Grey skies and chilly temperatures did nothing to deter the home crowds support for this Champions Trophy matchup. With hundreds of students, parents and the odd schoolboy scout, including England legend Richard Hill, the stage was set for a cracking Semi Final.
Epsom’s inside centre, Adam Causer, set the tone for the rest of the afternoon nailing a first minute penalty to get the hosts on the scoreboard. On reflection I don’t think he missed and in the end this proved the difference between the two sides.
Blundell’s centre partnership showed their pace and ambition early on with outside centre Arthur Friend rounding his opposite man and scorching down the left touchline. The Devon side approached the line but scrum half Jacob Wood was just held up after darting over from 5m out.
After several phases Epsom’s left wing, Peter O’Brien, took an intercept and raced down the left touchline only to be hauled into touch by the pacy Friend for Blundell’s. A few phases later and Epsom were awarded another penalty this time from 45m out, Causer slotting it over with a brilliant strike, 6-0 Epsom.
The last time I saw Epsom play away at Eton their no.13 Gareth Stephens really impressed me with his athleticism and running lines. It was Stephens who scored the games first try dummying the winger and going over after a dangerous attack from Epsom. 13-0 Epsom at half time.
Blundell’s coaches obviously gave a quality half time team talk with their side starting strongly after the break. Their fly half, Cam Seymour, who grew into the game and was incredibly dangerous in the second half, sliced through the line with ease drew the full back and put the impressive Friend in for Blundell’s first try. 13-10 Epsom.
The next attack Wood snuck round the side of the ruck for Blundell’s, a penalty was awarded to the attacking side and full back Josh Simmons slotted it over at the second attempt after Ivo Slot charged the first attempt. 13-13.
Due to injuries, Epsom had now put the impressive James Gulliver from 7 to 8, with number 8 William Onslow-Wyld moving to 13, and Stephens to the wing. After surging down the pitch they put on a backs move with the Stephens hitting an unders line off his captain. Stephens broke the first tackle, evaded the fullback and dived over the line for a momentous score. The crowd went absolutely wild including his mother who was stood on the hill behind me. 20-13 Epsom.
Shortly after Blundell’s struck back with Simmons putting their replacement winger, Will Klinkenberg, over for a score on the right touchline. Simmons’ conversion attempt just hit the right hand post.
Epsom were awarded a penalty from the kickoff and elected for a scrum instead of going for goal, Gulliver took off from the back of the scrum showing serious pace. His offload found Angus Celemnts, on at replacement scrum half, who quickly fed his inside centre, Causer shifted it on for his 8 to carry over in the corner. As if that was not hard enough for Blundell’s, Causer then nailed his conversion from the right touchline, 27-18 Epsom.
Blundell’s ensured a tight finish with their Seymours once again breaking the line and finding his blindside flanker, Charlie Wilder, with an offload, Simmons again hit the right post, 27-23 Epsom. Full time.
Blundell’s are obviously a very well coached outfit, their forwards were incredibly mobile and showed impressive hands throughout. At one point I even noticed them using the diamond attacking structure that Bath employ so effectively in the Premiership.
Although slighter than his opposite man Arthur Friend at outside centre for the away side was a constant threat and worked will in conjunction with the 9, 10 and 12. Simmons missed a couple of important kicks towards the end however he was lively and surprisingly rapid, evading tackles in his own 22 to great effect. I was very impressed with them and they wouldn’t have looked out of place in the final.
It emerged before the match that Epsom College captain and scrum half, Niall Saunders, was ruled out due to a concussion he received a few weeks previously playing for Harlequins. Saunders was very impressive against Eton and I was quite disappointed to find out he wasn’t fit. Epsom aren’t a one man team however, their second row was impressive in the tight, Gulliver and Onslow-Wyld at 7 and 8 were both very dynamic in their carrying. The openside especially was threatening with ball in hand.
In the backs replacement 9 Ivo Slot’s service was good throughout, and fly half Isaac Braithwaite showed glimpses of his talent and his long passing was a highlight. I have mentioned Causer’s incredible kicking, he also provided good distribution to the outside backs and battled through what looked like a leg injury. Stephens was kept quiet for large periods but when he was in space he looked lethal. Epsom will have a tough matchup with Bedford who knocked over Sedbergh in the other semi, you can see our report from that game here: Sedbergh v Bedford.
Full Time: Epsom College 27-23 Blundell’s
|Nicholas Phizackerley||1||Ben Oliphant-Thompson|
|Callum Torpey||2||Ollie Mitchell|
|Elliot King||3||Maga Shogenov|
|Connor Norris||4||Henry Hunt|
|William Hobday||5||Will Scott|
|Oscar Waite||6||Charlie Wilder|
|James Gulliver||7||Charlie Luxton|
|William Onslow-Wyld||8||Jono Slee|
|Ivo Slot||9||Jacob Wood|
|Isaac Braithwaite||10||Cam Seymour|
|Peter O’Brien||11||Ben Summers|
|Adam Causer||12||Euan Friend|
|Gareth Stephens||13||Arthur Friend|
|William Kibblewhite||14||Archie Stoneman|
|Harry Cooke||15||Josh Simmons|
|Tristan Bartlett||16||Teppei Himeno|
|Jamie Anderson||17||Hugh Hamilton-Green|
|Angus Clements||18||Jake Attwell|
|Max Turner||19||Will Klinkenberg|
|James Owens||20||Tom Hancocks|
|Nicholas Whitehead||21||Eddie Gardner|
|Harry Roberts||22||Bertie Frankpitt|