23rd August 2018, 14:48 | ChampionSchools
In Focus | St John Fisher Catholic High School, Wigan
Coach: Andy Unsworth
Squad: John Tierney, Hayden Foubister, Oliver Wright, George O'Loughlin, Zoro Tshunza, Issac Wheatley, Mason Fillingham, Elton Paplekaj, Corey Roden, Malachi Leo Price, Malik Niang, Luis Houghton, Taylor Kerr, Luis Rutter, Tom Hill, Malaki Cullen, Freddie Winnard, Jake Hare, Reece Lowe.
For a school with such an illustrious pedigree for producing top class Rugby League players, it is surprising that this will be St John Fisher's first appearance at Wembley in a Year 7 Boys final.
Chair of governors at the school, Dave Mallin, who has been involved in schoolboy Rugby League for 50 years, said: "Normally we have a fairly small team in Year 7 and we get trampled on, but for the first time that I can remember we've actually got some biggish lads and it makes a heck of a difference at this age group.
"They are a big, powerful side and initially the attack was the main thing, we'd score quite a few tries but our defence was weak.
"But we've tightened up our defence and I think the turning point for the team was in the Nationals. We had to go to Castleford in the quarter finals.
A huge thank you to @ryansuttonn and @samtomkins1 who presented our Y7 rugby team with the kit for the Champion School’s National Final this Saturday at Wembley. Good luck lads! Enjoy the experience. pic.twitter.com/LeQNxYQsmP— St John Fisher (@St_John_Fisher) August 21, 2018
"We were playing uphill and I think at one stage in the first half Castleford had five consecutive sets.
"The message finally got through, that it's all very well scoring tries but you have to tackle and defend.
"Then we went the length of the field and scored a try and that was the turning point for the team. We went on to win 32-0 and I think that was when we realised we were in with a chance."
🙌 The late Steven Mullaney proved to be the star of the show in 1986...— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) August 22, 2018
🤝 32 years on - @St_John_Fisher and @WadeDeaconPE will contest The Steven Mullaney Memorial Game.
🏉 Catch the action from 1pm at @wembleystadium on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/Xzynm5FVx1
Players to look out for include captain and loose forward Taylor Kerr, a powerful runner and a tremendous tackler with a fantastic work rate. Cory Roden also does a tremendous amount of tackling and is a very good goal kicker.
Two powerful forwards who have contributed massively are Malachi Leo Price and Albanian-born Elton Paplekaj while wing Zoro Tshunza, who is somewhat new to the game, has blistering pace.
Coach Andy Unsworth added: "A big thank you must go to local amateur clubs Wigan St Jude's, Wigan St Pat's, Ince Rose Bridge, Wigan St Cuthbert's and Orrell St James, without them we would never get this far.
"I'd also like to thank Wigan Warriors Community Foundation, especially coach Tommy Gallagher, who has come in and supported our after school programme for rugby."
In Focus | Wade Deacon High School, Widnes
Coach: Chaz I'Anson
Squad: Bobby Finch, Bobby Graham, Thomas Jack, Charlie Feeley, Lewis George, Riley O'Brien, Jake Berry, Joey Owens, Sam Gallagher, Jacob Harris, Joel Sumner, Sam Fitzsimmon, Harry Robertson, Logan Gibson, Elliott Dale, Eamon Slavin, Matthew Mullarkey.
Wade Deacon are no strangers to the big occasion of a curtain raiser before the Challenge Cup Final.
They've had a number teams in the Year 7 showpiece over the years. Current St Helens halfback Danny Richardson appeared in one, but their most recent appearance was in 2015 when they were beaten by Welsh side Glantaf at Wembley.
Ironically, the first round of this year's national contest for the Year 7s involved a trip to Glantaf.
It was a tough opener for the players, according to coach Chaz I'Anson. "It's a long journey for boys at such a young age," he said.
"It's extremely tough to stay focused and play, but it was one of the best performances we put together. They performed exceptionally well that day and got their just rewards."
The quarter final was against a strong Ryburn side from Halifax.
"When you play against teams from there you know they're going to be extremely tough and well-drilled," he said.
But they won a tough encounter 30-24.
Massive thank you @MillerHomesUK for the sponsorship. The boys will be looking very smart travelling down to Wembley. It is much appreciated!— Wade Deacon PE Dept. (@WadeDeaconPE) August 22, 2018
Superb customer service from @Boydellswidnes and @EV2Sportswear many thanks 👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/EfVBMvO0CU
It didn't get any easier in the semi-final against Bridgewater.
"Bridgewater were by far the better team in that first half," said Chaz. "They were 8-0 up at half time but they missed both conversions.
"We were well below par, but just after half time Harry Robertson, who has been outstanding this year, scored from 60/70 metres bumping off about eight players.
"We just seemed to kick on then and started playing a little bit. I think Bridgewater got a bit nervous with Wembley on the horizon.
"We threw the ball around and scored again and kicked both of our goals, but there was a really dramatic finish to the game. In the last minute they were camped on our line, and put in a cross field kick on the last tackle which they gathered but knocked on when we made the tackle.
🏟️ 1992: Captains his school at @wembleystadium— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) August 19, 2018
🏆 15 career titles
🏉 4,231 career points
👏 2015: bows out as a legend
👉 Kevin Sinfield was inspired by #ChampSchools as a youngster - watch stars of the future in action from 1pm on Challenge Cup Final day! pic.twitter.com/z9Ep8WTnFH
"It was a fantastic game and great advert for junior rugby - both sets of boys were brilliant and the sportsmanship they showed was a credit to both teams."
Looking ahead to their opponents at Wembley, Chaz said: "I've seen a little bit of St John Fisher, they played their semi-final before us. They look like they've got a lot of strike power, some big lads who can run and some creative players as well.
"If we turn up and play to our potential we can match them and make it a real close game but regardless, it's an opportunity for both teams to play at Wembley; something they will remember for the rest of their lives. It's special for both groups."