England U18 edged to victory over Wales in the FIRA/AER European Championship semi final through a late Harry Mallinder penalty.
The Rugby School out half/inside centre slotted the kick from just short of the halfway line with just four minutes left on the clock to give his side an 11-9 lead and subsequent victory after Wales had squandered several penalty chances earlier in the half.
In fairness it was a miserable day for rugby let alone for place kicking, making Mallinderâ€™s all the more impressive, as driving rain, wind, and hail helped turn the game into a battle of wills.
England got off to better start that their Welsh rivals, taking an early lead through a driving score from Truro College prop, Jack Stanley.
Following that though the game because a true contest of attrition, with Wales utterly excelling on the floor. They were much like some of the Finlay Calder led Scotland sides of the late eighties, creating â€˜organised chaosâ€™ at the breakdown as they refused to allow England any clean ball or settled possession. Following that their line speed was right out of the Shaun Edward/Andy Farrell coaching manual.
That breakdown work allowed Wales to take a 9-5 lead after three successive penalties, however a yellow card with just a minute of the half remaining allowed Theo Brophy-Clews of Abindgon School to land a penalty for England to send them into the break just a point down at 8-9.
That was how it was to stay until that late Mallinder kick. Wales had a few penalty chances but could hardly be criticised for missing given the conditions, particularly as one was from halfway into the wind following a slightly surprising yellow card for England and Giggleswick Schoolâ€™s Taylor Prell.
The full back appeared to see yellow for holding on, which given that the offence was on halfway sees unusual. That aside, the full back was one of the gameâ€™s star performers, coping admirably in torrid conditions for a full back.
The victory means that England are in their fourth final in a row, where they will face Ireland, who beat last year’s finalists France by an impressive 24-11 scoreline. That game will be on Friday at 15.30, following the conclusion of the third place play off between Wales and France.
Speaking after the game, England U18 Head Coach John Fletcher said:
â€œIt was almost like a winterâ€™s day up north out there today â€“ not only was it wet but it was extremely cold. We made mistakes, but thatâ€™s to be expected in the conditions. Itâ€™s sometimes easier not to have the ball when the weatherâ€™s like that, and to be honest it could have gone either way.â€
â€œWeâ€™re really pleased to get into the FIRA final though â€“ the lads deserve it. They didnâ€™t give up against a strong Welsh defence and got their reward late on.â€
Scotland meanwhile beat Portugal 35-11 to seal their place in the 5th/6th place play off with a six try victory. They will face Italy, who beat Georgia 15-13, which leaves Georgia playing Portugal for 7th.
England U18 XV:
15 Taylor Prell (Giggleswick School, Leeds Carnegie)
14 George Perkins (Oaklands, Saracens)
13 Lucas SlowikÂ (Filton College, Bristol Rugby)
12 Charlie Thacker (Leicester Grammar, Leicester Tigers)
11 Kai Little (Hartpury College, Exeter Chiefs)
10 Theo Brophy-Clews (Abingdon School, London Irish)
9 Jack Maunder (Blundellâ€™s School, Exeter Chiefs)
1 Lewis Boyce (Prince Henry’s Grammar, Leeds Carnegie)
2 Ollie Adams (St Pauls Catholic College, London Irish)
3 Jack Stanley (Truro College, Exeter Chiefs)
4 Huw Taylor (Old Swinford Hospital, Worcester Warriors)
5 George Nott (Kings School Chester, Sale Sharks)
6 Joe Batley (Hartpury College, Gloucester Rugby)
7 Sam UnderhillÂ (Sir Thomas Richâ€™s School, Gloucester Rugby, captain)
8 Will Safe (Hartpury College, Gloucester Rugby).
Replacements: 16 James Fish (Trent College, Northampton Saints) â€¨17 Owen Hills (Queen Elizabeth Wyggeston College, Leicester Tigers) â€¨18 Josh Ibuanokpe (Dulwich College, Harlequins)â€¨ 19 Stanley South (Whitgift School, Harlequins)â€¨ 20 Callum Chick (Gosforth Academy, Newcastle Falcons) â€¨21 Josh Bainbridge (Prince Henryâ€™s Grammar, Leeds Carnegie)â€¨ 22 Alex Mitchell (Lymm High School, Sale Sharks)â€¨ 23 Harry Mallinder (Rugby School, Northampton Saints)â€¨ 24 Joe Marchant (Peter Symonds, Harlequins)â€¨ 25 Rotimi Segun (Stowe School, Northampton Saints) â€¨26 Cameron Cowell (St Pauls Catholic College, London Irish).
Wales U18 (from):
Forwards: Kieron Assirratti (Blues/ Coleg y Cymoedd/ Wattstown), Robert Lewis (Blues/ St Peters / Coleg y Cymoedd), Harrison Walsh (Ospreys / Bishopgore / Mumbles), Liam Belcher (Blues/ Coleg y Cymoedd / Pontypridd), Dafydd Hughes (Scarlets / Llandovery College / Llandovery), Sam Matthews (Ospreys/ Pencoed College), Matthew Dodd (Ospreys / Olchfa / Dunvant), Seb Davies (Blues / Coleg y Cymoedd / Pentyrch), Calum Haggett (Blues / Coleg y Cymoedd / Gilfach Goch), Tom Phillips (Scarlets / Coleg Sir Gar / Llangennech), Harrison Keddie (Dragons / Coleg Gwent / Caerleon), Lloyd Phillips (Scarlets/ Coleg Sir Gar/ Felinfoel), Shaun Evans (Scarlets/ Coleg Sir Gar/ Felinfoel), Ben Davies (Ospreys/ Pontarddulais Comp/ Pontarddulais), Josh Cole (Ospreys / Neath Port Talbot College / Tonmawr)
Backs: Matthew Aubrey (Ospreys/ Gower College/ Pontarddulais), Carl Lewis (Blues North/ Coleg y Cymoedd/ Treorchy), Jarrod Evans (Blues North/ Coleg y Cymoedd/ Pontypridd), Dan Jones (Scarlets / Coleg Sir Gar / Carmarthen Quins), Barney Nightingale (Newport High), Owen Watkin (Ospreys / Bridgend College / Bryncethin), Joe Gage (Ospreys/ Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera / Abercrave), Matthew Pearce (Ysgol y Strade / Llanelli Wanderers), Shaun Pearce (Scarlets / Glan y Mor / Bury Port), Rhys Gealy (Ospreys / YG Gwyr / Pontarddulais), Elis-Wyn Benham (Coleg y Cymoedd / St Joseph’s)