Students and staff at St Mary’s College are celebrating after the school’s rugby first XV landed red rose county honours following a hard-fought Crosby derby final.
St Mary’s won this season’s Lancashire Plate competition after beating old rivals and near neighbours Merchant Taylors 26-10 in an exciting clash at Southport Rugby Club.
The game should in fact have been played at Waterloo’s ground, but a waterlogged pitch forced its last-minute relocation up the Sefton coast where it attracted a bumper crowd of more than 500 people.
Spectators were treated to a thrilling encounter, and although St Mary’s ultimately deserved their victory, there were periods of the game when it could have gone either way.
These included the first ten minutes which were dominated by Merchants who took a well-deserved early 3-0 lead from an outstanding penalty kick.
However, St Mary’s gradually got themselves back into the game with a converted try from Harry Blyth after 20 minutes, followed by another touchdown from skipper Robbie Edginton on the stroke of half-time, to lead 12-3 at the break.
In the second half St Mary’s had the benefit of the wind and the slope, but initially failed to use it to their advantage, with Merchants dominant in the lineout and unlucky not to score.
But St Mary’s fought back again, taking control of the scrums, which resulted in another converted try, this time from Noah Stephens, to extend the lead to 19-3.
Merchants still weren’t finished, reducing the deficit to nine points with a fantastic set play from a midfield scrum, before a second try from Blyth put the outcome beyond doubt.
St Mary’s head of rugby, John Armstrong, said: “This was a great game of rugby, and it is a testament to both sets of players that despite giving it their all there wasn’t one penalty for foul play throughout the 80 minutes.
“At the end the teams clapped each other off the pitch, and then all went out together in the evening, demonstrating the great values of friendship and respect that make rugby union so special.
“I’d like to pay tribute to all the members of our first XV squad who have worked so hard for their success over the years, inspired the next generation of college rugby players with their efforts and been wonderful ambassadors for the school.
“Thanks also to rugby coaches Tom Manley and Dave Blyth who have worked incredibly hard to prepare the team,” added Mr Armstrong.
Rugby has been going through a purple patch at St Mary’s in recent years. The school also won the Lancashire Plate in 2019 before reaching the last eight of the National Cup and finishing as runners-up in the Lancashire Cup in 2020. There were no competitions last year because of COVID-19.