National Rugby Champions

In a thrilling final at packed-out Twickenham, Felsted’s U18 rugby team gave the performance of their lives to win the Continental Tyres National Schools Rugby tournament Vase competition.

The entire school – close to a thousand pupils, staff and parents - travelled from the north Essex independent boarding and day school to be in the stands on Thursday 14 March to witness in person Felsted’s 42-19 victory over Ivybridge Community College in a perfect ending to a dominant campaign. Many more parents and friends watched the action online as the game was live streamed around the world.

The Continental Tyres Schools Cup is the RFU’s annual national school rugby tournament and the largest of its kind in the world, involving 650 teams competing across the country at U15 and U18 level in a four-tier structure of Cup, Plate, Vase and Bowl. Having put in a series of spectacular performances to reach the final of the Vase competition, only an in-form Ivybridge stood in Felsted’s way of claiming the silverware at Twickenham, which just a few days before was the venue for England’s narrow Six Nations victory over Ireland.

In the run-up to the final, the team stayed overnight in Twickenham and were buoyed by messages of good luck from giants in the world of rugby including World Cup winners Jonny Wilkinson and Jason Robinson, former England captain Chris Robshaw and a number of past Felsted students including two professional Rugby internationals, Bristol Bears and England winger Max Malins and Northampton Saints and Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson.

‘The boys were not at all daunted at the prospect of playing at the Home of England Rugby and recognised it as an unbelievable chance of a lifetime,’ said Felsted’s Director of Rugby and ex-Wasps prop Andrew Le Chevalier, whose eldest son was part of the team. ‘They had really committed to their training, taken on board the tactical advice and felt ready to face Ivybridge, who themselves had had a very impressive run to the final.’

The U18 Vase was the first boys’ final of the day in The Continental Tyres competition and both teams came out showing a clear desire to make it their own. After 15 minutes, Felsted managed to break through the Ivybridge defence and from then on Felsted’s confidence propelled them to score three further first-half tries, including one epic long-range interception, for a 26-0 lead. After the break Ivybridge staged a strong comeback, scoring ten minutes into the second half, but this was quickly quashed by Felsted, who landed two penalties and found themselves 30 points ahead. Ivybridge continued to fight, scoring with five to play and then again straight from the kick-off, but Felsted stood their ground and with just seconds left on the clock, sealed the game in style for a 42-19 victory. The Man of the Match trophy was presented by former England international James Haskell to Felsted’s No. 11 Harry C in recognition of his outstanding kicking performance. 

‘This has been described as one of the great finals performances in Vase history and having lived every moment of it on the sidelines, I can’t disagree,’ said Felsted Head Chris Townsend. ‘After losing out in the final 11 years ago, the team had a real hunger to succeed in their 2023-24 campaign and the passion, energy and sheer hard work put in by the boys and also by our hugely dedicated coaching team has been rewarded with this victory, which certainly will be remembered by all as a proud day for Felsted.’

Felsted’s Director of Sport, Charlie Knightley commented: ‘The character of the team was tested throughout the competition, with several victories coming late on after going behind in the games. The camaraderie and collective teamwork is a real focus across all the sports at Felsted and it was great to see this at Twickenham’.