Durham School battled wind, rain and mud to secure their place in the semi-finals of the National Schools Cup, grinding out an 11-0 home victory over Shropshire-based Adams’ School.
Now just one game away from Twickenham, the beaten 2006 finalists are joined in the draw for the last four by RGS High Wycombe, Dulwich College and Warwick School in a tournament now rebranded as the NatWest Cup, but known for two decades as the Daily Mail Cup.
In horrendous conditions it was a feat in itself that the game even took place, Durham’s well-maintained field standing up admirably to the deluge of rain engulfing it before, during and after a scrappy and attritional encounter.
With the gale at their backs during the first half Durham kicked superbly for territory, Adams’ wasting a pair of kickable penalties in reply as two efforts from inside the 22 were wide of their mark.
Durham had no such worries, full-back Adam Redman hitting the target with both of his penalty attempts to chalk up a well-deserved 6-0 interval lead.
The green-and-whites then switched to a possession-based game for the remainder, hogging the ball and allowing their visitors few chances to exploit the fierce wind at their backs.
Dominating the collision and ceding little in defence, they pounced for the only try of the game with five minutes remaining when lock-forward Harry Bryant collected a blindside pass and sped 20 yards to the right corner.
Durham’s rugby master Ben Mason said: “Home advantage is massive at this stage of the tournament, and probably worked in our favour. We backed ourselves based on our performance against Stonyhurst in the previous round, we knew if we could replicate that we had a good chance and in the first 20 minutes that is what we did.”
Mason added: “Defence wins games, and we had to dig in. During the first half we lost the ball quite a few times in contact, and we knew we needed to keep hold more in the tackle.
“We managed to dominate that area a bit better as the game went on, and against the wind it was all about keeping the ball in hand. We knew we had to be patient in possession, and we were.”