England Counties U18 clinched a 2-0 series win against Ireland U18 Clubs and Schools on Saturday with a 32-29 win in Portsmouth.
England had won the opening fixture 15-13, and the second game was another close one, though a far more free-scoring game. Tries for England came through Solihull’s William Rigg, Stamford’s Edward Cox, and a brace from St Olave’s Grammar School’s Aaron Grandidier-Nkanang, while Ireland scored though Wicklow’s Mark Nicholson, Buccaneers’ Darragh Murray, Henley College’s tom Bacon, and Cranleigh’s Hayden Hyde.
Bacon and Hyde were two of five Irish Exiles in the side, with Beechen Cliff’s Chris Moore, Denstone College’s Joshua Dunne, and Millfield’s Oran McNulty all starting as well.
Ultimately though the game all boiled down to the final few moments and the boot of Truro College full back Aaron Simmonds.
The game was locked at 29-29, in Irish territory but with Ireland on the ball. Trying to play out, Grandidier-Nkanang saw an opportunity to get his hands on the ball and the referee duly obliged, blowing his whistle for an England penalty for Ireland holding on.
Blackrock College’s Ed Brennan’s frustration got the better of him as a result, and was duly binned by the referee. It was the third yellow card in a somewhat niggly game, with Rigg and Peter Symonds’ Thomas Knight-Owen also seeing the yellow card.
From that resultant penalty, Simmonds stood over the ball, knowing that a successful strike would see England win the series 2-0. As calm as you like, the Truro College man split the uprights to confirm the 32-29 win for England Counties U18.
It completed an excellent comeback in the final few minutes. England had been 29-24 down before Stamford’s Cox crossed the whitewash after some lovely handling from his side.
That leveled the scores, but the tension ramped up even further when Tom Bacon charged down Simmonds’ conversion. It was all the more impressive then when just a few minutes later Simmonds kept his composure to land the game winning and series winning penalty.
England Counties U18 32-29 Ireland U18 Clubs & Schools
Series Results: England Counties U18 2-0 Ireland U18 Clubs & Schools
England Counties U18 XV:
15 Aaron Simmonds (Truro College), 14 Theo Barkway Hall (Epsom College), 13 Zachary Clow (St John’s College, Southsea), 12 William Rigg (Solihull), 11 Aaron Grandidier-Nkanang (St Olave’s GS), 10 Thomas Knight-Owen (Peter Symonds’ College), 9 Harry Craven (The Grange), 1 Jamie White (Worcester 6th form College), 2 Harry Clayton (Stamford), 3 James Sherlock (Lymm High School), 4 Matas Jurevicius (Hayes), 5 Oliver Moody (Haileybury), 6 Matthew Wilkinson (Waddesdon C of E, captain), 7 Austin Wallis (Reed’s), 8 Cameron King (St Edward’s, Oxford).
Replacements: 16 Charlie Fleckney (Moulton College), 17 Luke Spring (Brockenhurst College), 18 Isaac Thompson (Oakham), 19 Harry Wilkinson (Priestley College), 20 Edward Cox (Stamford), 21 Joshua Goodwin (Seaford College), 22 Luke Bouchier (Oaklands Academy), 23 Evan Davies (Prince Risborough).
Ireland U18 Clubs & Schools XV:
15 Oran McNulty (Bath/Millfield/IQ Rugby), 14 Tom Bacon (Wasps/Henley College/IQ Rugby), 13 Hayden Hyde (Harlequins/Cranleigh/IQ Rugby), 12 Tommy Downes (CBC Cork), 11 Jack Hunt (Rockwell College), 10 Thomas Armstrong (Methodist College Belfast), 9 Shane Murphy (Skerries RFC/St. Joseph’s Rush), 1 Fionn Flanagan (Bruff), 2 Mark Nicholson (Wicklow/Colaiste Chill Mhantain), 3 Paddy McAlpine (Campbell College), 4 Darragh Murray (Buccaneers/Colaiste Chiarain), 5 Paddy Kelly (St. Munchin’s College), 6 Chris Moore (Beechen Cliff/IQ Rugby), 7 Evan Murphy (Nenagh Ormond/Nenagh CBS, captain), 8 Joshua Dunne (Nottingham/Denstone College/IQ Rugby).
Replacements: 16 Scott Buckley (CBC Cork), 17 Aaron Hennessy (Ennis/The Alfa Project, Scarriff), 18 Liam Winnett (Buccaneers/Marist College), 19 Eoin O’Connor (Waterpark/Gaeilcholaiste Phortlairge), 20 Ed Brennan (Blackrock College), 21 Charlie O’Doherty (Newcastle West/Scoil Mhuire agus Ide), 22 Michael Cooke (Sedbergh/IQ Rugby), 23 Saul O’Carroll (Buccaneers/Garbally College).