Our Year 10 Rugby Team beat Manchester Grammar School on Thursday 27th February in the semi-final of the Lancashire Cup. The Cup is the top tier competition for schools with the plate and vase competitions below that. Audenshaw School proudly boasts several Lancashire plates and vases from over the years, however, the prestigious cup is usually reserved for the elite private schools where money talks and players are recruited from other schools from Year 9 upwards. In Audenshaw School's history, just four teams have made it to Lancashire Cup finals, sadly without a winner, yet. The Year 10 side made it to the final of the cup last season and now will feature in the cup final for the second season in a row - they are the only Audenshaw team to ever make the final of the top tier competition twice.
A familiar face was greeted at the match as former staff member Mr Jennings brought his U15 team from Manchester Grammar School for the semi-final. MGS have had a tremendously successful season having had a great run in the National Cup and collecting victories against the likes of Kirkham (ranked as the 4th best Rugby playing school in the United Kingdom by the Daily Mail) and Stonyhurst in the previous Lancashire Cup round. It was evident that they were a physical and skilful team from the first whistle as the two teams began the fast-paced game on Audenshaw's 4g astro pitch.
Audenshaw made good ground early on through carries from K.Boateng, D.O'Loughlin, J.Hibbert and D.Akintola. The MGS side made tackle after tackle but saw themselves holding out on their own line. After 20+ phases of Audenshaw hammering at their line, MGS turned over the ball and began to work their way up the pitch. They played with fluidity and freedom and got the ball to the wings very quickly to try and get outside the Audenshaw backline. It was MGS who scored first and, with a brilliant kick to follow the try, went 7-0 ahead.
C.Scanlon, currently playing for Sale Sharks Acadamy and Lancashire, took the Audenshaw team forwards in both attack and defence. With the ball he was devastating, his pace unmatched by the MGS backline; without the ball, he put immense pressure on in defence and made relentless tackles against anything in his way. He turned over possession in his own half and quickly launched an attack that was well supported by L.Poulston who couldn't make the line to score. Audenshaw were given a penalty for an infringement at the ruck and decided to kick the three points on offer and narrow the gap. Partington eased the ball through the sticks and minutes later the half-finished 7-3 to the visitors.
Audenshaw came out at a blistering pace in the second half and aggressive carries by the forwards paid dividends when L.Poulston broke the line and this time was able to go around the full-back and ground the ball behind the sticks. The conversion was easily made by C.Scanlon to put Audenshaw in the lead, 10-7. The game from here was an absolute slog. There were huge hits from both sides and every ruck was hotly contested. It was when Scanlon saw space on the edge and was able to draw two defenders to give L.Poulston and J.Greenhalgh space that the game swung well into Audenshaw's favour. J.Greenhalgh broke down the line and was stopped about 10m away from the MGS line. Audenshaw were able to use their pick and drive skills until C.Beard was carried over the whitewash by his teammates to put Audenshaw ahead 15-7. With 8 minutes left and Audenshaw ahead by more than a converted try, the option to kick the penalty in the first half was proving to be vital.
MGS threw everything they had at it but couldn’t break the Audenshaw defence until last play. They rumbled over in the corner, but it was too little too late and with the kick sailing wide of the posts, Audenshaw celebrated an emphatic 15-12 win against arguably one of their fiercest rivals. The team's resilience carried them through, and they will now feature in a second Lancashire Cup final in a row.
The date for the final was set to be Sunday (1st March) but this was cancelled due to unfit pitches at the proposed venue. The final is now expected to be played on Sunday 22nd March; however, this hasn't yet been confirmed by the RFU. The red and whites of Audenshaw will Play Kirkham Grammar School for a second final running. They will be looking for revenge after their defeats to Kirkham in the final last year and also in the National Cup earlier this season.
The school are immensely proud of this achievement and our exceptional young men. It's fantastic to see rugby at the school go from strength to strength and continue to do what the rest of the world believe a non-selective state school can't. The hard work and efforts of the teams and rugby coaching staff never cease.
Good luck in the final gentlemen.
Director of Rugby