Schools Cup semi-finals. Played in glorious sunshine, the boys secured a 24-14 victory over a physical, athletic and extremely skillful Millfield side at Aylesbury RFC to progress to the final. Nick Wood, Master in Charge of Rugby, reports on a very special day at Saracens’ StoneX Stadium.

Shortly after 4pm on the afternoon of Tuesday 12th March, the Junior Colts 1 rugby team was crowned national champions: the best Under 15 school team in the country. Their place in the final had been well earned with a series of tough, tight encounters against, in chronological order, Wellington, Cheltenham, Hampton and Millfield, to leave Northampton School for Boys as the final, sizeable obstacle.

On a wet, miserable day at the StoneX Stadium, with the entire Remove cohort waiting eagerly in the stands, the team emerged from the tunnel with visible purpose. From the first whistle, the game was played at an intensity greater than any of the preceding cup matches. Unable to capitalise on some early, sustained pressure, JC1 conceded the first try as Northampton used their powerful driving lineout as a springboard for their winger to cross the whitewash. However, drawing on the experience of the semi-final, in which Radley had conceded first, captain Hamish (R, A) rallied the troops and the boys set about their business with ruthless determination.


Radley’s first and second tries came at the hands of Will (R, E). The first followed a dominant scrum on NSB’s line allowed the back row to charge down their attempted exit kick. Will popped his head out of the scrum to dive on the ball as it landed in the in-goal area. For the second, he demonstrated the footballing skills inherent to the whole team, dummying his way to the line after sustained Radley pressure. Fending all bar one of further first-half challenges from Northampton’s formidable forward pack (in part a result of some ill-discipline higher up the field), Radley once again scored a well-worked try through fly-half Ed (R, F). The defence had been tightened through dynamic, direct forward play before the ball was slipped deftly to the edge to allow Ed to dive over. Manny (R, G) duly converted the second of Radley’s three first-half tries. At half-time, Radley were up 19-12.
Radley began the second half with boundless energy, hammering away at the Northampton line. Unable to cross (Hamish’s probable try blocked from the officials’ view), the NSB players sensed this was a pivotal moment in the game. As to be expected in the top-tier final, they threw everything they had at Radley’s defence, both through the forward pack that had brought some success during the first period and through attempting a more expansive game. JC1, however, was more than equal to the task. Resolute, fierce tackling at every breakdown combined with a willingness to get back to feet and into position before their opponents, were the lynchpins of Radley’s steadfast defence.

They weathered the storm during the middle period of the second half, before turning the pressure back onto the opposition. Attacking deep in the NSB red zone, Radley scored their fourth and final try through some fantastic interplay between forwards and backs, and the exceptional strength of Will (R, F) who dived over in the far corner to seal the game. Sadly, the team was denied one final flourish, as the referee ruled out a fifth try in the dying moments for a pass that drifted slightly forward; one of the tries of the season was not to be. As the whistle blew, the score was 24-12.

The team made College history, winning Radley’s first national title for rugby. The way in which they got there and how they conducted themselves throughout makes this achievement all the more valuable and important. Under pressure for long periods in most of the games enroute to the final, the boys were more than equal to the task. Under pressure, the team believed the way to win was to play the brand of Radley rugby they have spent two years learning. Furthermore, the team epitomised the values and character of the ‘gentlemen warriors’ the College takes pride in creating. This character was in abundance in the sacrifices the players made, honouring their existing school commitments alongside their rugby training (which came in the form of extra training sessions bolted-on at the expense of privis, downtime and time to relax in Social).

Having achieved their ultimate aim whilst remaining true to the principles of the College’s sporting principles makes this accolade truly special. Of course, it was not just the team who made sacrifices: I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Mr Fergus Taylor and Mr Charlie McKegney for their sustained efforts over the last two terms; to the S&C team, ably led by Mr Harry Waine; to Sarah and Adam, our two excellent medics; and to all the parents who have picked up the pieces in between games, changed their plans at late notice, and have continued to give their unwavering support for the rugby programme at Radley. To see parents, boys and coaches celebrating together in such good heart after the final whistle on Tuesday was very special indeed.

Photographs taken by Eddie Keogh are available to download here.