St John’s Leatherhead became the final side to reach the Champions Trophy last 16 on Tuesday as they beat King’s Canterbury 61-14.
They will head into the second round next week full of confidence after registering by far the biggest win of the opening round.
Things will not be easy in the second round though, St John’s will face the reigning Champions, Tonbridge, who had a first-round bye.
Nevertheless, Tonbridge has found the going tough this season, and St John’s can draw motivation not only from this outstanding result and performance but also from their own history. Two years ago St John’s stunned the watching schools rugby public and knocked Tonbridge out at the very same stage.
On today’s evidence, St John’s could be a real threat. Without a number of injured players, among them some Harlequins junior academy players, including their captain, St John’s turned on the style right from the opening minute when Will Freeman crossed the whitewash.
That was first of an eventual ten tries, which included, by our potentially dubious count, hat-tricks for both inside centre William Sanders and, skipper on the day from fullback, Jordan Bond.
Both were outstanding throughout, with one try a length of the field effort that saw the two of the show extraordinary pace and evasion skills as they weaved and jinked they way upfield exchanging passes between them before Bond crossed the whitewash.
That had largely been the St John’s mantra throughout, they backed themselves to score tries, and score tries they did. With pace in abundance in the backline and some forwards with deft handling and tidy footwork, it was not hard to see why.
King’s Canterbury was stretched from the off, but in fairness showed outstanding resilience, with inside centre Tom Whitmore showing some classy touches and continuing to make breaks well into the second half.
What was maybe most impressive about St John’s though was their lack of fear of mistakes. Early in the first half, they were 13-0 up through Freeman’s try, Sanders’ first, and a Hugo Coughlan penalty. From the kick-off of that second try though, they threw an interception, which King’s scrum-half Ethan Hunt gladly ran under the posts.
Lesser sides might have crumbled there, but St John’s simply accepted the error and moved on, unafraid. Indeed such was their fearlessness that they scored arguably the try of the match. Owen Rowlands fielded a kick return, moving it from the right wing to the middle of the park for Bond. Sizing up his option, Bond took it to the line and moved it left to Coughlan, who threw a cut out pass to second row James White.
White was a menace with ball in hand all day and proved that again here as he exchanged passes with Thomas Wood before offloading to Sanders for the try.
It was a truly stunning score and one that seemed to summarize the entire St John’s performance.
Tonbridge will likely prove a much tougher task, but certainly, St John’s could have done little more to lay down a marker in this competition than they did on Tuesday afternoon. It is a tough exit for King’s Canterbury, but one that they will doubtless learn from, and they should take great heart from the way the stuck to the task, which yielded a late try for Oreoluwa Aiyedatiwa.
For St John’s, the journey is only just beginning.
Full Time: St John’s Leatherhead 61-14 King’s Canterbury
St John’s Leatherhead:
15 Jordan Bond (c), 14 Owen Rowlands, 13 Peter Sinclair, 12 William Sanders, 11 Thomas Wood, 10 Hugo Coughlan, 9 Oliver Penfold, 1 Sebastian Carley, 2 Charlie Hellier, 3 Luke Trimming, 4 James White, 5 Thomas Davison (VC), 6 Ethan Binns, 7 Will Freeman, 8 Raef Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Josh Williams, 17 William Groothedde, 18 Archie Stevens, 19 Daniel Craig, 20 Jack Rickerd, 21 Ben Bound, 22 Ryan Hanratty.
15 Richard Heywood, 14 Mark Bäcker, 13 Lucas Lacamp, 12 Tom Whitmore, 11 Harry Wall, 10 Charlie Watson (c), 9 Ethan Hunt, 1 Charlie Meehan, 2 Jamie Crocker, 3 Alex Wanstall, 4 Alex Strickland, 5 Angus Clews, 6 George Howard-Smith, 7 Francesco Kalaydjian Serraino, 8 Jack Mills (VC).
Replacements: 16 Trevor Tam, 17 Soti George, 18 Petr Sergeev, 19 Jebin Yoon, 20 Aidan Mills, 21 Gus Cox, 22 Oreoluwa Aiyedatiwa, 23 Barney May.
Champions Trophy Round 1 Results:
Bromsgrove 34-5 Monmouth
Bryanston 47-37 Bristol Grammar
Dulwich College 43-12 St Paul’s
Grammar School at Leeds 38-24 Oakham
Marlborough College 3-22 Kingswood
Radley College 17-32 Berkhamsted
RGS Guildford 38-0 Caterham
Sherborne 7-18 Blundell’s
St John’s, Leatherhead 61-14 King’s Canterbury
Stowe 47-17 St Albans
Byes – Bedford, Epsom College, Eton College, Millfield, Tonbridge, Wellington College
Champions Trophy Round 2 Fixtures:
Bedford v Kingswood
Berkhamsted v Dulwich College
Bryanston v Eton College
Epsom College v Blundell’s
Grammar School at Leeds v Wellington College
RGS Guildford v Bromsgrove
St John’s Leatherhead v Tonbridge
Stowe v Millfield