OAKHAM School’s rugby team are just one match from a Twickenham appearance after securing their semi-final place in the Daily Mail Cup.
The school side knocked out St Joseph’s School, Ipswich, in a closely fought quarter final, breaking their opponents 28 match unbeaten run to book a semi-final clash at Broadstreet Rugby Club in Coventry on March 5.
Tries from Sam Tresidder and Luke Spears, and two penalties from captain Charlie Walker edged Oakham, who won this national schools’ competition in 2002 and 2003, a 16-14 victory.
There were messages of congratulations from two of Oakham’s greatest recent sportsmen, former schoolboys who have gone on to represent England.
Ian Smith, the school’s director of rugby, said: “Lewis Moody got in touch as soon as he heard that we’d won and said the result was brilliant and I took a phone call from Stuart Broad’s stepfather.
“He was driving Stuart to the airport as he was about to depart with England to take part in the Cricket World Cup and Stuart shouted out ‘fantastic news’.”
Oakham rode their luck at times in the quarter final and Smith said: “St Joseph’s are the best side we’ve played all season. We ground out a victory thanks to our great defence and our amazing team spirit.”
Man-of-the-match Walker was instrumental to Oakham’s victory. The Harlequins U18 made key passes for tries scored by number eight Sam Tressider and full back Luke Spiers and showed composure to put two vital kicks between the posts.
The Ipswich side could have been 20 points ahead at half time but dogged defence kept Oakham in the game and they capitalised on St Joseph’s wastefulness.
Smith, who coaches the side alongside Tim Dixon-Dale and Glenn Gelderbloom, added: “This is testament to the work ethic that they have built up throughout the season. They have a tremendous team spirit.
“Charlie Walker was man of the match but it’s not just about him. The forwards have gone from strength to strength. Ben Strong, as hooker, has caught the eye and Henry Penny has been dominant in the lineout. Tom Jeffries in the back row is a good old-fashioned number seven but it really is a team effort.”
Now preparing for the semi-final clash against Old Swinford Hospital at Coventry, Smith added: “We know they are a tactical side but if Oakham School play as well as they can they have a good chance of reaching the final.”
Reluctant to make comparisons with the back-to back winners of almost a decade ago, he said: “The challenge is simply to perform to the best of this team’s ability.”
But the 2011 side is within two matches to adding their names to the school’s history books.