On the afternoon of Friday 8th March, the Kings Hawford Colts A team competed in the regional ISFA Football competition at Clifton College in Bristol. The competition involved nine schools ranging from areas including Hereford, Gloucestershire, Bath, Bristol and even Cornwall. Having enjoyed a highly successful football term so far, the boys were feeling confident but cautious.
Hawford started brightly and dominated possession and chances in the first match against Truro School. Despite our dominance we were a little wasteful in front of goal and the match finished in a 1-1 draw. The boys took heart from getting their first point of the tournament early on. We took this momentum in to the second match of the group stage against The Oratory Prep School and, despite the injury of key player Barnaby Blundell, we secured an impressive 4-1 victory. The passing and movement of our attacking players was outstanding and proved too much for our opponents to cope with. Next Hawford faced group leaders The Paragon. Once again the boys possession play enabled them to dominate and we quickly pressed on our advantage by taking a 1-0 lead. During the second half Paragon attacked down the left flank, cutting inside the box before being stopped by an excellent tackle by Donal Clason. To everyone’s surprise the referee pointed to the spot and awarded an extremely dubious penalty kick which was converted by the Paragon forward thus ending the match with a 1-1 draw. During the final group game, we were frustrated by a very defensive minded QEH Bristol side. Despite again having the lion’s share of the possession and chances in front of goal, QEH managed to keep us out and secure a 0-0 draw. Having finished the group in second place we were safely through to the knock out stages of the competition. The boys had played some outstanding football but not quite earned the results that they deserved.
In the quarter finals we were drawn against Wycliffe Prep who had looked very strong in their group matches. The boys surpassed all expectations with the performance of the day that made all other schools take notice of us as a real force within the tournament. The 5-0 victory was the result that we had been knocking on the door of all afternoon and the boys’ finishing in front of goal was outstanding. The performances of Louis Healy-Maddams and Alex Probert off the bench were particularly impressive in this match.
The semi-finals saw us take on the hosts Clifton College who had won all of their group matches without conceding a goal. Yet again Hawford dominated possession of the ball and also looked unbeatable in defence. Despite this, the match finished with a 1-1 draw thanks so a briliiant headed goal from George Tonkinson…and so to the drama of penalties. The penalty shootout was on a ‘best of three’ basis. Noah Dupont, Toby Cunningham and Donal Clason all successfully dispatched their penalties with great composure as we won the shootout 3-1. The boys were extremely excited to be in to the final and potentially one win away from becoming the first Hawford football team to even reach the National Finals.
In the final we would face The Paragon School once again in a rematch of the game with ‘that penalty incident’. The work rate and pressure demonstrated in the final was outstanding the Hawford boys were all over their opponents and we had a number of opportunities through the attack of Noah, Leo, Toby and George. Will Thorp was excellent in goal, as he has been all term, and made a number of key saves. Again, George Kirkham and Donal Clason looked well organised and unbeatable in defence. With the game still at 0-0 on
the final whistle the match went in to extra time. With just seconds remaining before a penalty shootout Noah drove forward with the ball from the Hawford penalty area, at the end of his powerful run he slipped the ball to his right where Leo Cunningham ran on to it and dispatched an outstanding finish from a tight angle to secure the win in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Despite the boys being filled with excitement and joy, they showed excellent sportsmanship in ensuring that they congratulated the Paragon School for their efforts throughout the afternoon and thanked the referee before celebrating their well-deserved victory. The boys will now compete at the ISFA National Finals that will be played at St George’s Park, the England National Team’s training centre, on Tuesday 7th May.