It was a tough start for England U18 as they lost their opening game of their South African tour to France U18 in Cape Town.
England had an opportunity to snatch the win late on as a last ditch effort was held up by the French, but Les Blues held on for a solid 23-18 victory.
It was the culmination of what was nearly a very impressive comeback from England, who had been 23-18 down at half time. France had taken an early lead through a penalty before England stole in front through an intercept try from Wasps’ Jacob Umaga followed by a penalty from Northampton Saints and Moulton College fly half, James Grayson.
France bounced back impressively though to score twenty points in the remainder of the half to set up that 23-8 half time platform.
England charged back in the second half though, scoring tries through Sedbergh and Sale Sharks’ Sam Moore and Gloucester at St Peter’s tighthead Ciaran Knight, though neither was converted, before setting up that late chance for victory.
It was a tough loss for the young English side, but speaking to www.englandrugby.com after the game, Head Coach John Fletcher saw plenty of positives:
“We completely dominated the second-half and had opportunities to score late on, I thought the second-half performance was strong and much improved. The reality is we’ve had two training sessions so the players need to get used to each other. We’ve thrown in some new combinations of guys who have been brought up from the U17s and it does take a little bit of time. The difference was France have been out here five days longer and have had a game prior to playing us.”
“There was some really pleasing points, especially with how the players adapted and their spirit in the second half and they would have learnt a lot. We scored some very good tries in very difficult conditions. So I’m delighted with how they played in the second half.”
England will have a chance to get back to winning ways soon though, they won the inaugural U18 5 Nations earlier this year, as they take on South Africa Schools A on Tuesday before their final game on tour comes on Saturday 20th August against South Africa Schools.
Full Time: England U18 18-23 France U18
England U18 XV:
1 Alex Seville (Hartpury College & Gloucester)
2 Jamie Blamire (Gosforth Academy & Newcastle Falcons)
3 Ciaran Knight (St Peter’s Gloucester & Gloucester)
4 Ted Hill (Worcester 6th form College & Worcester Warriors)
5 Josh Williams (Hartlepool 6th form College & Newcastle Falcons)
6 Josh Bayliss (Millfield & Bath)
7 Tom Curry (Oundle & Sale Sharks)
8 Tom Willis (Henley College & Wasps)
9 Rory Brand (Wellington College & London Irish)
10 James Grayson (Moulton College & Northampton Saints)
11 Levi Davis (Denstone College & Leicester Tigers)
12 Jacob Umaga (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College & Wasps)
13 Matt Williams (Wellington College & London Irish)
14 Tom Parton (Wellington College & London Irish)
15 Ali Crossdale (Sedbergh & Saracens)
16 Henry Walker (Bromsgrove & Gloucester)
17 Jarod Leat (St Paul’s Catholic College & Wasps)
18 Ehren Painter (Felsted & Northampton Saints)
19 Dino Lamb-Cona (Cranleigh & Harlequins)
20 Sam Moore (Sedbergh & Sale Sharks
21 Ben Curry (Oundle & Sale Sharks)
22 Harry Simmons (Gresham’s & Leicester Tigers)
23 Ben Loader (Wellington College & London Irish)
24 Gabriel Ibitoye (Trinity & Harlequins)
England U18 18-23 France U18
England U18 v South Africa Schools A – Tuesday 16th August, 13.30
England U18 v South Africa Schools – Saturday 20th August, 13.15