Wirral GS won the UCLAN Schools Under 16s Floodlit Cup for the first time in the tournament’s 22-year-history after defeating Woodhouse Grove 13-10 last Wednesday.
Woodhouse, who knocked out holders St Peter’s in the semi-finals, put up a brave fight in what was a very tight game, but player of the tournament Ben Brooks was the difference for Wirral, ensuring they ended the match as champions.
After an even start at Lightfoot Green, Brooks opened the scoring for Wirral after 10 minutes, kicking over a testing penalty and setting the pattern of the game.
Brooks doubled his side’s lead just 10 minutes later with a stunning drop goal after intense Wirral pressure. Woodhouse defended stubbornly as Wirral pushed forwards, looking to add to their lead, breaking up every attack that came their way. Eventually the ball fell to Brooks, who had the time and space to calmly place his kick between the posts and extend Wirral’s lead to 6-0.
Falling further behind was enough for Woodhouse to up their game, as they looked to get their name on the scoresheet. After many failed attempts at breaking through Wirral’s defence, Jack Maplesden eventually managed to find a way to power his way through Wirral’s forwards before touching down for the try. Max Green stepped up for Woodhouse but couldn’t convert the extras.
With Woodhouse seemingly having the upper hand going into half time, Wirral bounced back immediately, scoring a try of their own in the last moments of the half as captain Matthew Stewart somehow found a way to dive over the line in the corner and extend his side’s lead. Brooks stepped up to covert with the last kick of the half, making the score 13-5 at the interval.
Woodhouse were determined to bounce back after the restart and dominated from kick off, looking to score an early try. After applying early pressure near the line two minutes into the half, they failed to touch down and Wirral were able to get the ball away.
However halfway into the second half Woodhouse managed to score themselves a second try as captain Daniel Radigan went over in the corner to give his team a chance of a comeback. Green stepped up but again missed his kick and was left to ponder what might have been.
Wirral defending resolutely until the end, keeping the ball in midfield and surviving late Woodhouse pressure to hang on and secure a famous 13-10 victory over their rivals, as they became the latest winners of the Floodlit Cup.
Phil Crowley, head of P.E. at Wirral Grammar School, knew his side would have to be on top form to beat their opponents. “I thought it was a great game, very well contested by both teams,” he said. “Woodhouse Grove are a fabulous team and we had to play very well to beat them. We just took our chances and we’re absolutely delighted to have won.”
While Woodhouse Grove coach Adrian Sweeney was understandably disappointed with the defeat, he felt there were a number of positives that his side could take from the game. “We felt as though our boys played very well. We probably had the majority of the possession and had our own chances but didn’t take them; too many of our own errors allowed the Wirral team to relieve the pressure when we were on the attack.
“I’m really pleased especially with the performance of our forwards. I thought we dominated the loose forward play, just on too many occasions we managed to make a mistake that allowed our pressure to be taken.”
Winning captain Matthew Stewart had the honour of lifting the cup for his side after an exciting game of rugby. “It was outstanding, and I’m over the moon to win this,” he said. “It’s been a great competition and we’ve had a great run through, beating some top sides on the way. On the day [we faced a] very tough opposition and we’re very glad to come through it and be named winners.”
Report by Theo Squires, a journalism student at UCLAN.