A performance dripping with spirit and desire yielded a memorable victory for Warriors Under-18s against Saracens at Finals Day on Sunday, with Academy Coach Gordon Ross cutting a delighted figure post-match.
Ross, who enjoyed a glittering playing career which saw him earn 25 caps for Scotland, hailed his side’s work-rate as they ran in four tries to overcome the north London club and claim third place in the Premiership Rugby Under-18s Academy League.
“This team never lies down and after sustaining a couple of injuries last week against Yorkshire Carnegie, the lads stood up to the challenge and it was a huge effort,” said Ross.
“It just shows that if you work hard, you get your reward. We’ve got the skillset within this group to play an expansive brand of rugby and we also knew what Saracens would bring.
“The boys were outstanding, and we played some excellent rugby in very difficult conditions. A lot of these boys have been together for four or five years and I’m really delighted for them.”
A key theme of the campaign in which Warriors finished second in the Northern Conference, was the ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.
Ross was keen to point out that this was no fluke, adding: “We try and encourage the lads to play an attacking game, but we never get away from the importance of our defensive responsibilities and we challenge the lads to force the mistake and capitalise on those mistakes which we did on a couple of occasions.”
Warriors secured their place at Finals Day by virtue of wins against Wasps, Northampton Saints, Newcastle Falcons and Yorkshire Carnegie. Significantly improving on last season’s return, Ross explained the reasons behind his side’s upturn in fortune.
He said: “Last year the key decision makers were all under-17s and since then they’ve developed physically, which is huge credit to Joe in the strength and conditioning department.
“Their decision-making has improved significantly and we’re stronger physically this year. The younger guys have stepped up to the mark after seeing the work done by the senior members of the squad, and that’s created a really good environment at Sixways.”
Centre Harry Spencer was the catalyst for Warriors’ four-try triumph as he crossed the whitewash for a well-earned hat-trick, with Ross labelling him as the ‘unsung hero’ of the group.
“For me Harry is an unsung hero and does so much work off the ball,” said Ross.
“It might not be glamorous what he does, but it’s effective and moving forward I have a huge amount of hope for him.
“He’s in great physical shape and he’s been excellent in the last few weeks and he was brilliant on Sunday. He deserved his hat-trick and deserved a bit of limelight because he does so many good things.”
Newcastle Falcons secured fourth place thanks to James Blackett’s last gasp try against Bristol Bears, while Leicester Tigers and London Irish shared the trophy after a pulsating 22-22 draw in the final.