Match Report
Sherborne School Boys-U18B vs  Clifton College
On: Saturday, 09 Nov 2019
Venue: at Home

Lost: 13-17

The 2nd XV were tremendous in defeat to Clifton on The Lower on Saturday, conceding a try to the last play of the match to go down by the narrowest of margins in a game where they were - for huge swathes of time - by far the superior side.

Following a beautifully-observed minute's silence across the entire ground for the fallen, the first half was a cagey affair, in which neither side was really able to assert itself on the other. However, as half time approached, there were plenty of positive signs from the light blues, with Tom Pettifer, Charlie Cushing and Marcus Prest to the fore and what was abundantly clear was that Sherborne were in no way intimidated by the reputation of their much-vaunted opponents.

The coach's words at half time, with the score stuck at 0-0, focused on the need for greater precision and accuracy, recognising that there was unlikely to be much between the two sides at the final whistle. The home side clearly took these words to heart, dominating almost the entirety of the second period and - indeed - they did more than enough to win the game. First, Raef O'Brien slotted a penalty kick after a sustained spell of pressure caused Clifton to infringe in front of the posts and then Charlie Cushing, in the middle of a titanic performance, went over for a try from close range which Charlie Wills converted following O'Brien's departure for concussion. Wills followed this effort up with a long-range penalty to open up a 10-point lead with ten minutes remaining and it looked for all the world as if Sherborne had done enough to record a famous victory, despite the reshuffle occasioned by O'Brien's departure in the midst of another excellent all-round game from the stand-off.

Sadly, it was not to be. First, Jack Rodwell was harshly sin-binned and then our visitors exploited the overlap to score and convert with just two minutes left on the clock, despite at least a suspicion of a knock-on in the act of grounding. Then Clifton attacked again from deep and somehow squeaked in as the hooter sounded to turn almost certain defeat into last-gasp victory.

Credit is certainly due to Clifton for staying in the hunt and refusing to be defeated but far greater credit must go to the Sherborne players who, to a man, were outstanding in their effort, their commitment, their desire, and in their teamwork. They could have done nothing more and many a neutral observer would have to agree that the wrong side ultimately won on the day. Whether in the bullocking runs of Freddie Williams, the perpetual motion of the Jones brothers in the back row, the cussedness and snap of Will Austen, or the pace and power of the outside backs, this was a performance of real quality - one which made a mockery of our visitors' new-found status as a rugby powerhouse following their tie-up with the Bristol Bears Academy. In short, they were superb and, on this form, our remaining opponents should be worried about what is coming their way. The bounce-back starts away to King's Bruton 1st XV next Saturday.

Man of the Match: Charlie Cushing - the red scrum cap seemed to be absolutely everywhere, usually with at least two Clifton players trailing in its wake!

Try: Cushing

Conversion: Wills

Penalties (2): O'Brien, Wills