A late first half blitz helped Hampton to a place in the 2019 Champions Trophy semi finals as the beat Uppingham 27-7.
Fly half Jamie Benson was the star of the show, pushing the away side’s backline defence this way and that as he helped created the openings out wide for his side’s four tries that were the key to their success.
The victory sends Hampton to the semi finals of this competition for the first time but it was a far closer game than the scoreline suggests. The timing of their tries was key, scoring twice early in in the first half and twice late in the half, bookending some real Uppingham pressure in between.
For the away side this was one of their biggest games in years, at least the last decade, so when 24-0 down at the break those on the touchlines should have been expecting the response that they got as the men in white really took the game to their hosts. They scored the only try of a half that they enjoyed the lion’s share of, conceding just a solitary penalty to their hosts.
In truth though the damage was done in that first half when this electric Hampton backline left the away defence bamboozled with the fast-paced and intricate play on their way to four very similar tries.
The first came after just ten minutes as the home side surged down the left hand side, with Jesper Hartikainen carrying well. With the defence drawn tight, Benson looked right and urged his outside men to keep shifting it wide to Aidan Barry on the right wing, who ran in unopposed for a 5-0 lead.
Seven minutes later and Hampton were at it again, this time straight for the set piece as again the forwards laid the platform and then the backs just drew the opposite numbers into trouble. Benson was the architect, taking the ball on a classic outside arc as the put the hammer down to accelerate away in the left 15m channel. As the support flooded through, Benson picked the inside line of his skipper and full back Patrick Silcox, who raced clear for his side’s second try and a 12-0 lead with Benson’s conversion.
That seemed to be a bit of a wake up call for Uppingham, and in particular vice captain and number 8 James Chalk, who put in a couple of huge carries, inspiring his teammates into a sustained period of territory and possession.
It was perhaps this period where Hampton truly sealed the game, on reflection. Under huge pressure as Uppingham came at them in waves they never cracked. Even a yellow card for Lucas Mangham did not break them as they kept fighting in defence, refusing to be breached.
With just a couple of minutes left in the half they then delivered perhaps the killer blow. Still under pressure, and down to 14 men, they managed to snaffle the ball back. They hammered it downfield and then hacked it further on, Uppingham looked good have touched the ball down for a 22 but it was adjudged to have been carried over, giving the home side a 5 metre scrum, valuable respite and a huge attacking chance.
Once again off the set piece the running lines, pace, and deception of the Hampton backline was simply too hot to handle as Rory Carr was sent clear on the right hand side for his side’s third try of the half, with Benson nailing the conversion for a 19-0 lead.
Just a couple of minutes later they made the lead look almost insurmountable with their fourth try of the half and again a relatively simple score as their backline round the space off the set piece to release Dan Finlay down the left hand side to send his team into the break with a 24-0 lead.
Credit to Uppingham, though. They came out in the second half bursting with purpose and demonstrated, as they had in the middle period of the first half, that with the ball in hand they were incredibly difficult to handle.
However, as showed in their opening round of Tonbridge, Hampton’s defence is utterly unyielding, their energy, competitiveness, and organisation can be so hard to find a way through.
Eleven minutes into the second half though and Uppingham had found a way through, fast and intricate handling releasing hooker Sam Westmacott down the left hand side. Westmacott was the hero of their dramatic victory over Hurstpierpoint last round and showed sublime pace and skill again as he seared away before drawing the last man and popping inside for his winger, Henry Hunt to race away for Uppingham’s only try, with Westmacott himself converting for 24-7.
On balance his side probably had the better of the next fifteen minutes or so of the game, however Hampton’s electric four first half tries and their steadfast defence in this second half had built them a platform that seemed near impossible to beat.
As the half drew towards its closing minutes Hampton began to exert some attacking fluency again as they looked to sign off with a flourish. Awarded a penalty with three minutes to go though they opted for a penalty through Benson, perhaps a sign of the sort of clinical mentality that will be needed as this tournament progresses to the business end.
It was, in truth, an incredibly clinical performance from Hampton, one that should leave them feeling confident heading into what looks like to be an incredibly high level pair of semi finals.
The draw will be made on Friday lunchtime but joining Hampton in it will be a seriously strong Rugby School side one their debut tournament, they beat Oakham 13-8 today, last year’s finalists Epsom College, who beat Blundell’s 20-0, and the reigning champions, Wellington College, who beat 2017 champions Dulwich College 12-6.
It makes for perhaps the strongest quartet of semi finalists that this tournament has ever seen, a mouthwatering prospect for all and an exciting one for the four teams, who are now just a game away from Allianz Park and the final on Wednesday 4th December.
For Uppingham this will hurt, they gave it everything but that flurry of first half tries were too much to overcome. Reflecting though, they should take pride in their response and in the superb season that they are having, probably their best in a decade.
For Hampton though it will probably all be about what’s next, they were wonderfully clinical today and now Allianz Park is within their sights, just a game away now. Glory awaits one of the four, and they have put themselves in the mix in superb fashion.
Full time: Hampton 27-7 Uppingham
15 Patrick Silcox (c), 14 Aidan Barry, 13 Jesper Hartikainen, 12 Tim Lamming, 11 Dan Finlay, 10 Jamie Benson (vc), 9 Luke Greenhall, 1 David Ellis, 2 Iestyn Humphrey, 3 Rupert Reddish, 4 Max Goldin, 5 Jack Slaney, 6 Archer Chilcoty, 7 George Price, 8 Alex Taylor.
Replacements: 17 Lucas Mangham, 18 James Poole, 19 Toby Robinson, 20 Joe Sykes, 22 Louis Goodwin, 25 Rory Carr.
15 Archie Hogan, 14 Ethan Hodgson, 13 Ethan Heath-Drury, 12 William Meadows, 11 Henry Hunt, 10 Xavier Cranwell (c), 9 Harrison Casey, 1 Carlson White, 2 Sam Westmacott, 3 William Owens, 4 Angus Duff, 5 Pip Jackson, 6 Oliver Thompson, 7 Christian Totty, 8 James Chalk (vc).
Replacements: 16 George Perkins, 17 Henry Robinson, 18 Angus Jackson.