Epsom College powered into the semi finals of the Champions Trophy for the second year in a row after a dominant performance against Blundell’s
Last year’s losing finalists defeated the men from Devon 29-7, in what was a hugely impressive performance from the side that beat St John’s Leatherhead in the last round.
It sets up a semi final encounter against Bedford, who yesterday beat Canford convincingly (see report here: Bedford v Canford). The game will be a repeat of last year’s final, which Bedford won in relative comfort. This year though Epsom look if anything even better than last year, while Bedford are equally impressive.
Today’s game was actually a repeat of last year’s semi final against Blundell’s for Epsom, however unlike last year where Epsom built a big lead only for Blundell’s to dramatically cut into late on, this game was heavily in the home side’s favour from the off.
The scoring began early on through openside Tom Booker, who was part of a seriously impressive and physical Epsom back row unit, all of whom got on the scoresheet.
That was then followed a quarter of an hour in by a penalty from Epsom full back Adam Causer, a man that Bedford would be well advised to avoid giving any kicking opportunities to in the semi final, taking the score to 8-0.
Blundell’s rallied, and played with an admirable ambition that has brought them some excellent results so far this season. Espom’s physicality was a problem though, stymying the Blundell’s attack as they looked for the offload but were hit with so much power that the ball spilled.
They soon learned their lesson and took the ball to ground, but once there the Epsom back row unit of Max Turner, Booker, and the brilliant James Gullvier were snaffling turnovers at every turn.
Gulliver’s defensive efforts were rewarded in attack shortly before half time following a series of pick and drive efforts in Blundell’s territory as he picked up at the base of a ruck and used his considerable power to force his way over the line, giving Causer an easy conversion to send his side in at the break 15-0 up.
Blundell’s needed n early breakthrough, and through the likes of Barrie Karea, Sam Maunder, and Nicholas Phizackerley, they certainly seemed to have the weaponry in the arsenal.
However after just two minutes Epsom as good as killed the game off as they snaffled the ball from a Blundell’s attack deep in their half of the field. Sending the ball through three sets of hands Epsom released Edward Hughes just inside Blundell’s territory and he raced away for his side’s third try. Causer’s conversion moving the score even further out, to 22-0.
Eight minutes later Epsom were at it again, this time with Max Turner completing the set for the back row boys. He’s owes a huge debt to his fly half Ben Holder though, whose late late pass inside released him into clean air to score a beautiful try under the posts, which Causer converting with ease for 29-0.
It had been a performance of incredible power, patience, and accuracy. The Epsom forwards were physically on another level, though against Bedford they may find a rather even match in that department, while in the backline, particularly in the second half, they were smart and patient in their approach, keeping the ball in Blundell’s territory where possible, but then going wide with pace and accuracy when it was on.
This Blundell’s side is spirited though, and they refused to give up, surging forward in that last ten minutes and setting up camp on the Epsom line. A five metre scrum with the clock in the red set up a final chance to come away with something, and they took advantage perfectly. Number 8 Jono Slee picked up at the base before releasing a sublime offload for the slippery Sam Maunder, younger brother of Jack Maunder who captained Exeter Chiefs this weekend, to score in the final play. Frederick King’s drop goal conversion made it 29-7, but that was to be the end of the scoring as the referee blew his final whistle.
It was a tough outing for Blundell’s, but they will hold their hands up and say that they came up against a better side on the day. Epsom were quite brilliant, their power was unplayable at times, while their work on the floor was sublime. From that platform the rest of the game was built. Bedford will be another test though, they will not fear the power in the pack, and indeed will match it with some of their own, which ought to make for a fascinating semi final.
The other semi final will see Tonbridge, who beat Eton last week, travel to Oakham after the former Schools Cup Champions beat Monmouth 23-8 on their famous Doncaster Close. Those two games will be played next week.
Full Time: Epsom College 29-7 Blundell’s
Champions Trophy Semi Final Draw:
Oakham v Tonbridge
Epsom College v Bedford
15 Adam Causer, 14 Alexander Coe, 13 Edward Hughes, 12 Logan Didier, 11 Callum Mullett, 10 Ben Holder, 9 Finlay Savill, 1 Nicholas Phizackerley, 2 Callum Torpet (c), 4 Matthew Buxton Smith, 5 Felix Griffin, 6 Max Turner, 7 Tom Booker, 8 James Gulliver.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Milne, 17 Oliver Steafel, 18 Toby Howarth, 19 Joshua Clark-Bell, 20 Xani Lawrence, 21 Tom Byers, 22 Jack Taylor.
15 Oscar Kolowski, 14 Luke Simpson, 13 Frederick King, 12 Barrie Karea, 11 Bertie Frankpitt, 10 Jake Attwell, 9 Sam Maunder, 1 Josh Oliphant-Thompson, 2 Oliver Clough, 3 Hal Dare, 4 Will Klinkenberg, 5 Barnaby Ames, 6 Jack Lockwood, 7 Archie Stoneman (c), 8 Jono Slee (vc).
Replacements: 16 Monty Crow, 17 Sam Kennaugh, 18 Jake Le Gassick, 19 Freddie Carew, 20 Oz Kilbride, 21 Mack Butterfield.