Rugby has always been a big part of life at Ampleforth. This year, the 1st XV have been competing in the NatWest Bowl competition in between normal fixtures. This season has been full of action overall with 19 matches played, including a very successful tour to Lisbon for five days. As we progressed through the rounds of the bowl, a highlight for me has to be playing at Darlington’s Mowden Park, which is a 25,000 seat stadium and winning comfortably. To progress through to the quarter final of the bowl, the 1st XV won a great game with a score of 46-22 against Prince Henry’s Grammar school. The quarter final was against Hitchin Boys Grammar School. As this was such a big occasion for the 1st XV, the squad travelled down together the night before, as it was a four hour journey to ensure we were well rested for the challenge ahead. The squad went for a walk around a park on the morning of the quarter final to get psychologically ready. After a thrilling and exciting game of rugby, we were through to the semi-finals!
The semi-final was due to take place in March, but we managed to bring it forward to January, as we were ready to play. In the build up to the semi-final, there was a noticeable buzz of excitement around the school as it was the first time Ampleforth had reached this far in the competition; it was a topic which was very much talked about! As the semi-final was in Worcester, the squad travelled down the night before as it was a four hour journey, similar to the quarter final. After a good night’s sleep, the 1st XV had a hearty breakfast and began our journey to the King’s School, Worcester. One of my pre-match rituals is to listen to some rock music and think about what my role is within the team; this helps me to get psychologically ready before the match and I usually do my own warmup and stretching before the whole team warm up. We had some great supporters travel down from Ampleforth on the day, as well as parents. I think that really helped spur the team on. It was an incredibly physical and close game with some great tries from Ampleforth. Sadly, in seven minutes over time, Kings School Worcester scored and converted a try that allowed them to take the lead and win 33-31. It was a big disappointment, and it was certainly at the back of our minds for a few days afterwards. But the great thing about rugby is it teaches you how to bounce back: the next game is always round the corner and you have a new opportunity to challenge yourself again
Last season’s hockey was amazing! In Year 11, unless you are super good and are selected for the first or second teams, which are dominated by sixth formers, you might be lucky enough to play for the College third team. This is the team which I represented last autumn. Between September and December, we won every single one of our matches, both at home and away. There were some really tense moments, especially as we neared the final few matches and began to wonder and nervously hope that we might finish the season unbeaten! Our final game of the season just before Christmas was against Pocklington, who had also had a very strong season indeed, so everything was to play for. I think that we all had a major case of the butterflies, even our coach, Miss Rose! We won! Which meant that we had achieved our unbeaten season! Somebody had made up letters for us to hold for our photo shoot which spelled ‘unbeaten’ and although we felt a little sorry for our opponents, we held them up with pride! As a consequence of all of this, we now sit at the top of the national hockey league table, with a 100% winning record.
Throughout the year, our students have also been making full use of our excellent Strength & Conditioning Suite, with sessions led by our wonderful Head Rugby Coach, Mr James. These sessions provide the perfect opportunity to work on core strength, speed, endurance, acceleration, explosive power and many other skills that can be translated onto the pitch. It's incredibly encouraging to see how well our rugby and hockey teams are doing and we look forward to seeing the progress they make when they return in September.