Radley College produced a late score to maintain their unbeaten record and secure a narrow victory over Hampton School in a tense Continental Tyres U15 Cup Quarter-Final tie.
Hampton School have featured regularly over recent years in the latter stages of the Schools U15 Cup competitions so it was no surprise to see them winning the always-competitive London & South-East Group A Area knockout to reach the last eight of this season’s campaign. Radley College, winners of the South-West Group A Area knockout, have had an excellent season with a 100% record with wins over some very strong schools including Harrow, Tonbridge and Wellington. A close game was in prospect.
The Hampton pitches were looking beautifully prepared as the home side kicked off in front of a large crowd from both schools against the strong south-westerly wind which was to make conditions difficult throughout the game. The visitors made good use of the wind to dominate territory in the opening stages, forcing a penalty on halfway which was kicked to touch on the right to set up an attacking lineout. Although possession was lost, the ensuing clearance kick was effectively run back by Radley and Hampton were penalised again, enabling Radley to set up another attacking lineout in the right corner.
This time the set-piece ball was secured, and a driving maul took play close to the line, but excellent defence forced a scrum and Hampton were able to clear, forcing successive penalties which enabled their Inside centre and captain Harry Drewry to relieve the pressure with a kick to touch. The respite was brief as turnover ball gave Radley the chance to move the ball through the hands on the right, before play was switched to the left where wing William McNeil was out into space, and he crossed in the corner to open the scoring. The touchline conversion attempt by full-back Manny Lumsden was well-struck but drifted just wide.
The Oxfordshire school made an effective exit from the restart but were forced to reorganise their backs when their fly half had to leave the field with right-wing Rafferty Blacker moving into midfield. McNeil again threatened to break through on the left but when play was switched into midfield a handling error gave possession back to Hampton at the scrum. Drewry showed his all-round footballing skills, making light of the tricky wind to catch a kick by Lumsden and step past the pursuing defenders.
The home side at last had some good possession inside the Radley half but the ball went loose and was hacked through back into the Hampton half. A potentially tricky situation was effectively dealt with by the Hampton No. 8 Sebastian Habdank and, when Radley were penalised, the London-based school secured an attacking lineout on the right and a maul took play back into the Radley half.
With half-time approaching, successive attacking scrums for Hampton allowed Habdank to pick up from the base and he carried strongly towards the line, where the defence was penalised, giving Hampton an attacking lineout in the right corner. With possession won, a driving maul was established and, although tenacious defence forced a turnover Hampton recovered possession on the 22, where fly-half Stanley Amor seized the opportunity of broken play to find space on the left and he stepped past several would-be tacklers to level the scores. The conversion attempt by Drewry was a difficult one from out wide on the left, directly into the wind and fell just short.
Half-time: Hampton School U15 5-5 Radley College U15
The strong wind carried the restart back inside the 10m line, giving Hampton a scrum on halfway. With the wind advantage, the home side soon gained a good field position after secure handling on the right. When the Radley defence was penalised Hampton took a quick tap and took play into the right corner before moving the ball through the hands to the left, but the defence held firm and forced a penalty which was cleared to touch. With the ensuing line-out won, Radley progressed up to halfway, their powerfully built second-row Mosese Tuliakiono making some hard yards in midfield. Although possession was briefly lost, good handling once again put McNeil into space on the left and he cut through to score by the posts, Lumsden converting.
With Radley penalised following the restart, Hampton won the ensuing lineout on the right and Habdank carried strongly into the 22 before the ball was moved through the hands to the left where wing Benjamin Williams stepped past the first defender and although he was stopped just short of the line the defence was forced to concede a penalty. That was kicked to touch in the corner and although possession was won the defence was able to force the ball carrier into touch. The set piece possession was secured but Hampton were able to put pressure on the attempted clearance kick and, when that was charged down, flanker Hayden Elliot regathered and touched down to score. The conversion attempt by Amor, with Drewry having had to leave the pitch, dropped just below the crossbar.
Hampton were unable to secure the restart and Radley threatened to score but some excellent defence forced a penalty. A long clearance kick to the right touchline gave Hampton field position and after more good work by Habdank the ball was moved through the hands into the 22 where Radley were penalised in midfield. The decision was made to go for the posts and Amor duly took the three points from the tee to put the home side into the lead.
With less than 10 minutes to go, Radley looked to find the decisive score. After strong carrying by No 8 Harry Oliver possession was retained through several phases but a penalty was conceded, and Hampton were able to clear to touch. Although possession was secured the ensuing kick was effectively run back by Lumsden and, after good carrying and offloading by the forward pack, the ball was moved through the hands on the left where an overlap was created for Lumsden who dived in at the corner. Despite the headwind, his well-struck touchline conversion attempt fell only just short.
With time running out and Hampton needing another try it was important for Radley to win the restart and they were secure, Tuliakiono and tight head William Jordan-Willis making some hard yards before the ball was released to the backs. A handling error gave possession back to Hampton and they were able to take play back to midfield with good running by 10 and Radley were penalised in midfield. Possession was won at the ensuing Hampton lineout and a maul set up, but the ball was lost forward, and the Referee blew for the end of the game.
This game could have gone either way. Hampton did well to thwart some early scoring opportunities for Radley and will have been pleased to reach halftime with the scores level and the wind advantage to come in the second half. They were unfortunate to lose their captain to injury soon after the interval. Radley have a strong forward pack and some good athletes among the backs: the very windy conditions possibly affected their preferred style of play more than they did the home side’s and one sensed that if they had been able to move the ball to the wings more easily, they would have scored more tries. They now join Millfield, Stow and the winners of the QEGs Wakefield vs Northampton School for Boys fixture in the semi-finals at Aylesbury RFC on the first weekend in March.
Full-time: Hampton School U15 13-17 Radley College U15
By Peter Crawshaw
Oliver Booth, Cyril Bellamy, Lucas Stynes Tres, Ollie Williams, Aiden Hughes, Hayden Elliot, Will Olsen (Vice-Capt), Sebastian Habdank (Vice-Capt), Owen Parker, Stanley Amor (Vice-Capt), Benjamin Williams, Harry Drewry (Capt), Jack Holden, Fraser Kerr, Lander Kauenhoven-Wrenn
Replacements: Shivang Shukla , Alessio Carraretto, Tom Boardman
Massimiliano Carpigo, James Coke, William Jordan-Willis (Vice-Capt), Oscar Best, Mosese Tuliakiono, Alessandro Carpigo, Andrew Coke, Harry Oliver, Freddy Hunt, Edward Casey, William McNeil, Hamish Kennedy (Capt), Max Muirie, Rafferty Blacker, Manny Lumsden
Replacements: Wilfred Hall, Kit Kingsbury, Charlie Johnstone, George Graham, Monty Cooper