Surrey school win Wembley encounter
Carnegie Champion Schools Year 7 Boys Final, Wembley Stadium
Castleford Academy 22 v 24 Howard of Effingham
By Mark Ridgway and Adam Grice
Howard of Effingham edged a thrilling encounter as they beat Castleford Academy 24-22 at a sun-soaked Wembley Stadium, ahead of the Carnegie Challenge Cup Final.
Two tries apiece from man-of-the-match, Jordan Bond and Thomas McGachie, including the crucial final touchdown, were the difference as the pendulum swung back and forth throughout.
Howard of Effingham were making history today as they became the first southern team to reach this flagship final, unlike Castleford who are regulars at this stage.
It was the southern side who were first out of the blocks and within two minutes Charlie Warr powered through for the opening try, before Jordan Bond added the extras with a successful conversion.
Bond then added a try of his own when he broke down the left and touched down right in the corner.
Howard captain, Bond, was having the game of his life with his second try two minutes later before kicking between the sticks to put the Surrey side in control at 16-0.
The West Yorkshire side were not to be overawed however and hit back when Aiden Bryan powered through for a try before Jake Sweeting added a further two points towards the comeback with the conversion.
Castleford were well and truly back in the game moments later when captain Brad Darlinson grounded right in the corner to tighten the gap.
Minutes before half time and Castleford edged to within two points of Howard with a try from Callum McLelland as the match progressed into a real entertainer.
After the interval a rejuvenated Howard of Effingham emerged and Thomas McGachie ran in to claim his first of two tries.
However, Castleford replied almost instantaneously with a try through Rhys Bonser before they went within inches of drawing level at 20-20, as Sweeting hit the post with the kick.
Cass didn’t let that affect confidence and edged ahead for the first time in the game when Bryan forced his way through to touch down.
The see-saw contest continued as the southerners nudged ahead with eight minutes left as McGachie scored again.
McGachie’s try was to be crucial as Howard of Effingham edged the closest of contests in front of a rapidly filling national stadium.
Howard of Effingham coach, Shane Birkett, said: “I’m just so happy for the boys, they’ve worked so hard to get here and it’s been a privileged to coach each every one of them.”
Man of the match: Jordan Bond, Howard of Effingham.