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Wednesday 1st March 2017 ko 19.00

Annual Challenge Cup

KINGS SCHOOL 3 (Rees 13 Hall 17 Newton 79)

ROYAL GRAMMAR SCHOOL 2 (Hughes 25 Saunders 27p)

80 minute game

Att c1,100 at Sixways Stadium, Worcester (Worcester Warriors RUFC)

Entry £5

No Programme

I do like a fixture that tests groundhoppers’ self-imposed rules. I’m certain that if this had been billed as a youth team game then I’m sure more than the 10 or so travellers here would have paid Sixways a visit. And let’s make one thing absolutely clear, those who decided to miss this missed out on a real treat.

The attraction was that this was the first ever 11-a-side game to be played at the home of Worcester Rugby Union Club, but the participants were interesting. Both are Worcester-based public schools; Kings dates from Henry VIII’s reign in 1541 but has roots from the 10th century.

The Royal Grammar School is older, right the way back to 685AD, and the rivalry between the two schools is due to Silvestro de’ Gigli the Bishop of Worcester who in 1501 decreed that any person who set up a school in the city or monastic precincts would be excommunicated. Henry VIII was clearly no fan of religious authority as the dissolution of monasteries proved! Thankfully the two schools have traditionally settled their rivalries on the sporting field.

This game was far from being a one-off, in recent history it was played at Evesham’s Jubilee Stadium, and whilst I don’t know why it was shifted to Sixways for this year, it certainly made for an interesting location! The ground was opened in 1975 but has seen massive redevelopment in recent years and now holds 12,024 with planning permission gained to replace the temporary North stand.

I did wonder whether I’d jumped the gun in visiting. With Worcester City’s classic ground St George’s Lane now demolished, and the club ground-sharing at Bromsgrove Sporting an obvious solution would be for them to move here. However the facts of British sporting life are that far more rugby union teams share at football grounds than vice-versa and Worcester City have just put in a revised planning application for permission to build a new stadium at Perdiswell.

Sixways is in so many ways, a typical rugby union ground. There’s the main stand that doesn’t reach the corners, and the two new stands that have lean more towards hospitality boxes than football versions. Then there’s the huge bar area, and no I wouldn’t have fancied being on ID check for this game! A 3G pitch has been installed for this season with the club rather grandly commenting that they’re using “Organic infill, rather than rubber crumb,” er, isn’t that another way of saying “Dirt?”

The rugby club seemed surprised at the size of the crowd. Tickets were available online, I bought that way knowing I’d be tight for time. The arrangement was that I’d pick my ticket up in the club shop, and that inevitably turned out to be where you bought tickets if you turned up on spec! Worse, my ticket was buried in a side office somewhere!

Still I made it via a bag search to pitchside for kick-off and from then on the evening was hugely enjoyable. The schools had split the East Stand down the middle and created their own segregation, making for quite an atmosphere. The temporary stand had to be opened to cope with the extra demand, but half the fun was listening to a group of patrons that were far younger, far more feminine, and far more well-to-do than the football fans I’m used to seeing, viz one young lady to another,

“I don’t know why they say I’m posh…just because I go to a public school.”

Good to see inverted snobbery is alive and well!

It was, by anyone’s standards a wonderful game of football to watch. Both sides played exciting, passing football, no easy task in the pouring rain. Kings made a flying start quickly opening up a two-goal lead. The cliche would suggest that RGS fought back, but they didn’t, they passed and moved back and after equalising were the stronger team right until the final minute. That was the only time the player’s tender ages betrayed them. RGS had pushed up in search of a winner, and were hit by the classic sucker punch, two Kings players were left isolated in the RGS half and had the simplest of tasks of winning the game for their school.

I hope this game has found a home at Sixways, and that more neutrals will attend, after all the rugby version attracted 3,000! Whilst there was no programme, a far too important a commodity for some, in this case I would thought it would have sold well as a souvenir of the players’ grand day out and with the two schools’ undoubted good connections there would have been no lack of advertisers! But as I dashed back to the car I reflect that an under 18’s game this may well have been, but it was an evening out of the highest quality.

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