This weekend was the final round of U18 Academy League games as this most unusual of seasons came to an end.
Once again all fourteen sides were in action, but there were three in particular to keep an eye on, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester, and Saracens, who all headed into these final games unbeaten. Exeter and Gloucester set up particularly nicely as they met at Truro College in a head to head that could decide the top dogs, depending on what happened between Harlequins and Saracens.
Of course though, the main thing was that the players were out playing. Especially so for those for whom this would be the last occasion in an academy shirt, U18 players who will not be moving on to pro contracts in the summer.
Round 4 Roundup
In terms of making Exeter v Gloucester a head to head for the ability to do call themselves the only unbeaten side in the competition, Harlequins did their bit with an utterly stunning display against Saracens. They were flying as they scored nine tries to secure a 57-14 victory against the previously unbeaten Saracens, the second time in a row that they had scored fifty. Conor Slevein and Cassius Cleaves both sealed braces, while Bryn Bradley, Will Hobson, Josh Tusler, Conor Oresanya, and Jonny Green all crossed the whitewash too, Jamie Benson landing six conversions.
That set up for that brilliant climax at Truro College, except that as with Harlequins v Saracens, one side was just absolutely on it from the word go as Exeter Chiefs stormed to a quite sensational 56-7 victory over Gloucester, leaving them as the only unbeaten side in the competition and therefore unofficial champions.
It was a stunning performance from the Chiefs, whom legendary fly half Gareth Steenson has been championing, but perhaps not one that should have stunned people, they have been sensational throughout this mini season, only Bristol bears have run them close.
Bristol themselves were also in cracking form on Saturday as they went u to Sixways Stadium to take on Worcester Warriors and came away with a quite brilliant 26-5 victory thanks to scores from Gabbe Lacey, JJ Williams, Tomas Gwilliam, and Ewan Skuse for what was, perhaps somewhat surprisingly given their performances, their first victory of the campaign.
Things were much closer at Hazelwood where Bath and London Irish played out arguably the game of the round. London Irish arrived without a victory to their name, Bath with only that victory over Bristol Bears behind them, but both came out flying and playing some brilliant rugby. It went right down to the wire, perhaps fittingly given why these games are even happening, but it was Bath that came away with the spoils, 26-24.
Along the road at Aylesbury RFC there was another cracking game between Wasps and Sale Sharks. Sale Sharks came in with the better record, having beaten Yorkshire Academy and run Leicester Tigers close, while Wasps came in still in search of a first victory. However in club legend and academy coach Andrea Masi’s final ever game as an academy coach, his charges pulled out all of the stops to secure a brilliant 20-19 victory.
The final game on Saturday was a real try-fest and Newcastle Falcons welcomed the 2018 and 2019 champions, and shared 2020 champions, Leicester Tigers, to Kingston Park. Both arrived with the same records, two wins and a loss, and had shown loads of enthusiasm and potential throughout, and that bore out on the pitch as the tries came pouring in. More came on the Newcastle side though as the host pulled away to a brilliant 43-29 victory, capping a four game campaign that has seen them be one of the brightest contenders off the pitch too, particularly with their ‘The Last Dance’ team announcement videos.
That all led to the conclusion of all U18 rugby in England on Sunday as Yorkshire Academy and Northampton Saints took each other on at Doncaster Knights. These two have both been utterly fantastic off the field as well as on it, really celebrating the opportunity that has been allowed through having these games and celebrating the achievement of the players in being involved, particular the Yorkshire Academy, for whom the last year has been especially uncertain.
On the field we were given a treat, both sides absolutely free-flowing as 77 points rained down in Doncaster. A half century of them went to the Yorkshire Academy as they sealed a 50-27 victory, their third in this four game campaign, a quite brilliant achievement.
There was also some U20 International action happening as the build up to the U20 Six Nations later this month continues. England had racked up victories in training games over Scotland twice, and now took on Wales in another training game. The young English stars were in sensational form once more as they strode away to an outstanding 41-5 victory.
Signing off the Academy Season
In the end, of course, this 4 week window of games was never about the scores or the headlines, it was about the 23 or so players in each squad each week getting the opportunity to wear their academy jerseys again. For the U18s this was either the last time in the club shirt as before turning pro, or the last time in the club shirt full stop. Either way, an emotional moment for all and a blessed relief that they were able to do so
When reflecting on these games it will be the memory of being able to play once again, rather than what happened, that will live long for all.
U18 Academy Fixtures – Week 4:
Exeter Chiefs 56-7 Gloucester
London Irish 24-26 Bath
Harlequins 57-14 Saracens
Wasps 29-19 Sale Sharks
Newcastle Falcons 43-29 Leicester Tigers
Worcester Warriors 5-26 Bristol Bears
Yorkshire Academy 50-27 Northampton Saints – Sunday 30th May, 12pm, Doncaster Knights
England U20 41-5 Wales U20
Gloucester 41-17 Wasps
Leicester Tigers 38-34 Sale Sharks
Northampton Saints 31-19 London Irish
Yorkshire Academy 29-7 Newcastle Falcons
Exeter Chiefs 40-21 Bath
Harlequins 56-12 Worcester Warriors
Saracens 31-12 Bristol Bears
Bristol Bears 22-24 Exeter Chiefs
Gloucester 31-17 Worcester Warriors
Bath 21-28 Leicester Tigers
London Irish 7-15 Saracens
Northampton Saints 22-15 Harlequins
Sale Sharks 36-17 Yorkshire Academy
Newcastle Falcons 68-22 Wasps
Bath 33-26 Bristol Bears
Leicester Tigers 15-18 Gloucester
London Irish 20-45 Harlequins
Saracens 34-31 Northampton Saints
Wasps 21-28 Yorkshire Academy
Worcester Warriors 22-50 Exeter Chiefs
Newcastle Falcons 34-14 Sale Sharks
Exeter Chiefs – TBA
15 Ben Peters, 14 Nathan Thomson-Lee, 13 Iwan Glynn, 12 Morgan Adderly-Jones, 11 Archie Hossack, 10 Conor Murphy, 9 Joe Adams, 1 Will Hurn, 2 George Merritt, 3 James Pollard, 4 Danny Eite, 5 Ben Golding, 6 Liam Antrobus, 7 Albert Taylor, 8 Rob Nixon (c).
Replacements: 16 Dom Hey, 17 Tyler Harvey, 18 Tom Cabot, 19 Tom Worts, 20 Sam Anson, 21 Ellis Hart, 22 Tom Samak, 23 Will Anderson, 24 Jack Park.
15 Daniel (Mill Hill), 14 Salisbury (Bishop Wand), 13 J Walsh (St Paul’s Catholic College), 12 Cross (Hampton), 11 Arbuthnot-Whittaker (Wellington College), 10 Bradbury (Wellington College), 9 Ormond (St George’s College, Weybridge), 1 Murphy (Hinchley Wood), 2 Baird (Cranleigh), 3 Scott (Pangbourne College), 4 Zaimovic (Bishop Wand), 5 Harding (St Paul’s Catholic College), 6 Taheri (Mill Hill), 7 Hamblin (Harrow), 8 Pal Byrne (St Benedict’s).
Replacements: 16 Fasogbon (Bishop Wand), 17 Summerfield (Hartpury College), 18 Stirling (Harrow), 19 Kirkham (Bishop Wand), 20 Allan (Bishop Wand), 21 Grantham (Bishop Wand), 22 Archer (Wellington College).
15 Byron Lloyd-Gilmour, 14 Joel Tawake, 13 Max Ashton, 12 Ethan Hawtin (c), 11 McKenzi Rawlings, 10 Tom Bieneman, 9 Ieuan Davies, 1 Jaden Ephgrave, 2 Tommy McLean, 3 Paula Fifita, 4 George Shaw, 5 Henry Blake, 6 Will Jeanes, 7 Ruben Solomon-Gardner, 8 Arthur Green.
Replacements: 16 Jac Therrien, 17 JJ O’Connell-Wozniak, 18 Archie Maggs, 19 Josh Dingley, 20 Mackenzie Graham, 21 Freddie Charles, 22 Ben Adams, 23 James Redman, 24 Will Parry, 25 Kofi Barton-Byfield, 26 Tom Ahl, 27 Ollie Cook, 28 Harry Carson.
15 Connor Slevin (Whitgift), 14 Conor Oresanya (John Fisher), 13 Josh Tusler (Cranleigh), 12 Bryn Bradley (Epsom College), 11 Cassius Cleaves (Wellington College), 10 Jamie Benson (Hampton), 9 Murdoch Lock (Wellington College), 1 Will Hobson (Wellington College), 2 Nathan Jibulu (Seaford College), 3 Tosin Teriba (Gordon’s), 4 Jonny Green (Seaford College, captain), 5 Harry Browne (Brighton College), 6 Chris Preen (Hurstpierpoint College), 7 Seb Driscoll (Whitgift), 8 Zach Carr (Dulwich College).
Replacements: 16 Jack Doorey-Palmer (Worthing College), 17 Ethan Clarke (Worthing College), 18 Caleb Ashworth (Gordon’s), 19 Josh Shaw (St John’s, Leatherhead), 20 Finn Tawse (Wellington College), 21 Enzo Pedersen (Caterham), 22 Charlie Clare (Brighton College).
15 Dan Hoyes (Haileybury), 14 Francis Moore (Oaklands College), 13 Tyler Weeks (Sutton Valence), 12 Jasper Sorrell (Berkhamsted), 11 Jenson McInulty (Sutton Valence), 10 Tobias Elliott (Berkhamsted), 9 Charlie Reynolds-West (Oaklands College), 1 Freddie Chapman (Oaklands College), 2 Charlie Galligan (Sutton Valence), 3 Zack Hill (Oaklands College), 4 Anthony Mark (Ashford), 5 Obinna Nkwocha (Felsted), 6 Casper Jack (Berkhamsted), 7 Callum McGurk (Haileybury), 8 Nathan Michelow (Sutton Valence, captain).
Replacements: 16 Ehimen Osebor (Haileybury), 17 Alfie Goater (Sutton Valence), 18 Charlie Keith (Berkhamsted), 19 Korede Sanusi (St Olave’s Grammar), 20 Max Eke (St George’s, Harpenden), 21 Charlie Bracken (St Albans), 22 Joe Pannese (Berkhamsted), 23 Max Butler (King’s Rochester), 24 Afolabi Abiola (Ravens Wood).
15 Dan Barnett, 14 Reuben Logan, 13 Ollie Dawkins, 12 Aras Ivanauskas, 11 Eparama Rokodrava, 10 Will Evans, 9 Lorenzo Gasilio, 1 Max Morphey, 2 Kian Jones, 3 Asher Opoku, 4 Pietro Turrisi, 5 Alfie Bell, 6 Liam Jones, 7 Kofi Cripps, 8 Aaron Florestein.
Replacements: 16 Harry Wilman, 17 Joe Farmer, 18 Matt Hornby, 19 Dom Rokomaqisa, 20 Mason Winterburn, 21 Ryan Sweeting, 22 Will Glister, 23 Daniel Odejinmi.
Sale Sharks – TBA
15 Nathan Gough, 14 Murray McGregor, 13 Archie Thompson, 12 Ewan Greenlaw, 11 Jake Metcalfe, 10 Josh Leslie, 9 Ben Douglas, 1 Mark Dormer, 2 Charlie Smith, 3 Michael Rewcastle, 4 Luke Coulston, 5 Oliie Mullarkey, 6 Ben Pettifer, 7 Guy Pepper, 8 Matty Deehan.
Replacements: 16 Sion Gittins, 17 Matty Siddle, 18 Sam Birkbeck, 19 Will Hodgson, 20 Ewan Venerus, 21 Freddie Nickalls, 22 Harry Williams, 23 Jez Civil, 24 Sam Thompson.
O – Max Fairlie, N – George Loose, M – Oscar van Deventer, L – Joe Woodward (c), K – Sam Jacques, J – Morgan Meredith, I – Fergus Makepeace, A – Jack Hurst, B – Max Nolan, C – Nathan Hind, E – Finn Carnduff, F – Chester Owen, H – Ollie Arnold, G – Simon Koroiyadi.
Replacements: Charlie Barraclough, Jacob Odams, Will Elsmore, Dan Ormerod, Callum Richardson, Tom Allen, James Lewis, Divan Grobler, Kip Horton.
Worcester Warriors – TBA
15 Matty Jones, 14 Gabbe Lacey, 13 Joe Jenkins, 12 Sam Worsley, 11 Sami Hamid, 10 Jac Lloyd, 9 JJ Williams, 1 Tom Simms, 2 Tomas Gwilliam, 3 Jimmy Halliwell, 4 Ed Harvey, 5 George Taylor, 6 Aaron Tull, 7 Jamie Collier (c), 8 Macenzzie Duncan.
Replacements: 16 Max Pullen, 17 Billy Moran, 18 Lewis Davies, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Charlie Cox, 21 Rhys Price, 22 Ewan Skuse, 23 Joe Irons.
15 G Gillgrass, 14 C Ribbons, 13 F Clark, 12 J Mounsey (vc), 11 O Ene, 10 T Parkin, 9 J Harris, 1 N Hawker, 2 J Mainey, 3 T Bairstow, 4 E Harrison, 5 L Guthrie, 6 B Copley (c), 7 B Markey, 8 O Tomalin.
Replacements: 16 M Tanner, 17 C Murphy, 18 E Hasdell, 19 B Carpenter, 20 B Turpin, 21 B Horberry, 22 W Johnson.
15 Max Rayfield (Ipswich), 14 Frankie Sleightholme (Northampton School for Boys), 13 Archie Kean (Royal Hospital School), 12 George Hendy (KES Stratford), 11 Sonny Rodella (Northampton School for Boys), 10 Maty Arden (Stamford), 9 Keiran Gilmour (Bedford), 1 Leroy O’Neil (St Joseph’s College), 2 Craig Wright (Felsted), 3 Nick Tarr (Mark Rutherford), 4 Tom Lockett (Colchester RGS), 5 Emeka Atuanya (Northampton School for Boys), 6 Keon Sylvester (Upswich), 7 Joe Gaffan (Rugby), 8 Geordie Irvine (Oundle).
Replacements: 16 Aston Gradwick-Light), 17 Callum Smyth (Bedford), 18 Ted Reid (Colchester RGS), 19 George Lavender (Colchester RGS), 20 Harry Hall (Ipswich), 21 Jack Leggate (Uppingham), 22 Harvey Sharpe (Wellingborough).