Leicester Tigers won the U18 Academy League on Sunday with a simply outstanding performance against Gloucester, winning 43-21 at Allianz Park.
Gloucester had blitzed the Southern Conference through the season, while Leicester had been really challenged in the Northern Conference, however come finals day the roles were reversed.
Right from the off Leicester, in their old fashion ABC shirts in traditional Tigers green, white, and red, were bang on the money. Just four minutes into the game they scored through their beast of a full back, Freddie Steward of Norwich School.
Sam Costelow, the Oakham fly half, added the extras and a few minutes later he was on the scoreboard again with a penalty to give his side an 8-0 lead.
Just two minutes later his schoolmate, and England U18 second row, Cameron Jordan crossed the line for Tigers’ second try. Jordan was the skipper on the day and his leadership was key. The giant lock had a huge game as Tigers’ physicality in the tackle and at the breakdown ultimately proved the difference, denying Gloucester’s exciting and pacy team the time and space to play their game until late on when it was effectively all over anyway.
Costelow converted for 15-0, but Gloucester kept Leicester honest, scoring a well worked try through their scoring machine at outside centre, Jack Reeves. Tommy Matthews, on for the injured George Barton, landed the conversion.
Tigers were straight back at it though, Steward securing his brace with a superb chip and chase before Andre Dunn, back for his second trip to Allianz Park of the week after his U18 Schools Vase semi final win for Langley, crossed over for a lovely score, sending his side in 29-7 ahead at the break with the benefit of yet more points from the boot of Costelow.
The second half began much like the first, Tigers scoring through Wyggeston & QEI flanker Henri Lavin before Brooksby Melton College’s George Martin added another, Costelow, almost inevitably, converting both for a stunning 43-7 lead.
With fifteen minutes left to play, the game was effectively over, and Gloucester could almost have been forgiven for losing confidence at the point. It was a huge credit to this group then that they did not, instead scoring two excellent tries, through Louis Rees-Zammitt and Alex Hunt, both converted beautifully from tough angles by Mathews, to give the final score a much more respectable look of 43-21.
In truth though this was a fantastic performance from Tigers, their work in the contact area was truly sublime and the physicality of their entire performance would have been too much, by far, for any side in either conference. It was a magnificent display.
3rd Place Play-Off
In the early kick off host side Saracens met Wasps for third place. The battle between the two England U18 hookers, Alfie Barbeary of Bloxham for Wasps and Kapeli Pifileti of Haileybury for Saracens, was one of the exciting battle picked out prior to the game.
So it proved to be as both scored braces as part of commanding performances from their sides. Pifileti’s second handed Saracens a potentially game winning lead, but when Wellington College centre Sam Spink scored for Wasps to bring it back to 21-19 in Saracens’ favour, a nervy final few minutes remained for the home side.
They held out though, securing third place with a 21-19 victory after a fantastically intense game of rugby.
5th Place Play-Off
The fifth place play off between Sale Sharks and Harlequins was surely the game of the day. Harlequins won it, 34-29, but there was so much more to it than just that.
The game see-sawed about early on, Quins’ Sam Riley from St George’s College Weybridge scoring early with Sale responding fast through his opposite number Ewan Ashman. Quins retook the lead shortly after though through a stunning try as Whitigft second row George Hammond gobbled up his second interception of the day before chipping ahead for Dulwich College win Femi Sofolarin to score.
That game Quins a 10-7 lead but from there it was all Sale as Bevan Rodd, Tom Roebuck, and Nathan Pope all crossed the whitewash to give last year’s runners-up in the final a 29-10 lead.
It must have felt like the walls were closing in on Quins, but boy did they respond to the pressure. George Hammond kicked the comeback off, before Hugh Tizard and Jon Benz-Solomon followed him over the line. That left room for a hero, and Reed’s number 8 Jack Kenningham was that man as he sealed the most stunning of comebacks with just four minutes left to play.
U18 Academy League Finals Day Results:
U18 Academy League Final: Leicester Tigers 43-21 Gloucester
3rd Place Play-off: Wasps 19-21 Saracens
5th Place Play-off: Sale Sharks 29-34 Harlequins
15 Freddie Steward (Norwich), 14 Zack Godfrey (Stamford), 13 Ronnie Du Randt (Denstone College), 12 Andre Dunn (Langley), 11 Will Poland (Bishop Vesey), 10 Sam Costelow (Oakham), 9 Jonny Law (Rugby), 1 Keston Lines (Wyggeston & QE College), 2 Jamie Harding (Denstone College), 3 James Whitcombe (Woodhouse Grove), 4 George Martin (Brooksby Melton College), 5 Cameron Jordan (Oakham, captain), 6 Henri Lavin (Wyggeston & QE College), 7 Taylor Gough (Wyggeston & QE College), 8 Thom Smith (Langley).
Replacements: 16 Finlay Gibson (Brooksby Melton College), 17 Alex Maxwell (Brooksby Melton College), 18 Joe Latham (Wyggeston & QE College), 19 Xander Purcell (Wyggeston & QE College), 20 Dave Koelman (Stamford), 21 Will Yarnell (Loughborough GS), 22 Jacob Fewtrell (Denstone College), 23 Sam Wager (Wyggeston & QE College).
15 Reece Dunn, 14 Tom Stanton (captain), 13 Jack Reeves, 12 Isaac Marsh, 11 Jacob Morris, 10 George Barton, 9 Steve Varney, 1 Olly Adkins, 2 Bertie Stretch, 3 Jack Bartlett, 4 Archie Tarbuck, 5 Joe Howard, 6 JJ Tonks, 7 Dec Fissenden, 8 Jack Clement.
Replacements: 16 Morgan Nelson, 17 Shay O’Malley, 18 Alex Hunt, 19 Jonny Holiday, 20 Josh Gray, 21 Jack Curtis, 22 Tommy Mathews, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit.
15 Nathan Pope, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Connor Doherty, 12 Tom Curtis, 11 Tom Walsh, 10 Kieran Wilkinson, 9 Jacob Ainscough, 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Ewan Ashman, 3 Cal Ford, 4 Joe Murphy, 5 Jack Hill, 6 Ciaran Booth, 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 8 Sam Dugdale.
Replacements: 16 Liam Davies, 17 Alex Brooks, 18 James Harper, 19 Sam Higginson, 20 Charlie Papworth, 21 Joe Johnson, 22 Will Davies, 23 James Rooney.
15 Jordan Bond (St John’s, Leatherhead), 14 Femi Sofolarin (Dulwich College), 13 Harry Barlow (Cranleigh), 12 Lennox Anyanwu (Christ’s Hospital), 11 James Botterill (Fullbrook), 10 Sunni Jardine (Dulwich College), 9 Caolan Englefield (St Paul’s), 1 Jacob Morris (Whitgift), 2 Sam Riley (St George’s College, Weybridge), 3 Kieran Sassone (Sevenoaks), 4 Hugh Tizard (Cranleigh), 5 George Hammond (Whitgift), 6 Jack Glover (Harrow), 7 Vince Everitt (Hartpury College), 8 Jack Kenningham (Reed’s).
Replacements: 16 Aristot Benz-Salomon (Whitgift), 17 N/A, 18 Jon Benz Salomon (Whitgift), 19 Harry Dugmore (Whitgift), 20 Jack Reid (Wellington College), 21 Tom Allen, 22 Luc Smith (Brighton College), 23 Jack Potter (St John’s, Leatherhead).
15 Max Bliss (Dulwich College), 14 David Jimoh-Ibrahim (New Hall), 13 Jamie Hoyes (Haileybury), 12 Charlie Watson (King’s Canterbury), 11 Oliver Bluck (New Hall), 10 Manu Vunipola (Harrow), 9 Matteo Petrozzi (Tonbridge), 1 Sam Crean (Harrow), 2 Kapeli Pifeleti (Haileybury), 3 Harvey Beaton (Sutton Valence), 4 Ollie Stonham (Felsted), 5 Cameron Boon (Bishop Stortford College), 6 Ethan Benson (Hayes), 7 Dylan Taylor (Tonbridge), 8 Alfie Scopes (Judd).
Replacements 16 Theodore Dan (Alleyn’s), 17 Tom Harris (Tonbridge), 18 Harry Sturge (Felsted), 19 Matthew Cook (Haileybury), 20 Matt Mahoney (Trinity Catholic High School), 21 Rory Hazelton (Whitgift), 22 Josh Barton (Berkhamsted), 23 Jake Morris (Bishop Stortford College).
15 Will Simonds, 14 Taju Atta, 13 Cam Anderson, 12 Sam Spink, 11 Tom Bacon, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Kristian Kay, 1 Zac Nearchou, 2 Alfie Barbeary (captain), 3 Paddy Harris, 4 Anjo Ademuwagun, 5 Alfred Mawdsley, 6 Kieran Curran, 7 Will Stoker, 8 Nic Jakobsen.
Replacements: 16. Flynn Delaney, 17 Alex Pleasants, 18 Dan Roche, 19 Pete Vickers, 20 Silas Pill, 21 Henry Chilcott, 22 Finn Pietersen, 23 Aaron Youngs.