Aviva A League: A League returns after a busy European weekend

The Aviva A League returns this evening with three exciting fixtures, two in the South, and one in the North.


The action actually began yesterday, with Harlequins A and Saracens Storm playing out a draw that saw Saracens climb to the top of the Southern Conference.


Quins led 22-3 at one stage, through tries from Charlie Mulchrone, Mark Reddish, and Trinity leaver and former England U18 captain Gabriel Ibitoye, with Aaron Morris, former World Rugby U20 Championship winner, adding seven with the boot from the unfamiliar position of fly half, with his back up on the bench the promising Brighton College and England U18 pivot, Marcus Smith.


Saracens came storming back in the second half though, with another former England U20 star, George Perkins scoring, along with number 8 Sam Vunisa. With seconds on the clock they then scored a try through captain on the night, Tim Streather.


That left England U20 fly half Max Malins with a touchline conversion for the draw, in his first start of the season after injury, which he duly landed to end a thrilling night at the Stoop.


Today’s action is likely to see Saracens lose that top spot though as second placed Bristol United, a point behind Saracens, travel to third placed Exeter Braves, three points behind. Meaning that the winner will move to the top.


Exeter pick a similar looking side to their usual Monday night side, including a number of players from the Exeter University BUCS Super League side, including full back Ted Landray and tighthead Jack Owlett, while England U18 tighthead Marcus Street looks set to replace the former Millfield man from the bench.


Bristol hand a first start of the year to Owlett’s former schoolmate, Callum Sheedy. The young fly half guided Bristol through the play-offs and into the Aviva Premiership at the end of last season but injury has curtailed his progress this year. There is also room on the right wing for Charlie Amesbury, fresh from his Varsity Match winning exploits for Cambridge University ten days ago.


Gloucester United can also threaten the top as they host bottom placed Bath United. Gloucester name rising star Mat Protheroe to fly half, with Elliot Creed at inside centre and former Scotland U20 star Ben Vellacott at scrum half. Bromsgrove leaver Henry Walker starts at hooker, with two of his fellow teammates from last year’s England U18 side, Harry Randall and Ciaran Knight, on the bench.


Bath name former Sherborne star Will Homer at scrum half, with Scotland U20 fly half, and former Millfield pivot, Adam Hastings, at fly half. Joining them in the backline is Denstone College leaver and former England U18 star Levi Davis on the left wing.


Last year’s England U20 skipper, Jack Walker, starts at hooker, with former Dulwich College star Beno Obano at loosehead, while David Sisi makes his return at blindside flanker. The bench sees Millfield schoolboy Cameron Brown selected as replacement scrum half, with his former schoolmates Josh Bayliss and Sam Nixon also selected, as is England U20 number 8 Zach Mercer.


The final game this evening is the East Midlands derby as Northampton Saints host Leicester Tigers. Northampton select the Onojaife brothers in the pack, with Jordan in the second row, and Stowe leaver Devante at number 8, with former St Joseph’s College skipper Lewis Ludlam at openside. Alongside Jordan in the second row is the former Sedbergh star, Alex Moon, with ex Trent College star James Fish at hooker.


In the backs Sam Olver steers the ship from fly half, with former Lymm High School start Alex Mitchell at nine. His old school yesterday picked up the Cheshire Cup as they beat Stockport Grammar School 22-12 at the AJ Bell ahead of Saracens’ win over Sale. Scotland U20 star Rory Hutchinson is at 12, with former England U20 flyer Howard Packman on the right wing. The bench sees three of last year’s England U18 stars selected, James Grayson, Ehren Painter, and Alex Rayment, with current Bedford star and Scotland age-group international Fraser Strachan, and St Joseph’s College leaver Tom Emery selected too.


Leicester meanwhile have gone for a very youthful line-up after Saturday’s Champions Cup exploits. Harry Thacker skippers the side from hooker with brother Charlie in the centres. Ben White, England U18 scrum half last year, starts, with Rugby School’s Tom Hardwick at fly half, with further youngsters in Sam Yawaywa, Harry Simmons, Ryan Olowofela, and Oli Bryant filling the rest of the backline.


Another of last year’s England U18s, Sam Lewis, starts in the second row, with England U20 star Will Evans at openside, and two prominent former England U18 internationals in Harry Wells and Will Owen alongside each of them.


Aviva A League Fixtures:



Harlequins A 22-22 Saracens Storm


Gloucester United v Bath United

Exeter Braves v Bristol United

Northampton Wanderers v Leicester Tigers A


Aviva A League Table – North Conference
1Leicester Tigers A3300113
2Newcastle Falcons A3201412
3Northampton Wanderers3201210
4Wasps A310215
5Sale Jets310204
6Worcester Cavaliers300311


Aviva A League Table – South Conference
1Saracens Storm4211313
2Bristol United3201412
3Exeter Braves3201210
4Gloucester United320119
5Harlequins A411217
6Bath United300322


Team News:


Harlequins A

15 Charlie Walker, 14 Gabriel Ibitoye, 13 Matt Hopper (c), 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Henry Cheeseman, 10 Aaron Morris, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Owen Evans, 2 Elia Elia, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Mark Reddish, 5 Stan South, 6 Victor Keunan, 7 Archie White, 8 George Naoupu.

Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Matt Shields, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 TBC, 20 Thomas Whitehurst, 21 Luc Jones, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Sam Aspland-Robinson.

Saracens Storm

15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Tim Streather (c), 12 Tom Griffiths, 11 George Perkins, 10 Max Malins, 9 Henry Taylor; 1 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jared Saunders, 3 Billy Walker, 4 Mark Flanagan, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 6 Jack Nay, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Samu Vunisa.

Replacements: 16 Ollie Walliker, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Taylor Reed, 19 Brian Tulagi, 20 Seb Nagle-Taylor, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Alistair Crossdale, 23 Rotimi Segun.


Gloucester United

15 Tom Hudson, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Andrew Symons, 12 Elliot Creed, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Mat Protheroe, 9 Ben Vellacott, 1 Cameron Orr, 2 Henry Walker, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 4 Charlie Beckett (c), 5 Tom Denton, 6 Freddie Clarke, 7 Dan Thomas, 8 Gareth Evans.

Replacements:16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Harry Wilson, 20 Will Safe, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Harry Robinson, 23 Jake Morris/ Charlie Chapman.

Bath United

15 Will Partington, 14 Harry Davies, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Jeff Williams, 11 Levi Davis, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Will Homer, 1 Beno Obano, 2 Jack Walker, 3 Simon Kerrod, 4 Levi Douglas, 5 Alex Humfrey, 6 David Sisi, 7 Guy Mercer (c), 8 Paul Grant.

Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Sam Nixon, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Will Britton, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Zach Mercer, 22 Cameron Brown, 23 Duncan Craig.


Exeter Braves

15 Ted Landray, 14 AJ Cant, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tom Hendrickson, 11 Harry Strong, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Dave Lewis, 1 Moray Low, 2 Shaun Malton, 3 Jack Owlett, 4 Damian Welch, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Ben White, 7 Sam Simmonds, 8 Tom Johnson (c).

Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Joe Elderkin, 23 Nick Mason.

Bristol United

15 Jordan Williams, 14 Charlie Amesbury, 13 Jack Tovey, 12 Luke Arscott, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 1 Jack O’Connell, 2 Marc Jones, 3 James Hall, 4 BJ Edwards, 5 Dan Tuohy, 6 Joe Joyce, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells, 8 Nick Koster.

Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Ollie Dawe, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 John Hawkins, 20 Jack Capon, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Elias Caven, 23 James Newey.


Northampton Saints

15 George Furbank, 14 Howard Packman, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Juan Pablo Estelles, 10 Sam Olver, 9 Alex Mitchell, 1 Matt Beesley, 2 James Fish, 3 Jake Ilnicki, 4 Alex Moon, 5 Jordan Onojaife, 6 Ben Nutley (c), 7 Lewis Ludlam, 8 Devante Onojaife.

Replacements: 16 Alex Rayment, 17 Harry Morley, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Josh Peters, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tom Emery, 22 James Grayson, 23 Fraser Strachan.

Leicester Tigers A

15 Harry Simmons, 14 Ryan Olowofela, 13 Charlie Thacker, 12 Oli Bryant, 11 Sam Yawayawa, 10 Tom Hardwick, 9 Ben White, 1 Riccardo Brugnara, 2 Harry Thacker (c), 3 Ben Betts, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Sam Lewis, 6 Will Owen, 7 Will Evans, 8 Fred Tuilagi.

Replacements: 16 Harry Mahoney, 17 Oscar Harper, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Sam Grahamslaw, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Jordan Olowofela, 22 Matt Cornwell, 23 Josh Fenner.

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