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Underdogs Hopwood Hall College triumphed 18-14 over favourites St Helens College, who were unbeaten going into the final and had defeated Hopwood earlier in the season 17-10.
But St Helens made them sweat when all looked lost, trailing 18-6 with seven minutes remaining, as they scored two tries in the closing minutes and were pushing for a match winner. Hopwood held on in a pulsating finale in which man of the match David Chrimes scored a brace and substitute Jack Burns scooted over for the decisive score on 73 minutes.
Chrimes just edged out his stand off Jordan Turner who was a superb link for his forwards and backs with his passing and kicking game and made the two opening tries for his side.
For St Helens it appeared to be a case of stage fright and they have now lost their second major final in the last twelve months. They found difficulty in completing sets of six, lost possession in good field position and on three occasions also failed to find touch when awarded. Although they gave there all it was only in the last five minutes of each half they came to life and posted points on the board.
Hopwood opened the scoring on three minutes on their first set of six when on the last tackle Turner put a bouncing grubber into the in goal and Chrimes was first to the ball to touch down, with Turner adding the extras. On Hopwood?s next attack Chrimes made another barnstorming run but was stopped by a shell shocked St Helens. They slowly got back into the game and levelled the game up five minutes from the break following a Hopwood drop out, when winger Andrew Bethell scooted in from the play the ball in the corner. Ryan Rogers converted a magnificent touchline kick, but on the stroke of half time missed a relatively easy penalty which would have given them an 8-6 lead.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first and Hopwood went 12-6 ahead on 43 minutes. Turner put a high bomb up on the last tackle, St Helens let the ball bounce and Hopwood regained possession and Chrimes in support scored his second try.
Turner missed a penalty attempt seven minutes later and on 70 minutes his last tackle drop goal attempt was disallowed.
On their next set Hopwood scored then continued to turn the screw, not giving St Helens any space. On 73 minutes they scored a third converted try as Burns drove through defenders close to the line from the play the ball.
With five minutes remaining St Helens counter-attacked and kept the ball alive and winger Ian Lenton went in at the corner, but skipper and loose forward Craig Wilson missed the conversion. This breathed new life into the side and with a minute remaining Wilson went over the whitewash and hit the upright with the conversion to make it 18-14.
St Helens stormed up field looking for the match winner but the referee's whistle brought to an end a dramatic final which was a credit to the student game.
A name to remember for the future Jordan Turner who appears to have all the elements a stand off should have.
HOPWOOD HALL COLLEGE 18 defeated ST HELENS COLLEGE 14
Hopwood Hall College : 1. Fletcher, 2. M. Howley, 3. Chrimes, 4. Dewhirst, 5. Foy, 6. Turner, 7. Clough, 8. Cookson, 9. Whitmore, 10. Hopkins, 11. Duerden, 12. Gray, 13. McGriffin. Subs: 14. Burns, 15. Brandford, 16. Blackmore, 17. Moore, 18 P. Howley
St Helens College : 1. Quinn, 2. Bethell, 3. Smith, 4. Walsh, 5. Lenton, 6. Haggerty, 7. Rogers, 8. Mannion, 9. Forber, 10. Holland, 11. Taylor, 12. Manchester, 13. Wilson. Subs : 14. Gregory, 15. Leyland, 16. Appleton, 17. Harper, 18. Key.