Hartpury College returned to the top of the AASE tree on Wednesday at Allianz Park with a stunning 66-14 defeat of Gosforth Academy.
Last year was the first year since the AASE League’s inception that Hartpury College had not won the title, with Exeter College lifting the gong instead. This year it has been their mission to return to the top of the pile, and that showed as they put in arguably the performance of the season in the final.
For Gosforth it was heartbreak, their second AASE final defeat in as many years. In truth though, there was little that they could do as Hartpury put in a classy and determined performance, leaving almost no room for Gosforth to get their offloading game going.
The Gloucester affiliates scored a stunning ten tries, including six in the first half as they simply blasted their opponents aside. This is a very special institute of rugby, and it showed.
The scoring started on six minutes through inside centre Jack Reeves, before Olly Adkins followed up five minutes late. Three more scores followed before the half hour mark, including a second for Reeves, before scrum half Ewan Fenley, who was one of the best performers on the pitch, added a sixth for a 40-0 half time lead.
In a strange sense though, given the startling range of different attacking rugby on offer from Hartpury College, one of the best aspects was the kicking off the tee from fly half Joe Winfield.
Winfield strikes the ball as well as anyone that you will see, and landed eight from ten off the tee, and a lot were from wide. His stats are all the more impressive when you consider that form every penalty his side went to the corner rather than kicking for goal – an ambition that both sides shared, much to the joy of those watching on.
The second half started as the first had, with Hartpury crossing after just four minutes to go 47-0 ahead. Gosforth gave so much in this game to admire though, for no matter what the onslaught facing them, they responded by refusing to give up. They continued to play and play, and eventually that paid off 12 minutes into the second half when second row Joe Lashley crashed over from the tail of the maul and Callum Pascoe converted.
Hartpury responded with two quick scores, first through substitute Josh Phipps, and then through a wonderful finish from left wing Louis Rees-Zammitt. It took the South West side out to a stunning 59-7 lead, and there were still ten minutes left on the clock.
Again though, Gosforth kept fighting. Leaving this famous pitch at Allianz Park without having given their all would not have been an option for them, and they lived up to that, responding to those two further Hartpury scores with another of their own as inside centre Morgan Passman, a star of the future, blasting through. Again Pascoe converted, to make the score 59-14.
Inevitably though, it was Hartpury College that had the last say, they were always going to have the last say from the moment this game kicked off it seemed that way.
It fitting fashion, they did so in the final play of the game, crashing over from short range through the forwards, with Winfield, almost inevitably, landing the conversion for a stunning 66-14 victory.
It sealed a truly remarkable seventh AASE title from the eight that have been played. They are truly a phenomenon of consistency, quality, and good coaching. Picking individuals from the performance almost seems unfair, from 1-23 this was a performance of pace, power, and precision that few, if any, schools or colleges in the country could compete with.
Quite simply, Hartpury College were, and are, sensational.
AASE Final: Hartpury College 66-14 Gosforth Academy
15 Jack Curtis, 14 Calum Barrett, 13 Jacob Morris, 12 Jack Reeves, 11 Louis Rees-Zammitt, 10 Joe Winfield, 9 Ewan Fenley, 1 Shay O’Malley, 2 Morgan Nelson, 3 Ethan Seville, 4 Olly Adkins, 5 Joe Howard, 6 Bailey Watts, 7 Bec Fissenden, 8 JJ Tonks.
Replacements: 16 Rowan Mullis, 17 Bertie Stretch, 18 Alex Hunt, 19 Sonny Facey, 20 Vine Everitt, 21 James Clancy, 22 Josh Phipps, 23 Isaac Marsh.
15 Will Roberts, 14 Seamus Hutton, 13 Nathan Henderson, 12 Morgan Passman, 11 Shaw Lorimer-Bell, 10 Callum Pascoe, 9 Josh Dixon, 1 Jacob Dunsdon, 2 Adam Hay, 3 Oscar Caudle, 4 James Barker, 5 Joe Lashley, 6 Tom Marshall, 7 Mason Lewthwaite, 8 Ethan Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Archie Barber, 17 Lewis Spark, 18 Ash Sinton, 19 Grant Steward, 20 Luke Giles, 21 Gabe Appleby-Rutter, 22 Lewis Williams, 23 Eliot Everton.