Champion Schools is the RFL’s flagship schools’ competition.
Castleford Academy and Warrington’s Bridgewater High School brought down one curtain and raised another as they met at St James’s Park, Newcastle, in the last of the RFL’s 2022 Champion Schools finals and opened Super League’s annual Magic Weekend.
The Year 7 final is, of course, named after Steven Mullaney, the schoolboy who in 1986 thrilled spectators and television viewers alike by scoring a superb solo try as Wakefield schools defeated St Helens at Wembley Stadium in the Challenge Cup Final curtain-raiser, but who died in tragic circumstances the following year.
Many young players who have represented their school in the Steven Mullaney Memorial Game have gone on to make their mark on both the professional and international stage, including the former England and Leeds Rhinos skipper Kevin Sinfield.
And the Leeds legend himself would have been impressed with the display put on by the schools from the Rugby League heartlands of Castleford and Warrington.
It was a day when some of the smaller players, among them Castleford’s Josh Woodhead and Nathan Anaman, and Bridgewater’s Freddie O’Neill and Austin Nicholson, became giants, and when the likes of powerful props Archie Lunn (Castleford Academy) and Lucas Orgill (Bridgewater HS) stood tall and made their own mark on the occasion.
And Lunn it was who set Cas’ on their way to a Champion Schools hat-trick following the success of their Year 8 Girls and Year 9 Boys at Kingston Park the previous day. He would go on the lift the Chev Walker Trophy as play of the match.
— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) July 10, 2022
Following a closely contested first quarter, the rampaging prop – the biggest player on the field – opened the scoring from close range.
The score remained 4-0 until early in the second half, when Max Richardson crossed for an unconverted try to make it 8-0.
Minutes earlier Orgill, Gonzalo Carrera Briegas and Sam Palfreyman had all been denied by tenacious Cas’ defence.
When Woodhead pounced to make it 12-0 and Jaxson Kesik converted, Bridgewater found themselves 14 points down with a mountain to climb. An Orgill try gave the Warrington school hope and Tobias Birchall’s conversion reduced the arrears to eight points, but the mountain proved too tall and Anaman’s try in the left corner saw Castleford Academy home by 18 points to six.
Year 10 Boys: Spen Valley High School 24 Great Sankey High School 26
Year 10 Girls: St John Fisher CVA 18 Castleford Academy 8
Year 9 Boys: Archbishop Sentamu Academy 0 Castleford Academy 22
Year 9 Girls: Archbishop Sentamu Academy 8 Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf 18
Year 8 Boys:Ryburn Valley High School 20 Standish Community High School 20
Year 8 Girls: Malet Lambert School 10 Castleford Academy 16
Year 7 Girls: St Peter’s RC High School 32 Malet Lambert School 16