Haileybury put in a stunning performance at Allianz Park on Wednesday evening to beat Eton College 36-5.
At the home of Saracens’, Haileybury looked happy to try anything and everything as they played with great ambition, pace, and adventure, with fly half Sam Cappaert and full back Spencer Owen two shining lights in that regard.
This is an Eton College side, let’s not forget, that are in the Champions Trophy quarter finals and had won five of their seven games heading into this, with a strong fixture list.
Haileybury came in with just the one defeat to their name, and a close game was expected, with Haileybury the slight favourites. The men from Hertfordshire got their performance spot on, and without really doing much wrong Eton nevertheless found themselves without a huge amount of opportunity to impact the game in their favour.
That said, it took Haileybury a while to crack the Eton defence, who for the best part of the first half kept Haileybury at bay. Their scramble was outstanding, and a few erroneous decisions from Haileybury prevented them from fully capitalise on the wonderful field position created by Cappaert and his brilliant and imaginative array of kicks.
With eight minutes left in the half though, the Eton defence cracked as loosehead Sam Hurding bundled over from a driving maul, with Cappaert converting for a 7-0 lead. Three minutes later Haileybury thought they were over again after a brilliant kick-pass from Cappaert sent them away down the right before the swept left for Jamie Hoyes to crash over.
That stoic Eton scramble managed to hold him up though, however from the resultant scrum number 8 Kyle Douglas went crashing over from the base, sending his side in 14-0 up with Cappaert’s extras.
The half ended in some confusion, Haileybury eventually being reduced to fourteen men as scrum half Hugo Gallagher-Boyden was sin-binned. A flag from the touch judge indicated to the referee that a Haileybury forward had made a slightly late and potentially beyond the horizontal tackle on Eton’s scrum half. Initially, presumably after mishearing, the referee was in discussion with the Eton players and looked to be about to sin-bin one of them, until some admirable honesty from both sides pointed out that he was in discussion with the wrong group. Confusion still reigned though and, presumably, with the number 9 still ringing in the ears, it was Haileybury’s scrum half that ended up having a rest. A particularly strange end of the half.
It did not seem to effect them much at the start of the second half though as they scored just three minutes in through hooker Kapelieli Pifeleti, who absolutely powered over the line. He scored again ten minutes or so later in similar fashion, but between those scores came some excellent Eton resilience as the scored from a maul of the own to get themselves on the scoresheet. An admirable reward for the sheer amount of work they were getting through.
24-5 up with twenty minutes to go, the game felt largely as though it was now decided, Haileybury were in command both on the scoreboard and on the field, and though Eton continued to carve out some superb pieces of play, it felt as though it was going to be incredibly hard work to carve out enough opportunities to come back.
That feeling was then made even stronger by two tries in relatively quick succession by Haileybury’s fast and powerful centre Jamie Hoyes, the first from another brilliant cross-kick from Cappaert, the second after a strong break from his centre partner Harry Collins, with Cappaert converting the second from that final 36-5 scoreline.
It capped what was an outstanding team performance from Haileybury. In truth it was one of those performances where almost everything clicks and there was very little that Eton, or indeed almost any side that could have faced them last night, could have done about it.
They played with a real sense of freedom, be it Cappaert feeling confident in having a crack at Beauden Barrett style kick passes, or the impressive second row Matt Cook attempting a pass between his legs. It was the perfect example of how schools are being encouraged to coach their sides, giving players the freedom to try things, and as those watching would testify, when it comes off it is terrific to watch.
Full Time: Haileybury 36-5 Eton College
15 Spencer Owen (vc), 14 Yunosuke Shimizu, 13 Harry Collins, 12 Jamie Hoyes, 11 James Clark, 10 Sam Cappaert, 9 Hugo Gallagher-Boyden, 1 Sam Hurding, 2 Kapelieli Pifeleti, 3 Will McKenna, 4 Oliver Moody, 5 Matt Cook, 6 Duncan Henderson 7 Ed Harris (c), 8 Kyle Douglas.
Replacements: Ed Holyroyd, George Hall, Phil Wistow, Ollie Priestley, Martin Pearce, Andrew Neal, Primo Benetton, Will Sawyer.
Eton College: N/A