St Paul's Rugby Leavers Match December 2017 

School rugby creates its own special bonds and playing in a team with your mates from the same year group is for many one of the highlights of their time at St Paul's. Each year a team of SPS Leavers, many of whom will have played together throughout their time at the school, plays against a team from the previous year under the captaincy of last year's school rugby captain. The match provides a last opportunity for the St Paul's year group team to play together in SPS colours, as well as giving a chance for the previous year's team to come together again.

In 2017 it was decided to make more of an event of this annual match, so parents and friends of both teams were officially invited, along with school staff and members of the Old Pauline Football Club, the official name of the rugby club for Old Paulines. (The club was founded in 1871, the same year as the RFU - of which St Paul's School is a founder member - and predates the existence of the Old Pauline Club itself). Lunch was laid on and the day provided a great opportunity for the whole Pauline rugby community to come together at the impressive Old Pauline ground in Thames Ditton. We were delighted that over 80 parents, friends, Old Paulines at St Paul's staff were able to come along and enjoy the day.

Saturday 16th December was clear and bright, if a bit too cold for some. The pitch, which had given some cause for concern after the night time frost, played perfectly and the game was sympathetically refereed by Tom Bliss from the London Society. At first the school team's superior organisation and, dare I say, fitness, led to a period of initial pressure and two early tries were scored, the first impressively converted by Max Hart.
Gradually the Old Boys' team, with skipper Greg Lockhart-Smith to the fore, came back into the game and some skilful rugby was played by both teams. As half-time approached the school team scored again through influential No 8 Jasper Green whose powerful runs caused problems for the Old Boys throughout the game.

Half time game with the score at 19-0 to St Paul's and the Old Boys looking to find a way back into the game. Matters were not helped early in the second half when a pass was intercepted by SPS wing Ben Smith who ran in a try from half way. It was now 26-0 and the Old Boys faced the proverbial 'mountain to climb'.

What followed was very impressive as the Old Boys came back into the game strongly, with fly-half Tom Eterovic orchestrating a series of attacks. The school defence held firm, but had no answer to an extraordinary try scored by the Old Boys from a move they had (allegedly) been planning and practising since Under 15 days. From set-piece possession the ball was placed on the ground as if for a kick at goal and, as the defence hesitated wondering what was going on, a perfectly weighted and directed crossfield kick landed in the arms of Arun Veniek who scored the try.

Encouraged by the success, the Old Boys pressed hard to get back into the game which became increasingly open as gaps appeared. But defences held firm and the match ended 26-5 to the school team.

It was a hugely enjoyable occasion for players and spectators. Back in the club house OPC President Rob Smith thanked all those involved and drew attention to the excellent facilities at Colets which are available to all Old Paulines. Nick Carr, past OPC President and a former Chairman of OPFC, presented a Man of the Match Award to Jasper Green and everyone enjoyed the hospitality laid on by the rugby club.

It is hoped to build on the success of the 2017 event and establish the 'Leavers Match' firmly in the school rugby calendar. Thanks are due to James Blurton for bringing such an enthusiastic and skilful school team; to Gregor Lockhart-Smith for organising the Old Boys team so diligently; and to all those at OPFC, notably Brian Jones, John Ellis and John Howard, who helped to organise and manage the day.

We hope to see many of the guys who played on 16th December in the St Paul's team which is entered into the National Under 21 Rugby Festival at Richmond on August Bank Holiday Monday. Those eligible for the team comprise anyone who left St Paul's in 2016, 2017 or 2018. The festival, which was founded 21 years ago by Old Pauline Tim Cunis, provides an excellent opportunity to recapture the enjoyment of playing rugby with school friends in a competitive environment.


SPS Leavers:
Oliver Hill, Ben Smith, Raef Jackson, Fergal Walter, Andrei Williams, Max Hart, Freddie Turley (capt); Constantin Gardey, Remy Arnaud, Harry Strauss, Sam Attfield, Will McGowan, Jon Kim, Jasper Green, Christian Smith, Charlie Howard, Mark Sapper, Patrick Elway

Old Paulines Under 19 XV:
Will Saunter, Tom Barnes, Louis Pincott, Aran Veniek, Oladotun Saliu, Tom Eterovic, Louis Richards, Max Marshall, Gregor Lockhart Smith (capt), Jay Atherton, Rob Swift, Eklayva Sharma, Ben Ridley, Oliver Simpson, Carlo Chiesa

Report by: John Howard

Photos by: Peter King 


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