On Wednesday 24th February, the Test Valley School U16 rugby team travelled to the King Edwards Sports ground to play in the Hampshire Bowl Final against Sandown Academy from the Isle of Wight.
Test Valley made a strong start and it took Sandown a little while to find their feet, as a result of this and great recycling work by the forwards the ball made its way to Breach on the right wing. He had already had a couple of runs but on this occasion he was able to beat his opposite number with sheer pace to score in the corner. Darling stroked the conversion over from out by the touch line, 7 – 0.
Test Valley continued to control the game through their forwards, whose work rate was excellent, and it was not long before the forwards again created a platform for Darling to take the ball on the reverse and crash over the line, unfortunately he could not add the extra points, 12- 0.
The second try appeared to wake Sandown up and they controlled the rest of the half through increased aggression from their forwards and some excellent lines of running from their backs. This resulted in sustained pressure on the Test Valley try line, but strong tackling and good communication managed to keep Sandown from crossing the line. However, when Sandown had a big overlap, and it looked certain that they were going to score, Parry took a gamble and intercepted the ball before tacking his way to between the posts with the Sandown stand-off hot on his heels all of the way. Darling converted, 19-0 at half time.
Sandown came out in the second half with the bit between their teeth and Test Valley looked as if their efforts of the first half had taken their toll, as it was not long before the Sandown 15 broke through 4 or 5 tackles to score a great solo try between the posts which was converted, 19 – 7.
It was now a case of Test Valley trying to hold back the sea of red, as Sandown put everything into attempting to pull back on terms, and it was not long before their forwards turned the tables by going through the phases and producing good ball for their backs to score in the corner, but the try went unconverted, 19 – 12.
This was a trying time for the side and with several substitutes to bring fresher legs into the game Test Valley got back on terms by starting to control the ball again, but they did not look like breaking the Sandown line. The game went through a 10 minute period of both teams defending brilliantly before a slip in the Test Valley backs allowed Sandown to cross but again the try went unconverted, 19 – 17.
Shortly after came a pivotal moment in the game when the excellent Sandown stand-off and kicker suffered from a bout of cramp and had to leave the pitch just as his team were awarded a penalty which would take Sandown into a 20 – 19 lead if kicked. Unfortunately for Sandown the replacement kicker was unable to score with the penalty and the score stayed at 19 – 17.
It was then that Test Valley stepped up their game and without their marshal to organise them Sandown’s defence did not look as tight. It was from here that after solid play from the forwards that Eastham managed to run a line between the new stand off and the inside centre to score what proved to be the deciding try, Parry converted to make the score 26 – 17. Sandown continued to fight for everything but were unable to reply in the remaining six minutes.
Both teams played some excellent rugby over the course of the game and at no time was the referee called to discipline any player in what was a highly physical match. Congratulations must go to Sandown Academy for their play, effort and never say die attitude which very nearly won the day for them. However the whole of the Test Valley squad played their part in producing some outstanding rugby which resulted in them defending the title that they had won as U15s the season before.
“A fantastic result. A massive congratulations to the boys in Years 10 & 11. I was proud to watch you play & will remember the match for many years to come.” — Mrs Wingham, Head of Year 11