Trent College were crowned 2014 U18 NatWest Vase champions in the most dramatic fashion as they clinched a nail-biting 17-16 victory over Exeter College at Twickenham.
In a pulsating encounter at the home of England rugby, Trent settled quickly and enjoyed the lion’s share of the pressure in the early exchanges. But Exeter gradually found a foothold in the game and took advantage as a try by Ross Watts and a penalty by Billy Searle handed the West Country school an 8-0 advantage with 20 minutes played.
Backed by over 300 very vocal supporters who had made the trip from Long Eaton, Trent refused to panic, and when lock James Benstead went under the posts for his third try in two games – which full-back Gabriel Calland converted – the tide turned back in Trent’s favour and they ended the half on top.
Exeter came out all guns blazing after half-time, putting Trent’s defence under immense strain. When Trent’s flanker Will Allman was penalised 5m out, Exeter’s Searle took the opportunity to extend Exeter’s lead to 11-7.
The turning point in the game came 10 minutes later, however, when Trent’s scintillating play set centre Ashley Britton away to score, putting Trent in a 12-11 lead.
With one minute of normal time remaining, Trent’s Ben Trembling spotted a gap and showed incredible determination to get over the line. The trophy looked Trent bound, until nerves were frayed as Exeter’s James Newman scored at the death to reduce arrears to one point. Trent were left thankful that fly-half, Billy Searle, couldn’t land the conversion that would have won Exeter the game with the last kick, cuing mass celebrations on the pitch and touchline as the referee blew the final whistle.
Trent College head coach, Guy Hope, said: “I’ve never been involved in a finish like that; it was my first and hopefully my last! This is a superb achievement, but full credit to Exeter too, they played exceptionally well.”
Hope believes the Under 18s’ historic NatWest Vase victory can provide even greater impetus to inspiring achievement across all sports at the Long Eaton School. He said: “The buzz around the school in the lead up to the final was fantastic and you could see that with the support we had at Twickenham. The supporters have been absolutely outstanding and a massive thank-you on behalf of the team to everyone who travelled down to help us.”