Over the next term, HSC will be attempting to discover the identity of Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moment, with your help. This article details the First XV’s victory at the St. Joseph’s Festival in 2015, and will compete against three other moments in Group One. Vote in our Twitter poll on Friday to decide your favourite moments – the winner will progress to the quarter-final stage!
Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moments Group One: First XV win St. Joseph’s Festival.
In the autumn of 2015, it appeared that something of a transformation was occurring within Hampton’s rugby teams. The departure of Mr Zoran Higgins, then Director of Rugby, that July had the potential of shaking the newly built foundations of the sport at the school.
Higgins had transformed Hampton’s rugby since arriving in 2005, implementing much of the high-level systems and infrastructure which have lent themselves so well to success in recent years.
Having reached at least the Last 16 stage of the prestigious Daily Mail Cup for six consecutive seasons – including two quarter-finals and a semi-final – Hampton had well and truly cemented their place as one of the country’s sporting schools under Higgins’ stewardship.
It would not, then, be unfair to suggest that incoming Director of Rugby, Mr Sean Thomson, might have a challenging job in replacing his predecessor in 2015. It was not to be the case.
In his first major tournament as Hampton DoR, Thomson – with the help of a raft of U18 academy stars – led the team to their first ever victory at the St. Joseph’s National Schools Festival, traditionally one of the most challenging weekends on the schoolboy calendar.
One can appreciate the scale of this achievement by reviewing the results from a year previously: with a team that eventually went on to reach the Daily Mail Cup quarter-final, Hampton finished bottom of their group on Day One, such was the quality of their opponents.
But a year later, under Thomson’s leadership and with the indefatigable presence of captain Roman Malin-Hiscock starring in the centres, Hampton launched a formidable campaign.
On Day One, despite a tricky group that included the hosts St. Joseph’s and Solihull School – who finished in the top 10 of the prestigious Natwest Trophy that season – Hampton were utterly rampant, winning all three group games. They scored 100 points and conceded 0 to set up a Cup group on Day Two.
Their reward was an even more challenging group on Day Two, seeing them drawn against perennial challengers Cranleigh and Brighton College (who had Marcus Smith starring in their ranks), as well as Scottish heavyweights Merchiston Castle.
Once more, they were no match for Hampton’s skilful backline, which contained stars in the centre in Malin-Hiscock and his fellow England U16 representative Zack Santos, as well as eventual England 7s man, Will Attfield at fullback.
Hampton once again starred, continuing their defensive prowess to stop all three teams from crossing the whitewash, winning their games at a canter to qualify for the Cup Final later that afternoon.
Their opponents would be RGS High Wycombe, who had secured their place in the final with an impressive win over Dulwich College.
Hampton started the match in similar fashion to the rest of the tournament, taking an early lead through Matthew Wheeler’s try, which was followed by a penalty from the boot of star fly-half Ben Seddon.
RGS were plucky opponents, though, and despite becoming the first team to be able to breach Hampton’s otherwise impenetrable defence, were unable to overturn the eventual 8-5 scoreline.
Hampton’s stunning tournament victory was built upon their defensive prowess: conceding only one try in seven games is a feat that few school teams will ever match at the Festival. Captain Roman Malin-Hiscock was bestowed the Player of the Tournament trophy, an award previously won the likes of Zach Mercer, Marcus Smith, Lewis Ludlam and Jonathan Joseph. Esteemed company indeed.
Malin-Hiscock and Will Attfield would win the Premiership U18 Academy League with London Irish later that season, but the 1st XV would not be so lucky: they were knocked out of the Natwest Cup at the quarter-final stage in heart-breaking fashion, losing 10-11 at Warwick School.
However it ended, the 1st XV of 2015/16 will be remembered as a record-breaking team for their exploits at the St. Joseph’s College Festival.
Josh Bartholomew, Hampton Sports Chronicle Editor
This moment will be judged in Group One, alongside Max Kretzchsmar’s EFL debut, the First XI’s National T20 final in 2005, and the First VIII’s Triple in 1988.