Aviva A League: All change at the top in both conferences


The Aviva A League returned last night, with three games taking place, two in the South and one in the North.


The action actually all began on Sunday, 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.


On Monday night Saracens lost that top spot though, slipping to third in the conference after wins for Gloucester United and Exeter Braves.


Gloucester beat Bath United 26-22 to climb to second in the Southern Conference. The South West side were 26-3 up after 64 minutes thanks to tries from Henry Purdy, Dan Thomas, Josh McNulty, and David Halaifonua, along with three conversions from England U20 star Mat Protheroe, with just a Will Partington penalty in response from Bath.


However the young Bath United side then rallied in style, with Harry Davies and Robbie Fruean scoring tries either side of a Partington score, with the full back landing two conversions too to give the final score a far more respectable look at 26-22.


It briefly meant that Gloucester were top of the pile but Exeter Braves then quickly made sure that they would finish round 4, and 2017, at the top of the Southern Conference as they beat Bristol United 36-17.


The reigning champions scored five tries, with Michele Campagnaro, Damian Welch, Sam Simmonds, Shaun Malton, and skipper on the night, in his testimonial year, Tom Johnson, all crossing the whitewash. Young fly-half Joe Simmonds landed four conversions and penalty to secure the victory, with Bristol managing to impress with three tries, through Luke Arscott, Nick Koster, and Charlie Amesbury, returning from Varsity Match duty, with a conversion for fit again fly half Callum Sheedy, but it was not enough to close the gap enough on the scoreboard.


There was just one game in the Northern Conference but it was a big one, the East Midlands derby between Northampton Wanderers and Leicester Tigers A. Tigers started the evening at the top of the conference, however a 20-11 victory for Northampton saw them leapfrog their old rivals and claim top spot for their own heading into the New Year.


Tigers took the lead with an early penalty from Rugby School’s Tom Hardwick but Northampton quickly responded with two tries in the first fifteen minutes from left wing Juan Pablo Estelles, with Sam Olver landing a conversion.


Hardwick then landed another penalty before former England U18 scrum half Ben White breezed over to leave the half time scores tight at 12-11 in the home side’s favour.


Olver slotted a penalty to extend the home side’s lead early in the second half, before back row sub Sion Bennett sealed the victory with a try on the three-quarter mark, sending his side to the top of the table.


There is a long break now in the A League with now fixtures until the 3rd April, when the bottom four in the North will play their catch up round 4 fixtures ahead of the 5th and final round on the 10th April.


Aviva A League Results:



Harlequins A 22-22 Saracens Storm


Gloucester United 26-22 Bath United

Exeter Braves 36-17 Bristol United

Northampton Wanderers 20-11 Leicester Tigers A


Aviva A League Table – North Conference
1Northampton Wanderers4301214
2Leicester Tigers A4301113
3Newcastle Falcons A3201412
4Wasps A310215
5Sale Jets310204
6Worcester Cavaliers300311


Aviva A League Table – South Conference
1Exeter Braves4301315
2Gloucester United4301214
3Saracens Storm4211313
4Bristol United4202412
5Harlequins A411217
6Bath United400433


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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