Hampton School established a sufficient lead by the interval to withstand a spirited second half effort by Trinity School, Croydon, and so reach the sixth round of the NatWest Schools U18 Cup, London & South-East Region Group B.
Hampton, winners of the St Joseph’s tournament and having only lost this term to Wellington College and their perennial Cup nemesis Dulwich College, looked to be favourites on paper even without their injured captain Roman Malin-Hiscock, but Trinity have been tough Cup campaigners the past couple of years and would not shirk the physical challenge, while looking to release their outstanding Harlequins Academy and England U18 player, Gabriel Ibitoye.
With the home side having elected to use their 3G pitch and wintry sunshine prevailing, some open rugby looked to be in prospect, despite a chilly breeze blowing straight down the pitch. With the wind at their backs, Hampton found themselves defending in the opening minutes but would have gained confidence from successfully stopping Trinity danger man Ibitoye and forcing a penalty which enabled them to clear.
There then followed a period of sustained Hampton advantage in both territory and possession, punctuated only by an excellent run out of defence by Trinity scrum half Charlie Hammond. Ominously for the visitors, Hampton stole an early line out and began to dominate at the set scrum. After pressure in the right corner, play was switched left and an overlap created for wing Conor Larkin who seemed poised to score. He was stopped by a tackle which was judged to be high by the referee, who ran under the posts to award a penalty try. With fly half Ben Seddon converting and yellow having been shown to Trinity captain Charles Fatoma, the Surrey side were on the back foot.
Hampton’s backs looked to press the advantage, centre Zach Santos and full back Will Attfield combining in midfield, before the next score came through a piece of individual brilliance. Right wing Greiogair Hogg showed exceptional pace down the right touchline to beat the cover defence and dived in at the corner. Seddon’s touchline conversion was beautifully struck to make the score 14-0.
Even though the Trinity defence managed to prevent further scores when down to 14 men, with Fatoma back on, Hampton continued to press with some hard yards gained by their powerful forwards. Trinity right wing Oliver Jordan showed good pace to relieve the pressure briefly but his kick ahead was well fielded by Hogg. With halftime approaching Hampton won an attacking lineout on the 5m line and second row Sam Collingridge took a tap down and looked to have squeezed in at the left corner, but the touch judge indicated that he was in touch. There was still time for Hampton to switch play to the right corner, where a penalty gave the chance for a final attacking lineout. The resulting maul gained the necessary momentum and open side flanker Fraser Deans touched down.
Half time: Hampton School 19-0 Trinity School
The home side began the second half as they had ended the first, driving deep into the Trinity 22 and winning a penalty. Three points looked to be there for the taking, leaving Trinity needing four scores, but a tap was quickly taken and a long pass thrown wide to hooker Alex Bidwell. The Hampton captain had already consistently caught the eye with pace and power, and looked certain to score in the corner, but was just pushed into touch by excellent cover defence. A score still looked likely as the Hampton forwards regained possession and hammered at the line, but Collingridge was held up.
Finally Trinity got some possession in the Hampton half, with Fatoma starting to run the show. Although Ibitoye continued to be closely marked, he produced a skilful offload to full back Luke Medcraft who squeezed in at the left corner, Fatoma converting brilliantly from the touchline to bring his side back within two scores. With Hampton kicking away possession, Trinity took every opportunity to release their speedy back three and a second score looked possible. At last Ibitoye was able to find some space but his attempted scoring pass to Medcraft went into touch.
A beautifully struck Fatoma penalty from half way gave Trinity an attacking line out, and, although that was lost, a turnover gave them chance to release their backs, but Ibitoye, with the line apparently at his mercy, was unable to hang on to the pass in midfield. Hampton looked to run the ball out of their 22, and although Santos was stopped, with time running out Deans broke through and with the Trinity backs committed in attack kicked towards the left corner. It looked as if the ball would run into touch but Seddon picked up and dived over to complete the scoring on the final play.
Hampton will hope to have Malin-Hiscock fit after Christmas when they will continue their Cup campaign in the Group final, with a potentially tricky visit to East Kent. There they will face Simon Langton G.S., for whom the Nicky Little led Academy is clearly starting to pay dividends with a convincing win against John Fisher in Round 5, reversing a 7-60 defeat to the Purley school in last year’s Cup competition.
Full time: Hampton School 24-7 Trinity School
Hampton School: Rory Cariss; Alex Bidwell (Capt.), Henry Depel; Ryan Henshall; Sam Collingridge; Will Ainslie; Fraser Deans; Will Verdan; Ben Harrison; Ben Seddon; Conor Larkin; Zach Santos; Mike Woollatt; Greiogair Hogg; Will Attfield
Trinity School: Thomas Petty; Stephen Hall; Toby Forrester; Connor Simpson; Benjamin Moran; Reece McCarthy; Francesco Gosnell; Nathan Dunford; Charlie Hammond; Charles Fatoma (Capt.); Zuriel Makele; Gabriel Ibitoye; Samuel Dore; Oliver Jordan; Luke Medcraft