Hemel Hempstead School got their revenge over Verulam School as the two sides battled it out under floodlights in the Hertfordshire County Final at Hemel Stags’ Pennine Way Stadium.
With Verulam having beaten Hemel in a closely fought festival final a few weeks previously, the game looked set to be another close encounter.
However, few would have predicted the lengthy golden point extra-time period it took to decide the game.
Verulam had started the game strongly, working their way up the field with simple carries. Two scores in the first 10 minutes established an early lead for the St Albans team, with Will Brothwood converting the second try to make it 10-0 at half-time.
However, Hemel’s expansive style of play became more accurate after the break and it began to pay dividends as they clawed their way back into the game with tries from Ed Shaw and Leon Axell-Gee. Shaw’s try was converted, making the scores even at 10-10 early in the second period.
Following another score for Verulam, there was an almighty collision of two giants who, despite only being 14 years old, stand at over six feet tall.
Verulam’s captain James Lofts took yet another carry, but ran straight into the monstrous hit of Hemel’s Craig Burn.
This surmised Hemel’s determination not to lose and, led by inspirational captain Sam Jolly, they scored a try out wide in the final few minutes through Axell-Gee. The pressure was on the kicker to win the game but he was unsuccessful with his attempt at the posts.
At 14-14 the game went to golden point extra-time. For a while it appeared the game could go on all night, but after 10 minutes Hemel again shifted the ball wide by drawing in defenders with well-timed passes.
Axell-Gee was held up two metres short in the right corner, then in the next play Shaw was held up half an inch short in the left corner.
But soon afterwards, diminutive Evan Marshall’s quick thinking allowed him to dive over from dummy half to send the Hemel crowd into raptures – most notably head of PE James Heward who couldn’t hide his joy at seeing his side crowned Hertfordshire County champions.
Hemel Stags community manager Mike Stewart said: “It’s great to see Hemel Hempstead School progress in the Champion Schools competition.
“I said to the boys after the game that they had played great rugby league; the big guys carried it fast and hard and the backs showed great skills to finish off quality tries. The joy on their faces is why we do this job.”
Hemel Hempstead School will now progress to face a school within the London Skolars catchment area in North London.