Thursday, 7 April 2011

Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup Final: Whitgift at the Double

In post "Crusaders" Britain (the Canterbury variety) there has been a great deal written in recent weeks about the need to add subtlety and guile along with power to the midfield play of the home nations. No longer can a team just rely on two centres playing "bang it up "rugby. While there is a time and place for such tactics it is very unlikely that a total adherence to such an approach is going to get a team anywhere near the final stages of the forthcoming World Cup.

For all those commentators and supporters wondering where England is going to find greater subtlety of approach in the future, there was a glimpse of what might be possible at Twickenham yesterday in the Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup Final between Whitgift and Oakham. Billed as the "Battle of the Centres" with England Under 20 centres, Elliot Daly and Charlie Walker on show; the talented youngsters produced some sublime moments of skill in what was a splendid advert for top quality schoolboy rugby. Eventually the superiority of Whitgift came through, but the 45-24 score belies the fact that Oakham pushed the Croyden based side all the way.

The two centres were soon in the action in the opening minutes of the game with the much anticipated first collision drawing a loud response from the crowd. Daly's influence was considerable throughout the game, although a yellow card in the latter part of the first half for killing the ball at a ruck did result in Oakham levelling the scores during his absence. His afternoon included a 50 metre penalty from just on the half way line, a great break down the wing and one handed offload to set up full back Chris Crane for a try in the corner and in the 31st minute of the second half, a wonderful break which saw him beat three defenders before producing another sublime one handed off load to set up replacement winger, George Smith for a 40 metre dash to the corner and a stunning try.

Walker and his fellow centre Veenendaal were certainly not overawed by the occasion or the presence of Daly, with both players having a huge influence on the game. Walker's ability to step at pace has been a feature throughout the season and he produced another stunning try again yesterday. Collecting the ball on the forty metre line, Walker stepped and fended his opposite number, before racing for the line and in the process dummied and sprinted clear of the Whitgift fullback for a top class try. The attacking potency of Veenendaal was also very clear from the opening exchanges and in the middle of the first half he produced a darting run to score out wide. This was followed by a second try late in the second half when he collected a very well executed grubber kick.

It has been a whirlwind three months for Daly with the Daily Mail Cup campaign running alongside a Grand Slam with England Under 20. The icing on the cake for Daly might yet still be a premiership debut for Wasps at the end of what has been an amazing season for him. Walker may just have to wait a little longer for a place in the Harlequins first team, but there is no doubting that the prospect of both of them joining up to play for England in the future is an exciting one. Subtlety and guile were certainly on show yesterday!

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