OAKHAM School’s superb U18 Daily Mail Cup campaign came to an end with defeat in the final at Twickenham on Wednesday afternoon.
A great day out for the school’s players, coaches and legions of fans ended in disappointment as Oakham slipped from 17-16 up early in the secnd half to lose 45-24 to Whitgift School.
Three thousand supporters, with England captain Lewis Moody and international cricketer Stuart Broad among their ranks, travelled to Twickenham to cheer on the Oakham team as they battled to overcome last year’s winners.
The school’s director of sport, Iain Simpson said: “They did well and were beaten by a good side. The boys should be very proud of themselves.
“I don’t think the scoreline really reflects the game and how close the game actually was with four tries to Oakham and five scored by Whitgift. We fell behind and had to throw caution to the wind and they took advantage of this.”
Oakham came back from being 10–0 down in the opening minutes of the game to level the score, and after England U18 player and Oakham captain Charlie Walker scored a try early in the second half they led 17-16.
Sam Tipper crossed the line to score for Oakham and De La Rey Veenendaal added two tries to Oakham’s tally but it wasn’t enough on the day.
Old Oakhamian and England captain Lewis Moody presented the Oakham team with their kits before the game and runners-up medals at the end and Simpson added: “It was a fantastic ocassion.
“In spite of the result it has been a great day and a great experience to be at Twickenham,” he said.
“It was the last time this team will play together. A couple will go on to play at higher levels but for the majority this will be the pinnacle of their playing careers.”
The school’s director of sport paid tribute to the team’s coaches. He said: “Ian Smith, Glenn Gelderbloom and Tim Dixon-Dale must be congratulated on doing a fantastic job.
“They’ve done so much to get this team to the final. At the beginning of the Daily Mail Cup, there are a thousand schools competing so to reach a Twickenham final is in itself a remarkable achievement.”
Headmaster Nigel Lashbrook, who was in the Twickenham crowd, said: “I am very, very proud of the boys for all they have achieved. The support they had at Twickenham and along the way was magnificent.
“The team had exceeded all expectations by getting as far as the final at Twickenham and in achieving this remarkable feat, they have set the gold standard for others who will follow here at Oakham in the years ahead.”
He added: “This team have played their last match together at Twickenham and that is so special. When they all meet up again, in ten or 20 years time, they will always be the Oakham Team of 2011 who reached the final of the Daily Mail Cup and there will always be a very special and very close bond between them all.”