Hampton School U15s were clinical in their finishing and a crucial score on the stroke of halftime saw them open a two score lead over Millfield School that they never looked like relinquishing, as they secured a 22-5 victory.
This year’s U15 Schools Cup quarter final draw has matched up the divisional winners within each of the four areas. Perhaps this was intended to reduce travel times in the depths of winter, but the Somerset side still faced a 250 mile round trip up the A303. However the Millfield coaches seemed only too happy to escape the recent muddy conditions of their home pitches and enjoy the Hampton 3G on a chilly but sunny afternoon in West London that looked set to suit their playing style.
With similar records against common opposition, including losses to Bromsgrove and Whitgift, this matchup had the makings of a close game. On paper Hampton looked slight favourites, having knocked last season’s champions (and victors over Millfield back in September), Wellington out of the competition.
Millfield kicked off and soon took play up to the Hampton 22, but strong counter rucking by the powerful home side forwards forced a turnover, and fly half Jamie Benson gave an early taste of his all round game with a run out of defence to half way but a penalty gave possession back to the visitors. Right wing Jamie Schlueter showed the impressive pace that has taken him to English Schools Athletics International honours with a run down the right but the ball went forward. From the resulting scrum Benson showed the strength of his kicking game with a long clearance from his own 22 to the Millfield 22.
Although the visitors were again able to run out of defence, a choke tackle on fly half Giles Silk gave Hampton a scrum on half way and Benson kicked deep to the right corner. The defence cleared from the lineout but Benson put in another cross kick which left wing Jack Wells almost gathered close to the line but knocked on. The Hampton forwards applied pressure at the ensuing scrum and forced an attacking lineout 5m out, from which a driving maul was set up. That was stopped but possession was retained and accurate offloading enabled second row Lucas Mangham to crash over, Benson converting.
Despite falling behind Millfield responded by dominating possession and territory for the remainder of the half, though good Hampton line speed curtailed their forward progress. After good ball retention and a strong carry by No 8 Sennen Grove, a penalty was won and kicked deep into the left corner. The resulting maul took play to the Hampton line but was stopped and tenacious defence held the forward drive, so that play was switched to the right where there was a glimpse of an overlap for Schlueter, but excellent defence by Wells took the Millfield speedster into touch. The scenario was soon repeated when another penalty was kicked to the left and Millfield again forced into touch after the ball had been moved through the hands to the right.
It looked as if the slim advantage on the scoreboard would be maintained to the interval but an unusual set of circumstances led to another score. Yet another well judged kick from Benson rolled tantalisingly into the left corner, covered by Schlueter: for a moment it looked as if it would cross the line but it hit the corner flag and remained in play, forcing the Millfield wing to concede a 5m scrum. The Hampton forwards’ initial thrust to the line was stopped but the defence was penalised and another scrum taken. This time the ball was quickly moved to the backs and inside centre Tim Lamming found a good line to score by the posts with Benson again adding the extras.
Half time: Hampton 14-0 Millfield
The Somerset side soon set about trying to reduce the deficit and at last managed to turn territory into points. A well weighted kick by Silk almost opened up the defence and field position was maintained, with a chance created out wide from which flanker Connor Collins was just able to squeeze in at the right corner. Silk’s touchline conversion attempt was well struck but just missed.
Hampton were quick to extinguish hopes of the gap being narrowed further with pressure by the forwards taking play into the Millfield 22 where the defence was penalised. The decision to go for goal was quickly taken and Benson was again successful from the tee. The home side continued to dominate territory with Benson combining with No 8 Thomas Tomlin and scrum half Luke Greenall. A box kick by Greenall to the right corner threatened to create a score for right wing Sebastian Nilsson but was just too strong.
Although Millfield brought another dangerous runner off the bench in Jadiel Wahab, the Hampton forwards remained in control. Tight head prop David Ellis carried strongly on the left before offloading to allow the forward pack to drive to the line, and it was again Mangham who grounded the ball to score. Benson’s conversion attempt hit both post and crossbar before staying out, but the game was now won and although Millfield finally managed to break out they were denied a consolation score.
News from Ipswich meant that Hampton will face Whitgift at Allianz Park in the semi-finals and so looking to reverse the September result. That should be a tremendous battle between two well balanced sides. They are due to meet in a block fixture this coming Saturday, but one suspects that may be deferred until March.
Full Time: Hampton 22-5 Millfield
Hampton School: Matthieu Le Moign, Rupert Reddish, David Ellis, Lucas Mangham, Jack Slaney, Alexander Taylor, Toby Robinson, Thomas Tomlin, Luke Greenall, Jamie Benson (Capt), Charlie Masters, Tim Lamming, Jesper Hartikainen, Jack Wells, Dylan Straker-Grimes
Replacements: Joe Watton, Iestyn Humphrey, Sam Sparrow, Nairn Herries, Joel Luckman
Millfield School: Tom Maddock, Joe Spicer, Jack Chapillon, Vinnie Gillespie, Kieran Woname (Capt), Connor Collins, Fraser Hart, Sennen Grove, Ciaran Donoghue, Giles Silk, Sebastian Nilsson, Tom Wright, Tom Bushell, Jami Schlueter, Finn McNulty
Replacements: Isaac Bell, Harrison Edwards, Oliver Lawson, Jadiel Wahab, Finlay Arnold, Felix Hamilton-Marino, Thomas Williams