Hartpury beat valiant Oaklands to win the AASE Title

Harptury College beat Oaklands College 20-10 at Saracens’ Allianz Park to make it a hat trick of AASE League Titles.

Heart, determination and coolness under pressure were the key qualities in victory for the Gloucestershire side in a match that was actually dominated by Oaklands for much of the game.

Hartpury were 10-5 down with less than twenty minutes remaining but a stunning comeback saw them post fifteen unanswered points in that final period of the game to leave Oaklands wondering what might have been.

Hartpury came out of the traps well, tackling aggressively from the kick off, but Oaklands soon got into a vibrant attacking rhythm, with Nathan Earle, Nick Tompkins and Mark Lawrence looking particularly threatening with the ball in hand, while Hayden Stringer was in typically rumbustious form in the pack.

For all of their attacking potential though Oaklands just could not breach the Hartpury defence, their serial AASE champions scramble defence in particular was sensational with Ellis Genge and Callum Bowden snaffling and slowing ball expertly to keep the Saracens feeder side out.

Hartpury soaked up the pressure all half though and sneaked over through Will Monroe to give themselves a 5-0 lead, which they carried through to the break.

The second half began much like the first, with Oaklands dominating territory and possession, attacking with a pace and electricity that the 4G surface at the Allianz Park is intended to promote.

This time though Oaklands got the points to go with their territory though as they crossed twice in the opening fifteen minutes of the half to deservedly go 10-5 up.

With Josh Sharp beginning to show some of his England U18’s form it looked as though Oaklands would be able to push on and score more points, however going behind seemed to galvanise Hartpury as they began to show their best form of the game.

Having been largely peripheral figures, Hartpury now began to make ground with every contact and were moving the ball with real purpose. Prop George Edgson looked to have moved into the back row and his influence on the game began to measurably increase as he carried with purpose, driving the Oaklands defence back.

A penalty soon followed and Reece Boughton calmly knocked it over to reduce the deficit to just 2 points as the Hartpury faithful in the West Stand began to make their voices heard.

Oaklands continued to push when in possession but the momentum had shifted Hartpury’s way as they began turning over possession regularly. As the game moved into the final ten minutes they surged into the Oaklands 22, pressurising the defence, and with five minutes to go they crossed again to give them a 13-10 advantage, the first time they had led since the break.

It looked like the final nail in the coffin for Oaklands who seemed to be rather shellshocked by the sudden change in pace and precision from the Hartpury XV.

In truth though it seemed simply that Hartpury just know how to win these big finals, remaining calm and controlled in both attack and defence, regardless of the scoreline, trusting that their sheer desire for victory allayed to their skill and strategy would see them home.

As the clock ticked towards the final minute the Hartpury fans demanded another score from their superb U18 1st XV, their team obliged with another driving score from close ranging after sustained pressure in the Oaklands 22.

Boughton converted to spark jubilant celebrations from the men in red, giving them a 20-10 victory and a third AASE Championship in a row.

It was a magnificent effort from Oaklands who produced some thrilling rugby, but Hartpury showed once again that when it comes to U18 rugby they are the standard bearers in England, calm, controlled, skilful and determined, a fantastic outfit.

Teams:

Oaklands

15. Earle 14. Reynolds 13. Tompkins 12. Lawrence 11. Perkins 10. Sharp 9. Calder; 1. Castigllone 2. Taylor 3. Webb 4. Patterson 5. Farrance 6. O’Neill 7. Elliot 8. Stringer.

Hartpury

15. Perry 14. Little 13. Griffiths 12. Edwards 11. Monro 10. Hayward 9. Boughton; 1. Edgson 2. Charles 3. Clarey 4. Hughes 5. Hill 6. Ludlow 7. Bowden 8. Genge.

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