England U18 made it two wins from two in 2017 as they defeat Scotland U18 31-17 at Preston Grasshoppers RFC.
Having beaten France 43-13 last week, things were a little tougher this weekend for England as a determined Scottish side gave everything to try and avoid make it four defeats from four for Scottish sides against their English counterparts this weekend, following defeats at Senior, Womens, and U20 level.
England looked the better side with ball in hand, but on a wet and slippery afternoon a few errors crept in and Scotland made life tough. The men in blue were almost unstoppable at the breakdown, with Rory Darge of North Berwick High School and Connor Boyle of Stewart’s Melville winning countless penalties.
Unfortunately for the Scots, their lineout was a mess, which meant that they never quite managed to capitalise on their great work to the extent that they would have liked. That sloppy lineout work allowed England to open the scoring after just four minutes through Dr Challoner’s Grammar School’s Joe Tunney, who absolutely steamed in after being released on the 22 by Charlie Wright.
It felt a little like the senior game on Saturday, where England scored early and then simply took off. However Scotland responded in far greater fashion here, and ten minutes later they were on the scoresheet as Harry Butler barged over after the impressive hooker Angus Fraser had gone close.
Ross Thompson of Stewart’s Melville landed the conversion to put the visitors 7-5 up, and when five minutes later Joe Tunney was denied a second after being held up, it felt like something had shifted in the game.
This England U18 side are a tough and classy group of players though. They are also clinical. They showed that on 27 minutes as another Scottish lineout went awry. Charlie Wright offloaded to back row partner Aaron Hinkley of St Peter’s Gloucester, who absolutely stormed in from almost halfway, a truly sublime bit of running. Rugby’s Tom Hardwick slotted the conversion, giving England a 12-7 lead heading into the half time break.
The first score after the half felt like it would be a big moment in the game, but few would have expected it to come quite so early. Just three minutes in England repeated their early efforts of the first half, this time scoring through the fly half, Hardwick, who danced over from close range following some big work from his pack, and then converted his own try for a 19-7 lead.
Once again though, Scotland bounced back, Ross Thomspon putting enormous pressure on his opposite number, Hardwick, to charge down his kick, gather, score, and convert, narrowing the gap to 19-14.
In a helter-skelter passage though, England were straight back on the scoresheet as Cameron Redpath of Sedbergh, and a one time Scotland U16 international, grubbered through close to the Scottish line an dotted down before the ball ran dead for an excellent solo try.
That try put England ten points clear, but a Thompson penalty narrowed it back again to seven with twenty minutes remaining. It was a potentially key moment in the game, but was quickly replaced by another as Scotland’s Harry Butler was sent to the bin. Just a minute later England were back on try scoring form as Dean Close’s Tom Seabrook took the ball on a line befitting a forward rather than an outside back. However he showed stunning leg drive to power his way over for the decisive score in the match.
Harwick converted, putting England 31-17 in front, and so it remained for the rest of the game. Scotland kept plugging away though, so much so that with a couple of minutes remaining England also saw yellow, but the men in white showed strong character to see out the game.
They might not have been at their best, but they will have taken great heart in having seen the game out like that. Scotland meanwhile, unfancied by many at the start, will feel that they too gave an excellent account of themselves and ill look ahead to the U18 International Series in April with a great amount to be positive about.
Full Time: England U18 31-17 Scotland u18
England U18 XV
15 Iwan Hughes (Bristol, SGS Filton College), 14 Arron Reed (Sale Sharks, Kirkham GS), 13 Oli Morris (Saracens, New Hall), 12 Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks, Sedbergh), 11 Cadan Murley (Harlequins, Bishop Wordsworth’s), 10 Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers, Rugby), 9 Ollie Fox (Yorkshire, New College Pontefract), 1 George Head (Harlequins, Tonbridge), 2 Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), 3 Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, Wyggeston & QEI College), 4 Joe Tunney (Wasps, Dr Challoners GS), 5 James Scott (Worcester Warriors, Malvern College), 6 Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester, St Peters), 7 Charlie Wright (Exeter Chiefs, Exeter College), 8 Josh Basham (London Irish, Wellington College).
Replacements: 16 Will Capon (Bristol, Bristol GS), 17 James Kenny (Exeter Chiefs, Exeter College), 18 Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, Sedbergh), 19 James Dun (Bristol, Millfield), 20 Andy Christie (Saracens, Harrow), 21 Cameron Kelemeti (Newcastle Falcons, Durham), 22 Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, Bedford), 23 Tom Seabrook (Gloucester, Dean Close).
Scotland U18 XV:
15 Jack Blain (Stewart’s Melville), 14 Josh Eagers (Merchiston Castle), 13 Andrew McLean (Stirling County RFC), 12 Rory McMichael (Wellington College), 11 Jacob Lineen (Stewart’s Melville), 10 Ross Thompson (Stewart’s Melville), 9 Gus Warr (Dollar Academy), 1 Andrew Nimmo (Biggar RFC), 2 Angus Fraser (Dundee HS), 3 Euan McLaren (Dollar Academy, captain), 4 Harry Butler (London Irish), 5 Callum Bell (The Glasgow Academy), 6 Rory Darge (North Berwick HS), 7 Connor Boyle (Stewart’s Melville), 8 Callum Cruikshank (Dollar Academy).
Replacements: 16 Finlay Scott (Jed Thistle RFC), 17 Murphy Walker (Strathallan), 18 Daniel York (St Aloysius’ College), 19 Cameron Henderson (Strathallan), 20 Jack Hutchison (Sedbergh), 21 Roan Frostwick (North Berwick HS), 22 Matthew Davidson (Merchiston Castle), 23 Grant Hughes (Dollar Academy).