It would be safe to say, with his team trailing by 21-8 with 4 minutes remaining, Mr Evans did not look overly confident standing on the touch line. In fact, with 5 minutes to go the U15s had trailed by just 14-8 before gifting St Mary's Crosby a quite extraordinary try.
However, as someone very intelligent once said, "The match isn't over until the final whistle goes..............or until the fat lady sings". Well, it was something like that?
To see some photos of the match please go to the Arnold School TV Channel.
The match was played in quite beautiful, sunny and warm conditions and it was the Arnold boys who started the better. Arnold looked lively in the backs but St Mary's more than matched them in the forwards, and this with a strong wind at their backs. Charlie McLaine came close to scoring early on after a rampaging run down the right wing and Ellis Whorlton-Jones and Elliott Fackey also made some telling breaks. However, the home side's defence was good and their county no.9 was proving a handful around the scrums and break downs.
Sadly for Arnold, it was St Mary's who scored first after 15 minutes directly from a penalty 20 metres out as some woeful tackling by the Arnold boys gave the home side a simple score which they converted for a 7-0 lead. The U15s responded well but they were denied a try by some more last ditch tackling but a Tyne Davis penalty on the stroke of half-time made it 7-3. With the wind at their backs the Arnold boys were now hoping to dominate.
In terms of possession and territory they did but the last pass kept being dropped or a bad decision was made when it often seemed easier to score. St Mary's battled well in defence to hold onto their lead but this resolve was finally broken as first McLaine broke a few tackles and then Whorlton-Jones picked the ball up 5 metres out to drive over. Davis could not add the extras but Arnold now led 8-7 and appeared to be in control.
Amazingly, just minutes later a horrendous and inexplicable pass by Arnold was thrown into space and from nothing the St Mary's winger picked the ball up to sprint untouched for 50 metres and a 14-8 lead. After getting back into the match this was a huge set-back but now the Arnold forwards started to get back in the match and they began to dominate the rucks, providing Davis and Alex Vowles-Bradley with ample possession to dictate the course of the match. Again, break after break was made, but key passes were dropped and outstanding tackling by the home side denied Arnold time after time.
With 5 minutes remaining Arnold attacked down the left hand side. The ball popped loose from a maul and as Davis attempted to pass the ball to Vowles-Bradley the livewire St Mary's no.9 intercepted the ball to race over 50 metres for another gift to score in the corner. The extras were added from the touchline and St Mary's now led 21-8 with 4 minutes remaining.
Surely the Arnold boys could not comeback from this? They needed TWO converted tries in 4 minutes!
From the kick-off, Matthew Garrod, who had an excellent match, caught the ball and he fed Whorlton-Jones who made 30 metres down the left hand side. Sam Royle, a constant danger throughout the match, then made another 20 metres. Five rucks later and some excellent decision making from Vowles-Bradley and good handling by Fackey saw captain, Will Nickson, dive over on the far right for a try just 60 seconds after the last St Mary's score. Davis now had to get the conversion to put Arnold within 6 points otherwise the match was over. Amazingly, and under great pressure, Davis slotted the conversion and with officially one minute left on the referee's watch, Arnold were now just 6 points down at 21-15.
Directly from the kick-off they attacked. Whorlton-Jones, Royle, Garrod, Fackey, Vowles-Bradley and Howarth all made breaks and Alex Atherton, Sunil Hutchinson, Jordan Makepeace, Bill Gavin and Matthew Tighe got to every ruck as the ball was continually recycled. Six, seven and eigth phases were passed until suddenly from 20 metres out Davis sniped down the blindside with Vowles-Bradley in support to create a 2v1 with the St Mary's left winger. Davis timed the pass well and Vowles-Bradley sprinted in to score, but the try was directly in the corner, making the conversion the hardest it could be.
The referee said that the conversion would be the final play of the match so Davis had to kick it with the scores at 21-20. Under immense pressure he struck it superbly and it sailed between the posts to snatch the most dramatic and unlikely of victories to reach the Lancashire Plate Final.
This was a quite breath-taking match played in a great spirit by both sides. Arnold will now play the winner of Liverpool College or Ripley St Thomas on Final's Day in late March.