Match Report
Crossley Heath School U13 vs  Harrogate Grammar School
On: Wednesday, 12 Mar 2008
Venue: Away

IT could so easily have been ruined by the gale-force wind whistling straight down the Aire Valley across the Bradford and Bingley club''s Wagon Lane ground, but instead the 12th finals day of the Yorkshire Post Rugby Challenge was probably the best.
Crossley Heath School were deserved winners on a day when everyone involved performed superbly.

The standard of rugby was incredibly high with the third-fourth place play-off and final especially producing total commitment, unending but controlled aggression in both attack and defence and no little skill to underline that fact that the game in Yorkshire''s state schools still thrives.

Afterwards the organiser of the Challenge, Graham Liddington, paid tribute to the efforts of all the players.

''For you to have played four such splendid games in such appalling conditions was a wonderful advertisement for this great game,'' he said.

''There was some incredible rugby - obviously you had not been watching England play Scotland last weekend.''

Crossley Heath, from Halifax, had delayed a tour of Ireland to take part in the Challenge finals and ensured they will travel across the water as Yorkshire''s Under-13 champions with two excellent performances.

Firstly, they saw off Laurence Jackson School, from Guisborough, in a tingling semi-final, which ended 14-12, before beating a talented Harrogate GS 10-0 in the final.

Harrogate had progressed with a 26-0 success against Mirfield FGS in the first semi-final and their performance in the final was even better; they were denied by a defence which refused to concede an inch and finished off with two moments of individual

The first half, with Crossley Heath playing into the wind, ended scoreless, which was a tribute to both defences. Fly-half Will Clough tried repeatedly to open the door for Harrogate with excellent awareness and quicksilver hands but their best chance, with wing Louis Swain finding space on the left, was ended by a crushing tackle by William Tolley.

Just before the break, Tolley had his chance to force the breakthrough but was swallowed up by the cover and the teams turned level with the odds slightly favouring Crossley Heath, for whom scrum-half Luke Sutcliffe and flanker Ben Horsfield were tireless workers, despite being among the shortest on the field.

The first missed tackles of the match enabled Sam Pollard to open the scoring for Crossley Heath early in the second half after his pack had regained possession following his kick downfield. He hooked the conversion wide but in a game so evenly balanced any kind of lead was an incentive to keep working.

Crossley Heath kept to their task, denying Harrogate, especially No 8 Jack Barnard, any scope for breaking from their own half and looked for the next score which would surely earn them the spoils.

They penned Harrogate in their own half, hooker Francis Lake leading them in one excellent drive and Pollard tried to seal victory with a drop-goal attempt which slid wide of a post.

From the restart, the ball fell to Will Tolley and, with a lightning strike of inspiration, he was off, sweeping outside the slender resources of Harrogate''s defence and flinging himself to the corner for the try which ensured that Crossley Heath would prevail - and that he would have a sore back from the slaps of congratulation from his team-mates.

The conversion attempt failed and immediately the final whistle sounded. The Crossley Heath squad cele
ated almost to a man, the exception was scrum-half Sutcliffe who took off his head gear and walked across, hand held out, to commiserate with the losers. It was an action which encapsulated a memorable afternoon.

So Crossley Heath claimed the trophy and, still in their playing kit, were presented with the spoils by Gordon Brown, president of the Yorkshire Rugby Football Union and Tom Biggs, the Leeds Carnegie and England Saxons wing, the latter congratulating all four schools for combining excellent team work and flashes of individual magic. He was exactly right.