England Counties U18 won a tight contest against Ireland U18 Clubs & Schools on Wednesday, 15-13.
Taking place at the United Services Sports Ground in Portsmouth, the two sides were almost inseparable.
Ireland started the faster of the two but could not cross the whitewash, and it was St John’s College outside centre, Zach Clow, that scored the first points of the half. Superbly breaking away from inside his own half, evading the Irish defence for a 5-0 lead.
Ireland bounced back brilliantly though, dominating the game and scoring thirteen points for a 13-5 lead that they would take into the half time break.
In tricky conditions, 13-5 was a decent lead, but England turned the momentum in the second half when Oakham tighthead Isaac Thompson showed great awareness and pace to intercept an Irish pass and race away for his side’s second try.
The tension ramped up, with England gaining a real foothold but Ireland refusing to yield. Eventually though, that sort of pressure tells, and so it proved when, with ten minutes left on the clock, Clow seized upon a loose ball to score his second try of the game, sending his side into a 15-13 lead that they would hold on to for the remainder of the game.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com after the game, England Counties U18 Team Manager Dave Penberthy said:
“We knew how tough Ireland were going to be and they really proved that, but we were really proud of how our boys played, they stuck with it and played some really good rugby particularly in the second half.”
“We’re excited to go again on Saturday but we aren’t taking anything for granted and Ireland will be desperate not to lose another.”
The two sides meet again on Saturday at the same location, with England looking for a win to claim the series 2-0. Ireland meanwhile will be keen to make it 1-1, especially having won both of the corresponding fixtures last year.
England Counties U18 15-13 Ireland U18 Clubs & Schools
England Counties U18 XV:
15 Evan Davies (Prince Risborough), 14 Theo Barkway Hall (Epsom College), 13 Zachary Clow (St John’s College, Southsea), 12 William Rigg (Solihull), 11 Aaron Grandidier-Nkanand (St Olave’s GS), 10 Luke Bouchier (Oakland Academy), 9 Joshua Goodwin (Seaford College), 1 Luke Spring (Brockenhurst College), 2 Charlie Fleckney (Moulton College), 3 Isaac Thompson (Oakham), 4 George Cook (Brighton College), 5 Oliver Moody (Haileybury), 6 Matthew Wilkinson (Waddesdon C of E), 7 Austin Wallis (Reed’s), 8 Edward Cox (Stamford).
Replacements: 16 Harry Clayton (Stamford), 17 Jamie White (Worcester 6th form College), 18 James Sherlock (Lymm HS), 19 Matas Jurevicius (Hayes), 20 Cameron King (St Edward’s, Oxford), 21 George Speakman (Moulton College), 22 Thomas Knight-Owen (Peter Symonds College), 23 Aaron Simmonds (Truro College).
Ireland U18 Clubs & Schools XV:
15 Oran McNulty (Bath Academy/Millfield/IQ Rugby), 14 Tom Bacon (Henley College/Wasps/IQ Rugby), 13 Hayden Hyde (Harlequins Academy/Cranleigh School/IQ Rugby), 12 Saul O’Carroll (Buccaneers/Garbally College), 11 Shane Jennings (Ballinasloe/Garbally College), 10 Michael Cooke (Sedbergh School/IQ Rugby), 9 Charlie O’Doherty (Newcastle West/Ard Scoil na Mhuire), 1 Mark Donnelly (CBC Cork), 2 Aaron Hennessy (The Alfa Project, Scariff/Ennis), 3 Liam Winnett (Buccaneers/Marist College), 4 Eoin O’Connor (Waterpark/Gaelcholaiste Phortlairge), 5 Darragh Murray (Buccaneers/Coláiste Chíaráin), 6 Ed Brennan (Blackrock College), 7 Evan Murphy (Nenagh Ormond/Nenagh CBS, captain), 8 Joshua Dunne (Nottingham Academy/Denstone College/IQ Rugby).
Replacements: 16 Mark Nicholson (Wicklow/Colaiste Chill Mhantain), 17 Fionn Flanagan (Bruff), 18 Paddy McAlpine (Campbell College), 19 Paddy Kelly (St. Munchin’s College), 20 Chris Moore (Beechen Cliff School/IQ Rugby), 21 Shane Murphy (Skerries/St. Joseph’s Rush), 22 Thomas Armstrong (Methodist College Belfast), 23 Tommy Downes (CBC Cork).