Castleford Academy win Champion Schools at Wembley
By Kirsty Saynor
Castleford Academy won the Steven Mullaney Memorial Trophy – the Year 7 Boys final and last match of the 2014 Champion Schools tournament – at Wembley Stadium after claiming a 36-14 victory over arch rivals Brooksbank High School.
After losing out to Brooksbank in the Yorkshire Schools final earlier in the season, Castleford were determined not to lose out again as their dreams of winning at Wembley came true.
Their victory was largely down to star of the show and man of the match Bailey O’Connor, who scored a hat-trick and kicked all six of his conversion attempts.
Castleford Academy have dominated this year’s Champion Schools finals, with the institution providing no less than six representative finalists across the varying age group competitions.
Castleford opened the scoring on the 10-minute mark after continuing to put persistent pressure on the Brooksbank defence in the opening stages.
A superb break and 50-metre sprint by full-back Harrison Spense-Horton put Castleford in a fantastic position and Oliver Price dived over to score the try. Bailey O’Connor added the conversion.
It was not long before Brooksbank’s full-back Will Calligan made his own brilliant break and allowed Fred Woodhouse to shrug off the Castleford defence and sprint over the line virtually unchallenged. Jacob Gannon added the extras.
However, only minutes later, Castleford’s Billy Marsh dragged three defenders over the line before stretching out an arm to touch down.
It was starting to seem easy for Castleford when O’Connor skilfully defied the Brooksbank defence to race over the line again. With O’Connor converting his own try, the score was 18-6 going into half-time.
Brooksbank were, however, not going to let Castleford have it all their own way by opening the scoring in the second half.
Woodhouse made yet another impressive break and skipped through the Castleford defence to score his second try of the game.
With the senior Castleford Tigers, out to view the stadium before their own Tetley’s Challenge Cup final warm-up, now cheering them on from the side lines, it seemed Castleford were inspired and O’Connor once again fought his way through Brooksbank’s defensive line to score, putting his team firmly back in front.
The teams fought out a fairly equal battle for the next quarter of an hour until Brooksbank spilt the ball forward just 10 metres from their own line and Castleford’s Owen Walker took advantage of the mistake by scooping up the ball and diving over the whitewash.
Castleford were in soon again courtesy of O’Connor who completed his hat-trick – and another successful conversion saw the captain put the score seemingly out of Blackbrook’s reach.
Woodhouse went over for his own hat-trick late on for Brooksbank but his efforts were in vain.