Sutton Valence School scored a pair of tries early on and again in the closing minutes, giving them a 36-7 win over Simon Langton GS but the intervening period saw a closely contested game in this London & South-East Group B 4th Round game.
Sutton Valence had been winning U18 Vase semi-finalists in March 2019. but the pandemic had prevented them from contesting the final at Twickenham. This season’s side look determined to try to match that with an unbeaten record, with some impressive results including a 55-7 win over Whitgift U18B and a 44-7 win against Churcher’s College (also progressing to this stage in South-West Group B of the U18 Vase) coming into this game. The highlight of Simon Langston’s results in National competition came in the 2015/16 Cup with wins over Judd and John Fisher, but they have had a good run again this year, beating Maidstone GS (who had eliminated King’s Canterbury) in the 3rd round.
The previous day’s sunshine had been obscured by heavy cloud, but conditions were dry as the visitors kicked off. It was the home side that seized an early advantage, gaining good field position before disrupting Langton’s ball at a line-out on the 22 and kicking the loose ball through to the in-goal area where left wing Oscar Vas beat the defence to get downward pressure to open the scoring. After possession was lost following a Langton line-out on half-way, a second try soon followed in similar fashion, with the loose ball again kicked through to the goal line where the longish grass helped to hold it up and it was seized and grounded by outside centre and captain Tyler Weekes, fly half Tom Barton adding the conversion.
Langton responded well to these early setbacks, forcing a penalty on half-way, which was kicked to the right corner. Line-out ball was secured by the tall and powerfully built Langton No 5 and a driving maul moved infield before the ball was released to the backs and the Langton centre wearing 10 cut through to score by the posts, the fly half adding the straightforward conversion.
With the restart not going 10m, Langston had the opportunity to build again but after an exchange of kicks they were penalised for a high tackle. Both sides then struggled to put together multiple phases as handling errors crept in and further penalties were awarded. As the sun briefly broke through Langton won a scrum and kicked into the Sutton Valence 22, but that was marked and cleared to touch, where Langton were unable to secure their line-out ball and a break in midfield by Weekes took play into the left corner. Although the Langton defence were able to force Sutton Valence into touch just short of the line, they were again unable to win possession from the throw unto the line-out and flanker Jacob Ray crashed over. Although the conversion attempt was unsuccessful, the home side were now two scores clear as half-time approached.
Half-time: Sutton Valence School 17-7 Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys
The first score after the interval was clearly going to be crucial and Langton pressed hard for that, winning a scrum and driving through the forwards before moving the ball through the hands on the right, but the final pass went forward. Although Sutton Valence won possession from the ensuing scrum, the clearance kick went directly into touch, enabling Langton to maintain good field position, but good line speed from the home side prevented forward progress. Finally the deadlock in midfield was broken when a forward pass gave Sutton Valence the put-in at a scrum and the first phase ball was taken on by Ray who showed excellent speed to break through and score close to the posts, Barton converting.
Langton were now chasing the game and although they looked to move the ball from a scrum, they were penalised, and the home side cleared. Turnover ball saw Langton forwards carry strongly and force a penalty, kicked to touch on the Sutton Valence 22, but a turnover allowed the home side to clear. After both sides had failed to find touch from penalties, another penalty awarded to Langton was kicked to touch on the left and possession was won by their tall second row and the ball moved to the left wing coming into midfield, but the defence again held firm.
When a Langton kick was partly charged down, Sutton Valence were able to clear, winning a scrum in midfield, from which play was switched quickly to the right where it reached Oliver Murch who had switched from scrum half to the wing and he produced a perfectly weighted kick ahead which he regathered to score under the posts, Barton converting.
Although the lead now looked insurmountable, Langton redoubled their efforts to find another score when Sutton Valence were penalised for crossing at the restart, kicking to touch on the left and setting up a maul from the line-out, The fly half kicked through to the goal line but the defence were able to prevent the score, though the pressure was maintained with a drop-out from the goal line awarded. Finally, the pressure relieved but a piece individual brilliance, running out of defence and kicking ahead, by the Langton fly half took play back into the Sutton Valence half, where Langton were awarded an attacking scrum. A cross-kick was almost gathered by the Langton right wing, but Sutton Valence were able to recover possession and clear.
With time running out and the light failing, a final scoring opportunity was created by Langton when Sutton Valence were twice penalised and the Langton fly half found his hooker close to the line, but the ball was dropped and the defence able to clear. With pressure relieved, successive carried by Barton saw him put Weekes, now playing at scrum half, into space on the left and he sprinted clear of the defence to claim his second try on the final play.
Despite the one-sided look on the scoreboard, this was a competitive game. Between the two early tries from loose balls and the final score, Langton held their own well, though they certainly lacked the penetration behind the scrum that have the home side their advantage. The sizeable crowd on the touchline ensured a true knockout competition atmosphere. Sutton Valence will now be away in the Regional Final to the winners of the Skinners’ vs Brentwood game, playing for a place in the quarter-finals. Langton face a number of other Kent schools. Including visits to Judd, Cranbrook and neighbours King’s Canterbury.
Full-time: Sutton Valence School 36-7 Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys
By Peter Crawshaw
Sutton Valence School: Marcus Brown, Josh Forknall, Ethan Wynne, Oyedayo Oyerinde, Alfie Jarrett, Fynn Page, Jacob Ray, Nathan Michelow (Vice-Capt), Oliver Murch, Tom Barton, Oscar Vas., Jasper Benson, Tyler Weekes (Capt), Joe Savage, Pip Hodson
Replacements: Alexander Bowyer, Max Lindsay