“The Field” was in perfect condition for a free flowing game of rugby. With Harlequins’ Tony Diprose and Howard Graham watching from the sideline the Epsom boys needed no further motivation to perform.
In the first minute a scrappy move off the lineout went to ground in the midfield, Epsom’s hacked the ball towards the try line from the outside centre berth, re-gathered and offloaded to the inside centre who scored with his first touch. 5-0 Epsom.
After a sustained period of pressure inside the Eton 22, Epsom received a penalty try for a deliberate knock on from Eton, the ball was slotted through the posts by the Epsom no.9. 12-0 Epsom.
Epsom’s half backs were controlling the game well, the scrum halves service was rapid and accurate and the fly halves languid style proved incredibly dangerous.
Eton’s dangerous no.14 went off after the first minute with a head knock. Eton’s attacking opportunities were left to their no.11, similar in style to ex England 7s player Callum Wilson, as well as the composed fly half. The no.10’s tactical kicking kept Eton in the game throughout the first half as well as some important clearing up in his own 22.
The first half never quite got into second gear, with the Eton no.12 holding up a last minute raid from the Epsom pack in the corner. Half time Epsom 8 – Eton 0.
Epsom’s dangerous outside centre and fly half had both gone off in the first half. This left their scrum half Niall Saunders to take on much of the creative responsibility and he certainly provided it. Dangerous running, brilliant distribution and a solid kicking game were displayed and its interesting to see that he was selected this week for Ireland’s U19 side.
The second half started off like the first with Epsom once again crashing through off of a scrum move with the Epsom no.13 now filling in on the left wing.
Eton’s attack never really got off the ground in the first half but they set up a driving maul to go close to the line. Several phases later the no.10 threw a lovely miss pass to the left wing but he fell over whilst the line beckoned. Eton were then held up over the line before a magical piece of play by their no.9 got them their first score. In Will Genia fashion the scrum half danced around the breakdown before slipping through a gap to go under the posts, 12-7 Epsom.
Epsom hit straight back to score, with a forward strolling round the side of a ruck to dot down, 19-7 Epsom.
The final score of the game came off the back of a clean break from the Epsom no.14, the fly half fed the ball onto the no.8 (now playing in the centres) who dummied and made it over the line only to be held up again by desperate Eton defence.
From the resulting scrum a scrappy pass from the no.9 found the elusive full back, the next breakdown saw the 9 go blind to put his team mate over for a score in the corner. Final score 24-7 Epsom.
Eton did well to keep the game close and their last ditch defence was incredible at times, several tries were kept at bay with excellent goal line defence. In the end though they didn’t have enough of a platform up front to compete with the visitors or fire power out wide.
Having seen Eton now play twice this season you can see which players play well consistently. The no.11 provides great go forward for the side and as I mentioned earlier is comparable physically to Callum Wilson. The no.10 was calm and composed and showed an excellent tactical kicking game throughout the match. The full back is dangerous and I think Eton missed the threat of their right winger who went off early.
Epsom are a classy outfit as seen by their results this season, the no.8 showed off a powerful running game and fend and looked quite at home in the centres when forced there due to injury.
The 9 was very impressive, the 10 showed flashes of brilliance and has a wide range of offloads and passes. No.12 ran some intelligent unders lines and should have scored a couple more tries if not for some great defence from the Eton full back. The outside centre was lethal every time he touched the ball, it was a real shame to see him go off. Might need some work down the line on decision-making but his footwork, strength and pace were on a different level to the rest of the boys on the pitch.
Epsom will now travel to Haileybury for the Champions Trophy quarter finals, you can see the full draw here: Champions Trophy quarter finals.
Full Time: Eton College 7-24 Epsom College