Harrogate Grammar School Boys’ 1st XV Rugby team have been crowned the 22/23 National Continental Tyres Schools Bowl champions at Saracens StoneX Stadium in London, after a truly magnificent 31-20 win against St Peters High School, Gloucestershire. This is a remarkable achievement for the Sixth Form Sports Academy, with the rugby programme only in its second year.
This is the first time in the school’s recent history that U18’s have reached a National Final, which is no mean feat with 125 schools across the country competing. Coached by former Scotland International Tom Ryder, Director of Sport at Harrogate Grammar School and Stuart Vincent, former Captain of Ilkley RFC, the team is made up of Harrogate Grammar School Sixth Form students. They have depth of talent and experience, with six students representing U17 & U18 Yorkshire Academy this season.
Captained by Matthew Leatham who plays for Yorkshire Academy U18 team and vice-captained by Sam Parsons-Bastiman, who was selected for the North of England U18 squad, the team scored 5 exceptional tries, converting 3 of them.
Students from the girls’ and boys’ junior rugby teams joined staff, travelling by coach to watch and support their peers. Harrogate Grammar School Alumni and parent supporters were also in attendance creating a rousing, inspiring atmosphere and for those that weren’t fortunate enough to see the final in person, it was livestreamed on England Rugby’s YouTube Channel. As the furthermost travelling team, there was a long but celebratory journey back to North Yorkshire.
Matthew Leatham, Captain 1st XV, said “the squad would like to thank Mr Ryder and Mr Vincent for their coaching, mentoring and encouragement throughout the season; not forgetting Michelle Farnhill, our Strength and Conditioning coach, who helped us keep the intensity throughout the game. The players would also like to thank all the travelling supporters, it certainly made a difference hearing the singing, drumming and trumpet playing.”
Tom Ryder, Director of Sport at Harrogate Grammar School, added his thoughts by saying “This was a fantastic performance from the boys, they’ve worked very hard all year so I’m really pleased for them that it was such a great game. Full credit also needs to go to St Peters, Gloucester. We used our kicking game really well and when we had the opportunity, we played at tempo and scored some nice tries. The depth and strength of the squad is a result of the competitive nature of training. The boy’s dedication and strong cohesion as a team, is displayed through their great team spirit. We are very proud to bring the trophy home”.
Harrogate Grammar’s Sixth Form Sports Academy is only in its second year, with 30 boys currently in the rugby programme. Integrating training sessions into the student timetable, has allowed for excellence in both academic studies and sports. Gym sessions twice a week in the morning and weekly fixtures, has enabled a more professional approach to school sport.
Broadcast commentary on the day, reiterated this by saying “Harrogate Grammar are churning out these incredible athletes. This season has already done so much for rugby at the school, bringing home the silverware will inspire others for years to come. It’s a deserved win and there are a lot of names we’ll hear a lot more of in the next five years”
The Academy also has a girls’ netball programme, coached by Jan Helmsley, who has a wealth of Netball coaching experience. Alongside her role at Harrogate Grammar School, Jan is also the Leeds Rhino’s U19’s lead coach. The Netball sports Academy are enjoying their own success this year having come 4th in the Yorkshire and Humber regional netball finals.
Both programmes highlight that sport can be an integral part of post-16 study. The Sixth Form Sports Academy aims to build on these successes by attracting greater numbers of aspirational rugby and netball players from across the region, who want academic and sporting excellence in their studies.
The Academy also reflects a wider passion for sport that runs throughout school, with continued focus on team sports attracting younger students, who join extra-curricular sports clubs and add to the inclusive sports culture at Harrogate Grammar School.
Neil Renton, Headteacher at Harrogate Grammar School, said
“Congratulations to our 1st XV rugby team. This is an outstanding achievement to be very proud of and a reflection of their dedication, commitment and unity as a team. We are delighted to be crowned national champions. The Academy is a unique asset to our school, championing success in netball and rugby, and we want to continue attracting students from across the county to our Sixth form. Our PE faculty works tirelessly, offering a tremendous range of sports to all our students, organising many fixtures and driving forward successful teams.”