England opened the U18 5 Nations Festival with a 15-12 win over Ireland at SGS Filton College.
It was a hard fought win in a game that really was in the balance for the majority of it, with both sides making plenty of errors as they tried to keep the ball alive in conditions and on a pitch that perhaps demanded a more territorial game.
Tries from Wellington College’s Tom Parton and Trinity’s Gabriel Ibitoye, each in fact set each other up, plus five points from the boot of Moulton College’s James Grayson were enough to secure the win despite Irish scores either side of half time.
Early on it looked like England might be in for a big win as they crossed the whitewash after just four minutes. Tom Parton produced the sort of magic that has been the hallmark of his Wellington College career to break away from fullback after an Irish spill, searing through before drawing the opposition full back.
With that, he released Ibitoye, who showed the pace that saw him begin his carrer on the wing before his move to the centres, the captain on the day scorched away to give Grayson an easy conversion to give England a 7-0 lead.
England tried to capitalise on that early lead, but with a greasy ball, their offloading game was proving inaccurate, and led to them being trapped trying to play rugby deep in their own half for far too long, eventually allowing Ireland two penalty chances, though luckily for England they both drifted wide.
England looked like they might just get to half time without conceding, however with the final play of the half, Ireland worked a move down the left hand touchline following a lineout to release hooker Ronan Kelleher to score.
James Hume added the conversion to send the teams into the break level at 7-7.
England were first on the scoresheet in the second half too though, landing a penalty after nine minutes of play through James Grayson, who shortly after saw another slip just wide.
It left England just 10-7 ahead, a lead that Ireland were to overcome just a few minutes later following another huge carry from Kelleher. The pressure yielded a kickable penalty, but Ireland went to the corner, setting up a powerful maul that England somehow held up.
Still the pressure was on though, with Ireland having the five metre scrum, anda magical pass from their scrum half released left wing Daniel Hurley to run in unopposed along the left touchline.
The angle created a tough kick though, so Ireland were unable to stretch their advantage to five points, instead just carrying a two point lead at 12-10.
England came hammering back though, and once again it was the Ibitoye/Parton partnership that was to prove Ireland’s undoing. Scorer Ibitoye turned provider this time, prodding through a delicate grubber, which was expertly gathered by Parton to dot down in the right hand corner. Umaga’s conversion was wide, but England had regained the lead at 15-12.
England might have had the lead, but as the game entered the closing stages, it was Ireland who were starting to control the possession and territory.
With under five minutes on the clock they were hammering on the England door, but England refused to crack. Tonbridge’s Ben Earl saw yellow as he conceded an important penalty on his own line, but with England managing to keep Ireland out for the remaining few minutes, he will reflect on what was ultimately the right call.
It was not the prettiest of starts to the U18 5 Nations Festival, but it was certainly intense, and England will be delighted to have come away from a tough game with a 15-12 victory.
They are in action again a week on Saturday against Scotland in Caerphilly, before a game against Wales four days later in St Helen’s, a fixture that is preceeded by England U18 ‘A’ facing Italy.
Ireland meanwhile are next in action on Tuesday against Scotland before the face Italy a week on Saturday.
Full Time: England U18 15-12 Ireland U18
England U18 XV
15 Tom Parton (Wellington College)
14 Levi Davis (Denstone College)
13 Gabriel Ibitoye (Trinity)
12 Jacob Umaga (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth)
11 Sam Yawayawa (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth)
10 James Grayson (Moulton College)
9 Ben White (Leicester Grammar)
1 Alex Seville (Hartpury College)
2 Henry Walker (Bromsgrove)
3 Joseph Morris (KES Aston)
4 Josh Williams (Hartlepool 6th form College)
5 Nick Isiekwe (Haileybury)
6 Ben Curry (Oundle)
7 Tom Curry (Oundle)
8 Ben Earl (Tonbridge)
Replacements: 16 Alex Rayment (Royal Hospital School) 17 Jaord Leat (St Paul’s Catholic College) 18 Ehren Painter (Felsted) 19 Dino Lamb-Cona (Cranleigh) 20 Sam Lewis (Denstone College) 21 Rory Brand (Wellington College) 22 Reuben Bird-Tulloch (Harrow) 23 Ben Loader (Wellington College)
Ireland U18 squad
Ollie Brown (Harpenden RFC / Exiles)
Alexander Clarke (Ballymena Academy / Ulster)
Eoghan Clarke (CBC Monkstown / Leinster)
Ronan Coffey (Ard Scoil Ris / Munster)
Matthew Dalton (Belfast Royal Academy / Ulster)
Conor Dean (Blackrock College / Leinster)
Caelan Doris (Blackrock College / Leinster)
Richard Dunne (Blackrock College / Leinster)
David Hawkshaw (Belvedere College / Leinster)
James Hume (RBAI / Ulster)
Daniel Hurley (Cresent CC / Munster)
Ronan Kelleher (St. Michael’s College / Leinster)
Sean Masterson (Portlaoise RFC)
Tadgh McCarthy (Bantry RFC / Munster)
John McCusker (Rainey Old Boys / Ulster)
Michael Milne (Roscrea / Munster)
James Newey (Christ College Brecon / Exiles)
Tommy O’Brien (Blackrock College / Leinster)
Hugh O’Sullivan (Belvedere College / Leinster)
Tom O’Toole (Campbell College / Ulster)
Callum Reid (RBAI / Ulster)
David Robb (Galwegians / Connacht)
Charlie Ryan (Blackrock College / Leinster)
Jonathon Stewart (Wallace High School / Ulster)
Liam Turner (Blackrock College / Leinster)
Conor Wharton (Oaklands College / Exiles)
U18 5 Nations Schedule:
England 15-12 Ireland
Wales v Scotland – St Helen’s, 25th March, 14.30
Ireland v Scotland – Caerphilly, 29th March, 17.15
Wales v Italy – Caerphilly, 29th March, 19.30
Italy v Ireland – Caerphilly, 2nd April, 11.00
England v Scotland – Caerphilly, 2nd April, 13.30
England A v Italy – St Helen’s, 6th April, 17.15
Wales v England – St Helen’s, 6th April, 19.30