Trinity School, Croydon overcame a narrow half-time deficit to progress to the second round on the National U18 Schools Cup with a 17-12 win over Skinners’ School.
These schools have had some decent runs in the U18 Cup in recent years, with both reaching the fifth round in the 2015/16 season and are occasional adversaries in Daily Mail Trophy fixtures. The continued late summer sunshine ensured that playing conditions were ideal for open Rugby.
The initial exchanges saw both sides using their kicking games to seek territorial advantage, the boots of Skinners’ inside centre Edward Shepherdson and Trinity fly half Archie Warren gaining impressive distance. After the Kent side had been penalised on half way, Warren’s kick set up a lineout in the right corner, and after a driving maul had been stopped close to the line, the ball was moved to the backs. Centre Christopher Lipczynski took crash ball to set up another maul which was stopped on the line. The home side looked well placed to score from the ensuing attacking scrum, but referee Dave Payton ruled that the put-in was not straight and awarded a free kick from which Skinners’ were able to clear.
The Skinners’ forward pack were giving away some weight to their opponents but what they may have apparently lacked in weight they made up in energy and tenacity, and they successfully retained possession before feeding outside centre Alexander Nicholls who broke to half way where Trinity were penalised. Stephenson duly set up a lineout from which possession was secured and play was taken into the 22. Good hands then moved the ball to the left and wing Luca Tonelli crossed for the opening score, Shepherdson converting.
An immediate response from the Surrey school came from a slightly unexpected quarter, with loose head prop Alex Connaghton intercepting in midfield and showing impressive speed to outpace the cover defence and score under the posts, to the delight of the home spectators, Warren converting. The Skinners’ forward pack continued to recycle the ball effectively, though they struggled to get across the gain line until No 8 Oliver Daniels injected some pace and made ground, but was stopped on half way.
Having secured possession from the set scrum, Trinity moved the ball through the hands, full back Sam Heape feeding right wing Alessandro Costa who made ground to the 22 where the defence were penalised. Opting for the points, Warren made no mistake from the tee to put his side in the lead for the first time. Skinners’ were quick to respond, full back George Spice linking with Daniels and forcing a penalty, which was kicked to the left corner. Possession from the ensuing lineout enabled Skinners’ to build pressure which finally yielded a try in the right corner for flanker Solomon Sheppard. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
There was potentially just time for another score before the interval but, although good offloading by the Trinity backs saw them get into drop goal range, Warren’s kick drifted wide.
Half-time: Trinity 10-12 Skinners’
As the second half got under way, it seemed that it might be Skinners’ turn to benefit from an interception as Shepherdson seized the ball inside his 22 and ran out to half way, but he was unable to get the pass away. Trinity were now looking to move the ball through the hands at every opportunity and took play close to the Skinners’ line several times, but the final pass did not go to hand. Although this pressure was temporarily relieved by an excellent run out of defence by Tonelli, a penalty led to a Trinity attacking lineout in the corner. The ensuing maul was stopped just short of the line but, when play was switched to the backs, Heape found a great line to carve through the defence and score close to the posts, Warren converting.
Momentum was now with the home side, with Warren’s kicking keeping play at the Skinners’ end of the pitch. Lipczynski and Costa combined and came close to scoring. Skinners’ though showed that they could counter, winning a penalty and setting up a maul in the right corner which was successfully defended by Trinity. Another penalty conceded by Trinity on half way was kicked deep into the 22 and effective chasing by Skinners’ saw it only partly scrambled clear by the defence, and renewed pressure was built inside the Trinity 22. With possession recycled effectively the defence was looking stretched, when a Trinity player collapsed in evident pain. With the coach quickly on the field Mr Payton was obliged to stop play but thankfully the problem seemed to be just cramp.
With play restarted from a scrum, Skinners’ were awarded a free kick and play resumed in similar circumstances to those prior to the stoppage. Pressure on the line finally led to a 5m scrum to Skinners’ and a dramatic finish looked possible, but Mr Payton showed consistency in his desire for a straight put-in at the scrum and awarded a free kick to Trinity, enabling them to clear to the 10m line. The Kent side were not finished though, and after winning a lineout on Trinity’s throw they again pressed deep into the 22. Somehow Trinity regained possession and the ball came back to Warren deep in his in-goal area. Under severe pressure, the fly half was unable to get the clearance kick away and sensibly decided to run the ball out, forcing Skinners’ to concede a penalty, from which Trinity were thankful to kick the ball off the field to bring up the final whistle.
This was a very closely contested Cup encounter. Trinity seemed to be in control with ten minutes to go and had probably created enough chances to have a clear lead, but Skinners’ showed admirable determination to get back into the game and were perhaps unfortunate not to gain a winning score in the final seconds.
Full time: Trinity 17-12 Skinners’
Trinity School: Alex Connaghton, Daniel Giffin, John Petty, Joseph Bennett (Vice-Capt), Samuel Connelly, Ayooluwa Onabolu, Archie McMillan (Vice-Capt), Krishna Lall, Lorcan O’Byrne Nestor, Archie Warren, Oscar Steele, Sam Moran, Christopher Lipczynski, Alessandro Costa, Sam Heape
Replacements: Daniel Vickars, Alex Zaborniak, Matthew West, Gabriel Crozier, Herb Macpherson, Harry Marshall, Alfie Velasco
Skinners’ School: Herb Hopgood, Ben Chapman (Capt), Tod Skinner, Elliot Follows, Toby Ponsford, Robert Chattell, Solomon Sheppard, Oliver Daniels, Zachary Brockman, Isaac Jones, Luca Tonelli, Edward Shepherdson, Alexander Nicholds, Sam Ray, George Spice
Replacements: Joshua Martin, Charles MacDonald-Gay, Oliver Edgley, Daniel Johnston, Jack Palmer