England U16s continued their success from the BMW Wellington International Festival with a win versus Wales U16s this weekend at Neath RFC.
In the end the difference was that of a single conversion from Altrincham Grammar Schoolâ€™s Alistair Crossdale, who scored a brilliant fourteen points, as England won the game 24-22.
There were over 2,000 people there to witness the next generation of international stars, and they were not to be left disappointed.
Wales got off to a fast start, going 15-3 up through tries from Keelan Giles and Patrick Lewis, and a Phil Jonesâ€™ penalty and conversion, with Englandâ€™s points coming from the boot of Altrincham Gramamr School fly half, Ali Crossdale.
Much of Walesâ€™ momentum came from the quick sniping of Llandovery College scrum half Harry Randall, but England second row Nick Isiekwie, from Nicholas Breakspear School, responded with a tap penalty of his own to bring England back within striking distance, before Crossdale scored a delightful try, which he converted himself, to give the visitors a 17-15 lead at the break.
A serious looking injury for Walesâ€™ Joe Thomas caused a long delay at the start of the second half, but upon the game restarting England were the side in the ascendancy.
They capitalised through a try from Trinity School winger Gabriel Ibitoye, which with Crossdaleâ€™s conversion took the score out to 24-15.Wales soon hit back though through a well deserved try from Randall to take them to within two points of England.
That was how the scores were to remain for the rest of the game though. The injury to Thomas at the start of the half meant that there was plenty of time left, however despite some heavy pressure and a few penalty chances, Wales were unable to capitalise, just missing out by two points.
What a close scoreline like this demonstrates though is the quality that both sides have available at this age group, something that Wales U16s Team Manager, Gerry Roberts, was keen to point out:
“What a cracking match and one which was on a knife edge until the very end, we could have won it with a little more composure but the boys were terrific against a bigger England outfit and there is plenty of talent coming through at this age group.”
Englandâ€™s Head Coach, Steve Shorthand also praised both sides for their play, but maintained that the focus at U16 level is on development and process, saying:
â€œI am pleased for the boys because they have worked incredibly hard. Obviously we are delighted with the outcome but this programme is about development not results.â€
â€œOver the last week we have encouraged the boys to focus on getting the processes right, knowing that the score would then take care of itself.â€
â€œWe struggled to get momentum and phase play in the first half. At the break we talked about the need to get the forwards into slightly wider channels and to create the space for our dominant runners to get the ball in hand. Our tries were scored by individual flare at crucial moments and got us out of jail.Â â€œ
â€œFull credit to Wales for the way they played today. It must have been tough on them going in two points down at half-time. The game was very close and could have gone either way. It was a great challenge for both teams.â€
Also in action this weekend were the England U19s and U17s against their French counterparts at Broadstreet RFC in Coventry.
The U17s began proceedings at 1pm and they secured a nailbiting 29-25 victory, with tries from Paolo Odogwu, Shiplakeâ€™s Fili Savou, and Stoweâ€™s Rotimi Segun, who won the FIRA/AER European Championships with England U18s earlier this month.
The U19s were also victorious, though a little more comfortably with a 28-15 scoreline. Their victory came courtest of tries from Stuart Townsend, Tom Fowlie, and Howard Packman, with thirteen points from the boot of Sam Olver securing victory for the young English side.
Packman, Fowlie, and Olver will all be in action for the England U20s at the Junior World Championship in June, having been named in the squad for the tournament last week.
With recent victories in the last two weeks at every level from U16 to U19, the future of England rugby certainly looks bright.
Full Time Scores:
Wales U16 22-24 England U16
England U17 29-25 France U17
England U19 28-15 France U17
Tries: K Giles, P Lewis, H Randall
Conversions: P Jones, D Williams
Penalty: P Jones
Tries: N Isiekwe, A Crossdale, G Ibitoye
Conversions: A Crossdale (3)
Penalty: A Crossdale
J Rosser (Abersychan CS),Â K Giles (Gowerton CS),Â O Lane (Whitchurch HS),Â I Nicholas (Maes Y Gwendraeth),Â P Lewis (Lewis School Pengam),Â P Jones (Gowerton CS),Â H Randall ( Llandovery College, captain),Â R Carre (Corpus Christi CS),Â C Tarrant (Porth CS ),Â J Davies (Amman Valley CS),Â J Ratti (Bishopston CS),Â C Bradbury (Bryncelynnog CS),Â S Lewis-Hughes (Ysgol Gyfyn Cymmer),Â M Morris (Gowerton CS),Â O Ellis (Ysgol Llanhari).
Replacements: T Sheppard (Ysgol Cymer),Â D Williams (Treorchy CS),Â D Smith (Glan Y Mor CS),Â S Gibbon (Gowerton CS), J Liney (Gowerton CS), H Dodds (Llandaff Cathedral),Â J Thomas (Blackwood CS), ),Â J Cambriani.
15. Oliver Graham (Castle School, Bath),Â 14. Callum Sirker (Harrow School, London Wasps), â€¨13. Matt Williams (Wellington College, London Irish), â€¨12. Suva Maâ€™asiÂ (Wootton School, Northampton Saints), â€¨11. Gabriel Ibitoye (Trinity School, Harlequins,), â€¨10. Alistair Crossdale (Altrincham GS, Sale Sharks), â€¨9. Joshua Nott (RGS Worcester, Worcester Warriors), â€¨1.Â George Cave (Bedford School, Northampton Saints), â€¨2.Â Henry Walker (Bromsgrove School, Gloucester), â€¨3. Joseph Morris (King Edward VI Aston, Worcester Warriors), â€¨4. Ben Kelland (Royal Hospital School, Northampton Saints), â€¨5. Nick Isiekwie (Nicholas Breakspear, Saracens), â€¨6.Â Jack Nay (The Hayesbrook School, Saracens), â€¨7. Thomas Curry (Bishop Heber HS, Sale Sharks), â€¨8.Â Ben Earl (Tonbridge School, Saracens, captain).
Replacements: 16. Matt Kouris (Wavell School, London Irish),â€¨ 17. Will Vaughan (Heathfield School, Bath), â€¨18. Will Dennis (Selby High School, Leeds Carnegie), â€¨19. Kalius Hutchinson (Coundon Court, Worcester Warriors), â€¨20. Zac Xiourouppa (Ellesmere College, Worcester Warriors), â€¨21. Charlie Gowling (Sedbergh School, Newcastle Falcons), â€¨22. Matthew RiddingtonÂ (Oakham School, Leicester Tigers), â€¨23. Reuben Bird-Tulloch (Eltham College, Saracens).