Lady Eleanor claimed a memorable 2018 Rathbones National Schools Lacrosse Under 19A Championship title after a last-minute 2-1 victory over St Catherine’s.
The two sides were both undefeated heading into Day 2, with LEH taking a 100% record from Pool B, while St Cat’s came through with six wins and a draw against tournament venue school, Wycombe Abbey.
The day got off to an unusual start, and as has seemed to be the case with RNSLC this year, the weather was determined to cause problems, as Wycombe Abbey was hit with thunderstorms overnight that continued through to the morning and players were greeted on site by a significant downpour.
With the rain continuing to fall and condition of the pitches worsening even before a match was played, a decision was made to cancel the Division 1 and 2 competitions and move the Championship section over to the Astroturf surface.
As the Championship section was rescheduled, the new format removed the Day 2 Pool Stage and thrust the teams straight into knockout competition from the off, giving all the games a real edge as each of the Last 16 went in search of success.
However, the changes did nothing to phase the girls from either LEH or St Cat’s who comfortably dispatched their Last 16 opponents (LEH 8-0 St Pauls – St Cat’s 5-0 St Albans) with ease to move into the Quarter Finals.
St Catherine’s performances throughout the tournament and particularly through the knockout stages were built on a rock-solid, miserly defence that gave very little away, advancing to the final without conceding a single goal on Day 2, overcoming Caterham 3-0 in the QF and last year’s champions, Benenden, 1-0 in the Semi-Final.
Lady Eleanor Holles, on the other hand, were free-flowing at the offensive end, scoring 16 goals going into the final after resisting a second-half fightback from Guildford High to win their QF 4-3 and coming from behind against Berkhamsted, running out 4-1 winners in the SF.
The final was played out in front of a large and passionate crowd with many of the other schools staying on to watch the title match.
And the differing styles of the two teams continued through to the final, with Lady Eleanor Holles having large spells of possession as they worked the ball around, while St Catherine’s defence held tight and presented very few scoring opportunities as the sides went in to half-time at 0-0.
The second half continued in much the same fashion but LEH finally managed to make their possession count to go 1-0 up.
This forced St Cat’s in to a change of tactic as they pushed in search of the equaliser which duly came after some good individual play to level things up again.
With two minutes of normal time remaining, LEH once again secured settled ball and set about finding the match-winner.
And with little under a minute to play, the goal came to put LEH on the brink of the title.
The Hampton side crucially secured the ball off the resulting draw and were able to run the clock down to become 2018 RNSLC U19A Champions, sparking jubilant scenes and subsequent pitch invasion from winners LEH.
It was LEH’s first National Schools triumph since 1988, since which they have been a defeated finalist seven times, but on the 30th anniversary of that success, the often mentioned National Schools hoodoo was finally put to bed.
Final: Lady Eleanor Holles 2-1 St Catherine’s
To give all teams at least a minimum of two matches from the day, the defeated teams from the Last 16 stage entered a Plate competition which was won by LEH’s Last 16 opponents, St Pauls, beating St Helen and St Katharine, 2-1 in the final.
Vivien Jones Memorial Award: Rachel Keens & Wycombe Abbey School – The Vivien Jones Memorial Award for 2018 was awarded to Rachel Keens, Deputy Head at WAS, on behalf of the school, for all of the help and support offered to English Lacrosse over the last week in ensuring that the Rathbones National Schools Championships would go ahead for 2018 and we are extremely grateful for all their efforts in coming to the aid of the lacrosse community.