TWO former Ross Rowing Club juniors faced off against each other in an epic Henley Royal Regatta final.
Steve Tuck proved a stroke of genius as he drove his US college rowing eight to victory by just three feet from a Leander boat containing Ross clubmate and world U23 medal cox Morgan Baynham-Williams.
Former Monmouth School pupil Tuck brought his California Berkeley University crew to the Thames with hopes of victory after a first US national college eights title in years, and they duly delivered in a classic Ladies Plate international 8s final at the 175th anniversary Royal Regatta.
Henley-based final opponents Leander went five seconds faster in their semi as they rowed down Americans Brown University by feet in the last few strokes, but the Old Monmothian, who first launched out in a boat with Ross RC's junior academy, said: "We knew what they were capable of, but we backed ourselves to get in front and then hold them out."
Former Hereford RC sculler Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne from St Weonards also went close to Henley glory after making the final of the women's quadruple sculls in her GB U23 crew.
The 19-year-old St Weonards sculler's boat beat a Reading University/Cardiff University composite easily followed by victory over two-time Olympic medallist Debbie Flood and her Leander/Reading boat by 3 1/4L. But the full GB senior boat, containing 2010 world champion Beth Rodford, proved too strong in the final by the same margin.
Monmouth School's rowing 8, containing Ross RC product Will England, threw everything at Britain's top junior crew in their Princess Elizabeth Cup school 8s second round.
But having beaten Emanuel School, London, in their first round race by 2 3/4L, a stone and a quarter a man disadvantage into a brutal Henley headwind proved too much to overcome as they bravely missed out by just over a length to Abingdon's National Schools champions, the Henley winners for the last three years.
GB junior cap and Monmouth School Head Boy England, who is targeting the world juniors in August, said: "It was a really good effort. We just went for it and gave them a bit of a scare off the blocks.
"It was always going to be tough giving away that weight into such a strong wind, but we held onto them, had a really good push in the middle and made them work for it all the way to the line.
"For six of us, it's probably our last race for Monmouth, but we couldn't have done any more. They had all the horsepower, and they had to use it to hold us off."
The crew was Rory Freeman, Morgan Gray, Tom Sidorowicz, Toby Maltman, Alex Buhaenko, Rob Leighton, Will England, Dan Waters and cox Gabriel Cronin.