Norris and Fitzgerald star as Whitgift School win U18 Schools Cup for first time in eight years

Captain Oliver Norris led from the front to inspire Whitgift to their first Under 18s Schools Cup success in eight years with a 32-22 victory over holders Warwick at Twickenham.

It was a fitting moment for Norris, who began the scoring with the game’s first try, having watched from the crowd when the South Croydon school last lifted the Under 18s trophy in 2011.

The tight game was decided by Aristot Benz-Solomon’s late Whitgift try and 10 points from the boot of Ben Fitzgerald, denying Warwick a third title in a row following their wins in 2018 and 2017.

Both sides arrived at Twickenham after convincing semi-final wins, Whitgift thrashing Marlborough College 57-15, while Warwick disposed of Woodhouse Grove 36-24.

It was the south Londoners though who tasted victory in the only other meeting between the teams back in September when they triumphed 23-19.

Whitgift could not have written a more perfect opening as, inside the first minute of the game, flanker Norris charged down a kick and raced through under the posts for the try.

Fitzgerald added the extras but things soon turned sour when Whitgift hooker Joe Vajner was sin binned six minutes into the contest for a dangerous tip tackle.

Warwick duly capitalised on their man advantage and their persistent pressure was rewarded just four minutes later.

Prop Alex Sabin powered his way over the try-line and Henry Mortimer converted to tie the game at 7-7.

Both sides threatened further scores as a line break from Xander Eddy was curtailed and Harry Breeze’s marauding run set up good field position for Whitgift.

But with their numerical numbers restored, Whitgift re-established their lead mid-way through the first half when Fitzgerald knocked over a penalty following an infraction at the breakdown.

Warwick ended the opening 35 minutes strongly and appeared in no mood to surrender their crown.

Indeed five minutes before the break second row Will Pugh bundled over the line following patient build-up play and Mortimer added the extras to hand Warwick their first lead of the game.

It did not last long though as Whitgift replied emphatically when Ed Dunford’s line break dissected the opposition rearguard and his off-load was finished off by centre Charlie Beckett.

Fitzgerald was unable to add the extras on this occasion and the game remained evenly poised at 15-14.

After the break, Mortimer squandered a glorious chance to hand Warwick the lead again when his penalty from in front sailed wide.

It proved costly when Whitgift’s Fitzgerald exchanged passes with Charlie Cadogan and Tom Berger touched down 10 minutes after the interval.

Fitzgerald kept his cool to add the extras and extend their lead to 22-14 but this frenetic contest was anything but over.

A piece of Whitgift ill-discipline handed Mortimer the chance to make amends with another penalty and this time he made no mistake to reduce the arrears to five points.

Whitgift survived a scare soon afterwards when Fin Smith burst through and only a superb interception from Benz-Solomon prevented a certain try.

But with 15 minutes to play and Warwick penned on the Whitgift try-line, Fitzgerald was shown the yellow card to reduce them once more to 14 players.

Perhaps inevitably it took Warwick less than two minutes to capitalise despite resolute defensive work.

Hooker Max Rawson crossed the line on a well-executed pick-and-go to draw Warwick level but Mortimer’s conversion was narrowly wide to leave the game tantalisingly poised at 22-22.

More drama was to follow within moments of the restart though when Benz-Solomon, having prevented a try at one end, added Whitgift’s fourth try of the contest.

Dunford, standing in for kicking duties, duly notched up the conversion to extend the south Londoners’ lead to seven.

And the win was secured when Fitzgerald added another penalty on a memorable afternoon at the home of rugby.

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