SEVERAL hundred fans, including Old Tonbridgians, parents and pupils cheered Tonbridge School to victory in a prestigious national rugby competition, after winning a gruelling final at Allianz Park, in North London.
It is the first time Tonbridge has won the Champions Trophy, which sees 32 of the country’s best rugby playing schools competing against each other in a knock-out tournament, over the course of one school term.
The First XV were crowned champions after beating holders Bedford School 17-10 to lift the NatWest Champions Trophy, at the home ground of Saracens rugby union team.
But the grandeur of the arena did little to daunt the teenagers, as Tonbridge’s powerful brand of rugby eventually overcame Bedford’s tenacity in a tightly fought contest.
As well as the traveling fans in the stadium, many more supporters were able to cheer on the boys at home via a live stream of the game, witnessing tries from Captain George Head and Oliver Ward seal the victory.
“Our supporters were tremendous. They provided a huge lift throughout and especially at the end when Bedford were on the attack. It’s been an awesome day,” the Captain said after the game.
The school’s Director of Sport Chris Morgan said: “It was great advert for the best of schoolboy rugby. I think we deserved it and were good value. Bedford put up a really tough challenge, as we knew they would, but credit to all our squad, we kept going and deserved the trophy.”
Tonbridge had a tough run to beat Hampton, Eton, Millfield and Oakham to progress to the showpiece event before facing last year’s champions in front of more than a thousand spectators.
In the first half, Bedford, who spent the opening part of the game pinned deep in their own half, took the lead when they drove a lineout over for the opening try.
Tonbridge responded quickly with Ward outfoxing the Bedford defence on the flank to touch down in the corner. David Wilkinson kicked a tricky conversion to level the match at 7-7.
Head crashed over the try line to edge Tonbridge ahead in the second period, but Bedford quickly responded with a penalty in front of the posts. Declan Sinclair, who assumed kicking duties after an injury to Wilkinson, knocked over a long penalty to seal a deserved win for Tonbridge who withstood some late Bedford pressure.
Tonbridge prop Blaize Mott was named man of the match for his resilient performance.