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Home > News > North quartet look to hold their nerve in Daily Mail Semis
Your News North quartet look to hold their nerve in Daily Mail Semis

THREE of the four Northern schools bidding for a place at Twickenham this weekend when they play in the Semi-finals of the Daily Mail RBS Schools Under 15 Cup and Plate have experienced the elation of running out at rugby union's most famous stadium on Finals Day.

But for the lads from Harrogate Grammar School, who meet seasoned Daily Mail RBS campaigners Lymm High School at Broadstreet RFC, Coventry on Sunday (March 7), the pressure being on the verge of the biggest occasion of their young rugby careers will be a challenging experience, especially since they have never been this far in the tournament previously.

"I've been increasingly aware of the effect of nerves on the lads' performance as we've moved forward through each round," says Master in Charge Roy Mackay: "A bonus in this respect is that two years ago this group of players entered the Daily Telegraph Emerging Schools Competition and after winning through the round-robin tournament at Staines in the morning, we played the final at Twickenham before the Army/Navy game.

"It was only a 10-minute game played across half of the pitch, but I'll be drawing on that experience this weekend to help combat nerves.

"We also reached the finals of the Yorkshire Post Schools Cup the following year and won the North of England State Schools competition, so we have some experience of what it's like to

reach this stage.

"When the lads joined the school and started playing rugby, we probably had about six who had affiliations with local clubs, with the rest playing soccer or other sports. Now they've evolved into a tidy unit, with a real determination to play to the bitter end.

"We plucked our Quarter-final win against Bromsgrove out of the fire with a last-minute try and that typifies the spirit in the team.

"This is by far the furthest we have progressed in the Daily Mail RBS event and we're now expecting another tough test from Lymm, who have a record in the competition which marks them as specialists."

Their Cheshire opponents were beaten in the Under 18 Vase in 200, but claimed that trophy at Twickenham in 2006 and the following year carried off the Under 15 Cup, so their coaching staff are well attuned to the tensions and nerves which kick in when a major prize is only one game away.

At the opposite end of the Twickenham experience spectrum to Harrogate are their White Rose neighbours Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Wakefield, who have managed to get over the Semi-final hurdle five times in the past to earn a run-out on the 'hallowed turf'.

It has not proved to be a successful experience in that the Yorkshiremen were beaten three times in six years between 1995 and 2000 at Under 18 Cup level by Colston's Collegiate and then by Bedford School, who upset the formbook in 2006 to win the Under 15 Cup.

QEGS did enjoy Under 15 Cup success at Twickenham in 1998 when they drew 5-5 with RGS Hugh Wycombe, so the incentive of getting back to the finals and claiming an outright win will burn bright when they tackle Wilmslow High School on Saturday in the Under 15 Cup Semi-final.

Wilmslow reached the final of the Under 18 Vase in 2007, only to lose 3-0 to Ermysted's Grammar School from Skipton and they will be keen to go one better this time around.

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