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Stepping Up: Spotlight on U21 Players in Round 14 of the Gallagher Premiership

Round 14 of the Gallagher Premiership saw almost every team look to some of their U21 talents, perhaps a positive outcome of no relegation, with usual culprits Gloucester and Leicester involving 13 players between them.

Some clubs appear to be looking towards next season with 5 young fly halves playing their part as teams look to unlock their undoubted potential with a 2nd half battle between Warwick old boy Fin Smith and former Beechen Cliff star Orlando Bailey the highlight.

Newcastle vs Wasps

Will Montgomery – Lock

A product of Kirkbie Kendal School, Montgomery came on in the final minutes and worked hard to involve himself on both sides of the ball but it wasn’t enough as Wasps managed to close out the game.

Alfie Barbeary – Back row

Charlie Atkinson – Fly half

In the first game of the weekend, it was encouraging to see Alfie Barbeary return to play following his ankle injury. The former Bloxham player came off the bench to play number 8 and made a big impact with his ball carrying. As Wasps attempted to overturn a first half deficit, Barbeary was relied upon to consistently gave his team front foot ball and was unlucky not to be awarded a short range pick and go try. Former Abingdon star, Atkinson came on with just over 1 minute to play in this tight affair as his team secured the result.

Bath vs Worcester

Ethan Staddon – Back row

Orlando Bailey – Fly half

Bailey entered the fray earlier than expected after Tom De Glanville went off injured and after Priestland followed not long after, it was up to him to guide his team at first receiver. Apart from a couple of routine errors, former Beechen Cliff student Bailey did well behind the Bath pack to keep the pressure on Worcester and not allow them back into the match. Another Beechen Cliff alumni, Ethan Staddon came on at blindside, working hard in defence and making himself a nuisance around the breakdown with Worcester in the ascendency.

Fin Smith – Fly half

It was a tough outing for Smith’s first start as Bath dominated the 1st half and put him under constant pressure. The ex-Warwick School star settled in the 2nd half though and looked much more composed. He kicked well for territory and set up two nice tries with his passing towards the end of the match.

Harlequins vs Gloucester

Ethan Hunt – Hooker

Freddie Thomas – Back row

Jack Clement – Back row

Joe Howard – Back row

Matt Jones – Scrum half

George Barton – Fly half

Isaac Marsh – Centre

Jake Morris – Wing

Despite their loss, Gloucester fans can be encouraged with no less than 8 U21 players involved against a strong Harlequins side. Jack Clement (Cheltenham College) put in a big shift on both sides of the ball, tackling hard and showing his pace with an excellent line break orchestrated by Barton (Dean Close). The young fly half understandably struggled at times in defence against the likes of Esterhuizen and Dombrandt but maintained his impressive 100% kicking record and showed glimpses of his attacking vision. 

Playing on the left wing, Morris (Hartpury College) impressed in defence, marshalling the lively Tyrone Green for most of the match. The winger didn’t have many opportunities going forward but he was physical in contact and put through a quality probing kick after a nice half break. Ethan Hunt (Hartpury College) was one of 4 debutants for Gloucester and the hooker worked hard but had some line out issues and missed a couple of tackles on the physical Quins runners. At just 19 years old, he could be set for a big future if he can learn from this top level experience.

Back row substitutes Thomas (Dean Close) and Howard (Hartpury Hartpury College) brought some energy off the bench as well as scrum half Jones (Dean Close) but it wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit, especially with only 14 men. Isaac Marsh (Hartpury College) also made his debut and looked strong carrying the ball as well.

Exeter vs Leicester

Richard Capstick – Back row

Dan John – Fly half

Josh Hodge – Fullback

With all three of Exeter’s youngsters coming off the bench late in the game, it was hard to judge their performances. Welsh exile and former Millfield player, Dan John made his debut, coming on for Joe Simmonds while Capstick (Exeter College) and Hodge (Sedbergh) were their usual selves with defensive work and some threatening runs respectively.

James Whitcombe – Loosehead prop

Cameron Henderson – Lock

Jack Van Poortvliet – Scrum half

Dan Kelly – Centre

Freddie Steward – Fullback

Despite suffering an early red card, Leicester stayed in the fight away to Exeter and their young players looked more like seasoned professionals with how they handled the game. Henderson, from Strathallan School, was everywhere in defence and demonstrated nice handling on a couple of occasions while also being a reliable line out option. Kelly, too, worked hard in the midfield, with 13 tackles and a nice try assist. The Kirkham product’s only major blemish was a first half yellow card.

Van Poortvliet (Oakham) was given an opportunity to start and provided good service for his backs, with an excellent try of his own after a dummy and dart over the line. Freddie Steward, once of Norwich School, was mostly secure under the high ball and made good metres through the boot and with ball in hand. There were a couple of defensive errors that he will be disappointed with but the fullback did have a lot of ground to cover with Van Wyk being sent off. Former England U20s prop, Whitcombe, came on early in the 2nd half but didn’t have many opportunities to assert himself. The ex-Woodhouse Grove pupil was mostly solid in the scrum and made his tackles on defence.

Northampton vs Bristol

JJ Tonks – Back row

Tommy Freeman – Wing

Former Moulton College student, Freeman started on the wing and played the full 80 minutes for Saints. He looked solid defence and frequently came off his wing in attack, posing a dangerous threat. Having almost touched down himself, he kicked ahead for a Furbank try in the 2nd half. JJ Tonks from Hartpury came on late and made his tackles but also gave away a naive penalty defending a maul close to his line.

Sale vs London Irish

Bevan Rodd – Loosehead prop

James Harper – Tighthead prop

Connor Doherty – Centre

With Raffi Quirke and Tom Roebuck away with England U20s this week, Sale still fielded 3 youngsters against Irish and came away convincing winners. Rodd, once of Sedbergh, started at loosehead and scrummaged well and showed his athleticism and work rate getting around the park well in both attack and defence. Doherty looked accomplished at inside centre; the ex-St Ambrose College student was solid in defence and involved in much of Sale’s attack with dynamic carries and link play. Tighthead from Merchant Taylor’s in Crosby, Harper added some nice carries to a strong scrummaging performance for his club debut.

Ben Donnell – Back row

Will Joseph – Centre

Former Peter Symonds College player Ben Donnell started at openside and took his opportunity to stretch out and score with a few minutes left. The flanker was up against it all day against Sale’s big pack but his support play and carrying in the wide channels was a positive. Will Joseph of Millfield did get on late in the game but struggled to get his hands on the ball with some frustrating errors and ill-discipline from some of his teammates.

NextGenXV are working alongside the Alred Trophy, a competition designed to identify Britain & Ireland’s best young kicker. You can read all about it here: Alred Trophy All You Need To Know – and make sure that you head over to www.schoolofkicking.com to sign up for your chance to be crowned best young kicker!

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