Reigate Grammar School took an early lead against Eltham College and just managed to hang on in the final quarter for a 15-19 win as Lucas Overtoom kicked 14 points.
These schools have been regular block fixture opponents for many seasons, but the Kent School has prevailed in recent years at 1st XV level. With the outstanding year group which has been so successful through the school for Reigate now in the VIth Form, the Surrey based school were looking to reverse that trend against an Eltham side that is now in its first full season with Sam Howard as coach. Unfortunately injuries have taken their toll for Reigate, with outstanding centre Max Coyle among those unavailable.
Two early penalties from the reliable boot of captain and fly half Lucas Overtoom gave the visitors a 0-6 lead. That was extended after 15 minutes when Eltham full back Jacob Buckley was forced into touch inside his 22 and the Reigate line out, which was dominant throughout, set up a maul. That was driven to the line, with hooker Ciaran Nestor touching down and Overtoom adding the conversion from wide out.
With Gregson dominating the line out for Reigate, Eltham struggled for possession, but they were showing more of a threat than Reigate out wide, with the back three of Chanthrakumaran, Thomas and Buckley looking dangerous with ball in hand. A quick tap and go by scrum half Brendon Paulsen was stopped by the Reigate defence, but referee Matt Laycock had spotted that they had not retreated 10m and awarded another penalty from which Buckley narrowed the gap to ten points.
Half-time: Eltham College 3-13 Reigate G.S.
The second half saw Reigate having to make adjustments having suffered further injury woes, Joe Gregory leaving the field with Sean Watters moving to full back and Harry Swann coming on. Despite the enforced changes, they gained some early territorial advantage, with scrum half Alex Skinner and No 8 Paul Marshall combining. However, Eltham countered dramatically, inside centre Thomas Adamson atoning for some earlier handling errors by intercepting, before accelerating clear from inside his own half and impressively handing off the would-be cover tackler to score under the posts, Buckley converting.
After a third Overtoom penalty had stretched Reigate’s back to six points, Eltham scored a second try. After driving to the right corner, they won a penalty with was taken quickly by Paulsen. Although the scrum half was stopped, possession was retained and captain Nick Smith dived over in the corner. Although the Eltham backs continued to threaten, with Adamson combining effectively first with Thomas and then with Chanthrakumaran, normal service was soon resumed when the Reigate forwards drove into the Eltham 22 and won a penalty. Overtoom was on target for the fifth time.
With Reigate suffering further injuries to prop Toby Box and replacement Henry McCann, the momentum swung decisively to the home side. A lengthy period of Eltham pressure inside the Reigate 22 ensued, with several penalties won and, given the four point deficit, not kicked at goal. An excellent break by outside centre Dillon Robertson saw first hooker Oliver Colegate and then Adamson come close to scoring, but Mr Laycock judged that the defence had held the ball up.
Finally Reigate broke out of defence with an interception by Gus McGilligan; it seemed for a moment that the centre might go all the way to score, but he was pulled down on the 22. Reigate then had another penalty which was kicked to the corner. For once they did not win the ball cleanly but it seemed that they might have an attacking 5m scrum when the ball was fumbled beyond the in-goal area, but the eagle eyed My Laycock spotted that it had touched a Reigate hand. Overtoom then had a chance to put his side seven points clear with a drop goal attempt, but for once he was off target, and Eltham impressively ran the ball out of defence with Smith in the line and putting Thomas into space.
A final five minutes of Eltham pressure inside the Reigate 22 followed with further good hands and running by the impressive Buckley. Although Reigate continued to be penalised, their line out dominance negated the maul as an attacking option for Eltham and the 14 man defence held out.
Both schools have NatWest Schools Cup campaigns ahead of them, with Eltham hosting Harris Academy Crystal Palace in London & SE A and Reigate visiting Christs Hospital in South-West A.
Full time: Eltham College 15-19 Reigate G.S.
Eltham College: Bolurin Adedipe, Oliver Colegate. Edward Thompson, Owen Davies, Andrew Hughes, Callum Leach, Manraj Gill, Nick Smith (Capt), Brendon Paulsen, Charles Wakeling, Joshua Chanthrakumaran, Thomas Adamson (Vice-Capt), Dillon Robertson, Jordan Thomas, Jacob Buckley
Replacements: Ryan Murphy, Sam Hutchins, Will Berenida
Reigate G.S.: Angus Oehler, Ciaran Nestor, Thomas Box, Prasath Kirubakiran, Joe Gregson, Billy Elliston,
Oliver Brooks, Paul Marshall, Alexander Skinner (Vice-Capt), Lucas Overtoom (Capt), Sean Watters, James Bennett, Gus McGilligan, Cian Clancy, Joe Gregory
Replacements: Henry McCann, Harry Swann