Stepping Up: How did the U21 players perform in the final round of the Gallagher Premiership?

Dan Kelly 2

The final round of the Gallagher Premiership saw a number of young players involved with some now relatively experienced starters and others given a final chance to show off their talents before the offseason.

Leicester once more maintained their record of playing youngsters with seven players part of an excellent win away to Wasps finish their campaign while Exeter, Sale and Bristol will likely call upon some of their young stars to help them in the play-offs.

Bath vs Northampton

Max Ojomoh – Centre

Playing the full match at inside centre, it was in the wide channels that Ojomoh made an impact in attack. The recent England call up used his pace and footwork with his midfield partner Joseph taking more of a playmaking role. Showing good awareness early in the game, the centre held his width and collected an excellent kick pass in stride while also displaying his pace on a kick chase in the 2nd half to win a line out 5 metres out for his side. In defence Ojomoh helped his team out with 11 tackles as they won a narrow victory to end the season. Unfortunately, young fly half Orlando Bailey wasn’t introduced off the bench.

Ollie Newman – Back row

Tom Litchfield – Centre

Josh Gillespie – Wing

Tommy Freeman – Fullback

Freeman played the full 80 minutes at fullback and maintained the form that has him looking like one of the best young back three players in rugby. The former Moulton College star made key contributions in defence and attack with 2 terrific breaks resulting in 8 defenders beaten on the day as well as try-saving effort after Priestland kicked through. Tom Litchfield was brought on at outside centre and didn’t look out of place in a fast-paced final 20 minutes with the Samuel Whitbread old boy carrying hard for his side. Ollie Newman (Saffron Walden County High School) and Josh Gillespie (Millfield) made their first appearances of the season in the final 10 minutes of the contest. There weren’t many opportunities for the pair to make an impact but the involvement can only be a positive heading into next season.

Exeter vs Sale

Richard Capstick – Back row

Capstick was brought on after 28 minutes due to an injury to Jannes Kirsten. The flanker played at openside for the rest of the match and contributed 10 tackles (2nd on the team) in his time on the pitch. The Exeter College graduate also showed his abilities in attack, running a nice support line to make a break and showcased his skills as a link player in the pack as well.

Bevan Rodd – Loosehead prop

Coming off the bench early in the 2nd half, Rodd racked up 12 tackles and his dynamism around the pitch was evident on both sides of the ball. The former Sedbergh student did struggle a couple of times against Exeter’s powerful scrum however, which will be a work on after his breakout season.

Harlequins vs Newcastle

Hugh Tizard – Lock

Louis Lynagh – Wing

After his appearance from the bench last week, Lynagh played the full 80 minutes on the right wing for Harlequins and notched a try in the 2nd half with an impressive finish in the corner. The Hampton School old boy ended with 92 metres made and finished the game strong with a sublime break from deep to set up a try in the 79th minute. Hugh Tizard came on in the final quarter of the match and the lock, once of Cranleigh School, made his tackles and chipped in with a couple of strong carries with the game well in hand for the home side.

Wasps vs Leicester

James Whitcombe – Loosehead prop

Cameron Henderson – Lock

George Martin – Back row

Ollie Chessum – Back row

Jack Van Poortvliet – Back row

Dan Kelly – Centre

Freddie Steward – Wing

George Martin was the pick of the bunch for Leicester with his Man of the Match display. The young England cap showed exceptional work rate in defence, topping all players with 18 tackles. Going forward, the former Brooksby Melton star carried hard and made an excellent break in the 1st half, breaking 2 tackles before offloading. In a terrific season for the youngster, this was another step up as he made his case for future test honours in a competitive England back row. Cam Henderson started the game and was an effective defender and line out operator until being taken off for the final 20 minutes. The Strathallan alumnus showed excellent reflexes and agility in the 1st half with a pick up just off the ground before diving over the try line.

Jack Van Poortvliet was handed a start against Wasps and didn’t disappoint with his delivery and kicking game generally on point. The Oakham graduate’s point of difference is his running game, though, and an excellent dart near the ruck between 2 defenders before an offload to Montoya for a try highlighted how dangerous he can be. Dan Kelly started at inside centre in a quieter game than average after his England call up. The former Kirkham man was solid throughout and did set up Henderson’s try with a superb step to beat the first defender and then had the strength to stay on his feet and get the ball away for the assist. Once of Norwich School, Steward was given his first start of the season on the wing and was similarly quiet on both sides of the ball. The youngster was caught out slightly in defence when Umaga broke through and stepped him but made some amends with a nice kick through in attack, forcing a scrum 5 to Tigers.

Leicester’s final two youngsters came off the bench with Ollie Chessum returning to the squad after a spell with Nottingham. The Carre’s Grammar product came on at blindside with Martin moving across and tallied 9 tackles in the final quarter of the game. Former Woodhouse Grove pupil Whitcombe was introduced in the final 10 minutes and impressed with his scrummaging while also adding 5 tackles in his short time on the pitch.

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