Millfield narrowly beaten by tough Filton side

The trip to Millfield is always an exciting one, with so many ex pupils playing in the professional game, such as England captain Chris Robshaw, it always feels as though in making the trip you are offering yourself the chance to see some genuine stars of the future.

Of course stars of the past are always on the mind too, none more so than a certain Gareth Edwards, voted the greatest ever rugby player and an Old Millfieldian to boot, and with the 1st XV pitch bearing his name, his presence is always to be felt.

There are certain games though that even the mighty Millfield are tested in, none more so than in their matches against the AASE Colleges. Spending a minimum of 15 hours coaching time a week, the Colleges are simply far better drilled than most school sides can hope to be.

For the visitors, Filton College, a trip to a place like Millfield is tough though. Used to playing other AASE league sides, there is a serious risk of switching off for friendlies against school sides, and when playing a side as packed with talent, that is a dangerous mindset.

It was with this in mind then that the crowd began to swell ahead of kick off, with both sides emerging from the changing rooms to rapturous applause.

It was Filton who started the stronger of the two sides, camping on the Millfield 22 for much of the opening ten minutes they looked a threat as the home side looked to ease into the pace of the game.

It was imperative for the away team to score during this early period of pressure, and they duly did with a stunning backs move after a solid scrum in the Millfield 22. A lovely interchange between Skelton at 10 and Carpenter at 12 saw the left winger Slowick race through.

Skelton converted with what we were all soon to learn is a metronomic boot to give Filton an early 7-0 lead.

From the restart, Filton re-gathered and worked their phases into the Millfield half. This time though the pressure only yielded a penalty which Skelton converted to add an extra three points to the scoreboard.

Many other sides might have collapsed at this point, ten points down early on against a top quality side; it’s often the easy thing to do. But not Millfield, captain Robbie Tait gathered his men and demanded more from them, and more they gave.

Tait and his back row partners Davis and Radford began to demand more of the ball, using their excellent ball carrying ability to punch holes in the Filton defence across the park.

Half backs Sheedy and Turner were only too happy to let this hard working trio take on the hard yards, knowing that it would create space elsewhere later on.

It is the mark of a good fly half though to know exactly when it is on, and Sheedy showed here that he is straight out of the top drawer, suddenly demanding the ball he swept it out wide for the powerful Haines to go barrelling over on the left hand side after good hands from Radford.

Fullback Whiteley was left with a tough conversion on the touchline that he just pushed wide, but there was an obvious air of belief in the Millfield camp now.

One area though that Millfield continued to struggle in though was the maul. Filton recognised this and through a lineout in the Millfield half, again opted to catch and drive, eventually yielding another penalty as Millfield were left with no option but to bring it down.

Once again Skelton slotted the penalty, keeping Millfield over a score behind.

In return though, Millfield scored what has to be considered one of the best try’s of the season. After a bout of tactical kicking, Tom Whiteley seized upon a loose one and sniffed an opportunity.

Accelerating like a wild Formula 1 car, he skittled his way through the Filton defence, using his slight frame to his advantage as the opponents looked to make a big tackle while he simply danced around them.

After from swift hands from those supporting, Dafi Davies was released down the right wing to score, a fitting reward for the Number 8 who’s influence on the game was as telling as anyone’s. Whiteley added the extras, bringing Millfield right into the frame at 12-13.

With their tails up and the Millfield support chanting, the home team began to really exert some pressure and it began to tell as the Filton defence let slip a penalty in front of the posts for Whiteley to put Millfield in the lead for the first time 15-13.

It was to be a short lived lead though as from the restart Filton were awarded a penalty that Skelton pinged into the corner. This set up another rolling maul that Filton marched towards the try line for hooker Ryan Roach to score. With Skelton adding the extras, Millfield’s lead was suddenly a 20-15 deficit.

Millfield heads dropped a little at this point, though the tough tackling Radford was doing his bit to try and pick them up, but two quick try’s from Filton full back Jack Hughes had the away side racing away.

The second try was a well worked set piece move, but the first should have been prevented. As it was though, Skelton converted one to leave Filton 32-15 ahead going into half time.

We can only guess at what John Mallet said to his team at half time but it must have been good as Millfield came out for the second half looking rejuvenated and full of belief.

They began to put huge pressure on the Filton defence, and while they continued to use their talented back row to carry, they started using them out wide more often in tandem with Denham and Hopkins the wings.

The penalty count against Filton began to steadily rise as the pressure turned on, and Millfield went to the corner, desperately searching for points. They set up a maul of their own, and where in the first half they had looked vulnerable to it, now it was Filton who were buckling.

Filton collapsed the maul and the referee reached for his pocket to send Filton substitute Brad Kislingbury (19) to the bin. Millfield couldn’t capitalise though after they opted to run it but were narrowly held up.

Millfield kept returning though as Delahnunty started to come into the game more as a ball carrier. After further Millfield pressure, the irrepressible Denham came crashing in off his wing. Half tackled by the outstanding Reed, he stumbled but made it over the try line. The Millfield crowd roared only to be suddenly hushed by the referee’s decision that it was a double movement.

Even this though could not deter Millfield from their second half upsurge and back they cam again after Filton had cleared their lines, churning out further penalties as their continued pressure for the defence to yield them.

Once again Tait ordered Sheedy to go to the corner, setting up the driving maul again. Again they marched forward before Turner unleashed Sheedy who darted back in to within a metre of the line.

Turner looked wide again, this time with the ball crashing up in the centres. This time though the charge was stopped short, but only due to a high tackle from Charlton. Once again the referee reached for his pocket to bring Filton down to 14 men for the second time.

A scuffle broke out following the yellow as he game became increasingly bad tempered as the penalty count began to rise and the referee refusing to really get involved with any bad tempered play.

From the resultant penalty Millfield again went to the corner to set up the driving maul. As before they marched forward before halting and collapsing suddenly, before the Millfield crowd could register their anger there was an almighty roar as the referee ran beneath the posts, penalty try.

Whiteley knocked over the extras to make it 22-32. With Millfield on the rise it looked likely to be a tense and close finish.

For what seemed like the first time all half though, Filton began to get a bit of possession, driving forward on halfway, suddenly an almighty scuffle broke out. It seemed all rather out of the blue but the referee sent Millfield scrum half Turner to the bin for what emerged as ‘artistic’ footwork.

Skelton missed the penalty though and normal second half service was resumed as Millfield began to sustain wave after wave of attack again.

Try as they might though, they just couldn’t get the vital score to bring the game closer towards them, and the referee soon blew the final whistle.

Final Score: Millfield 22-32 Filton

Star Performers:

Millfield – Dafi Davies, outstanding in defence and even more outstanding going forward. Made ground every time he got the ball and positionally very good.

Filton -  Jack Skelton, his metronomic first half kicking gave Filton a close to unassailable lead, while his clearance kicking in the second half just relieved the pressure enough for the defence to recoup.

Millfield:

15. T.Whiteley, 14. S.Denham, 13. L.Delahunty, 12. P.J.Van Den Burg, 11. B.Hopkins, 10. C.Sheedy, 9. T.Turner; 1. J.Catlin, 2. J.Haines, 3. J.Owlett, 4. R.Richardson, 5. T.Ellis, 6. W.Radford 7. R.Tait (Captain) 8. D.Davies. 

Replacements: J.Radford, L.Jenkins, H.Cundy.

Filton:

15. J.Hughes, 14. G.Asante, 13. L.Slowik, 12. N.Carpenter, 11. A.Slowik, 10. J.Skelton, 9. W.Baird; 1. L.Panting, 2. R.Roach, 3. R.Thomson, 4. B.Charlton, 5. H.Ivall, 6. C.Wallis, 7. J.Polledri 8. M.Reed (Captain).

Replacements: K.Harris, J.Puddy, A.Uren, B.Kislingbury

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