Aviva A League: Wanderers and Braves reach the final, but in contrasting ways

Northampton Wanderers and Exeter Braves will meet in the Aviva A League final next week after winning their respective semi finals last night.


Exeter Braves saw off Newcastle Falcons A by a stunning 48-15 margin at Sandy Park, while Northampton Wanderers ended Saracens Storm’s hopes of retaining their title as they battled to a 16-12 win at home at Franklin’s Gardens.


Northampton led 8-3 at half time thanks to a try from Ben Nutley and a JJ Hanrahan penalty, with Saracens responding only with a Ben Spencer penalty.


Spencer narrowed the gap to 8-6 with a penalty just a few minutes after half time, only for Hanrahan to quickly respond for the Wanderers. Saracens then went on the offensive though, and two further Spencer penalties saw the defending champions take a 12-11 lead with just twenty minutes left to play.


Northampton Wanderers did not wilt under the pressure though, and soon scored a second try, through scrum half Tom Kessell, after Hanrahan had turned down the chance for three points, opting instead for the corner as Northampton put the squeeze on the visitors.


Both sides picked youthful teams mixed with plenty of experience, Northampton had an academy centre pairing of Rory Hutchinson and Sam Olver, with the outstanding Lewis Ludlum on the openside flank.


Saracens meanwhile had three schoolboys in their squad, with Berkhamsted’s Jack Nay starting at blindside, while Haileybury’s Nick Isiekwe and Tonbridge’s Ben Earl were both on the bench.


Over at Sandy Park matters were far more simple, with Exeter Braves crusing to a 48-15 victory over the second placed side in the Northern Conference, Newcastle Falcons A. They will now host the final against Northampton Saints on Monday 2nd May.


The Braves scored a stunning eight tries, with Namibian international Chrysander Botha grabbing three and rising Italian star Michele Campagnaro bagging a brace, meanwhile Ben White, Elvis Taione, and Bryon McGuigan also crossed the whitewash, while fly half Will Hooley landed eight points with his boot.


Newcastle Falcons crossed the line twice, both through Argentine centre Belisario Agulla, with Ireland U20 international Brett Connon scoring five points after landing a penalty and a conversion.


Exeter dominated from start to finish, though with the scores at 22-10 at half time, the crushing margin of victory that was to unfold was perhaps not quite so easy to predict.


Both sides opted for a fair amount of experience in their line ups, with the likes of Kai Horstmann, Tom Johnson, and Haydn Thomas all starting for Exeter and Alessana Tuilagi, Scott Lawson, Ally Hogg, and Todd Clever all in the Newcastle Falcons fifteen.


However they did still find room for youth, Exeter had the likes of Stuart Townsend and Pete Laverick on the bench, while Newcastle included Connon at fly half and the likes of Craggs and Dawson on the bench.


The evening was also a big one for the referee as Harlequins’ Karl Dickson, a familiar man with the whistle on many school pitches, took charge of this fixture.


Attention now turns to Monday for the final at Sandy Park for what should be an exciting fixture between two good teams with plenty of youth in their ranks too.


Aviva A League Semi Final Results:

Exeter Braves 48-15 Newcastle Falcons A

Northampton Wanderers 16-12 Saracens Storm


Aviva A League Final:

Exeter Braves v Northampton Wanderers– Sandy Park




Northampton Wanderers

15 James Wilson 14 Tom Collins 13 Rory Hutchinson 12 Sam Olver 11 Jamie Elliott 10 JJ Hanrahan 9 Tom Kessell 1 Ethan Waller 2 Matti Williams 3 Gareth Denman 4 Michael Paterson 5 James Craig 6 Ben Nutley 7 Lewis Ludlam 8 Sion Bennett.

Replacements: 16 James Fish 17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi 18 Adam Parkins 19 Jordan Onojaife 20 Alex Moon 21 Tim Duschene 22 Howard Packman 23 George Furbank.


Saracens Storm

15 Matt Gallagher 14 Mike Ellery 13 Tim Streather 12 Nick Tompkins 11 Nathan Earle 10 Nils Mordt 9 Ben Spencer 1 Richard Barrington 2 Jared Saunders 3 Titi Lamositele 4 Hayden Smith 5 Kieran Low 6 Jack Nay 7 Anthony Maka 8 Samu Vunisa.

Replacements: 16 Josh Taylor 17 Ralph Adams-Hale 18 Biyi Alo 19 Nick Isiekwe 20 Ben Earl 21 Tom Whiteley 22 Aaron Morris 23 Rotimi Segun.


Exeter Braves

15 Chrysander Botha 14 Max Bodilly 13 Michele Campagnaro 12 Tom Hendrickson 11 Matt Jess 10 Will Hooley 9 Haydn Thomas 1 Brett Sturgess 2 Elvis Taione 3 Carl Rimmer 4 Ollie Atkins 5 Lewis Stevenson 6 Tom Johnson 7 Ben White 8 Kai Horstmann (capt).

Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton 17 Jake Woolmore 18 Alex Brown 19 Ed Holmes 20 Sam Simmonds 21 Stu Townsend 22 Byron McGuigan 23 Pete Laverick.


Newcastle Falcons A

15 Dan Marshall 14 Giovanbattista Venditti 13 Belisario Agulla 12 Juan Pablo Socino 11 Alesana Tuilagi 10 Brett Connon 9 Sonatane Takulua 1 Ben Harris 2 Scott Lawson (capt) 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama 4 Will Witty 5 Harry Snowdon 6 Joshua Chisanga 7 Todd Clever 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 David Nelson 17 Adam Brocklebank 18 Eric Fry 19 Seb Ferreira 20 Santiago Socino 21 Joe Craggs 22 Ruaridh Dawson 23 Adam Redman.

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