King’s College School, Wimbledon overcame an early setback, scoring two tries in the final quarter to defeat John Fisher School, Purley 32-15 in the group final of London & South-East Group A of the U18 Schools Cup
These two schools are based only a few miles apart but play on somewhat different, though equally tough circuits. Results this term against two common opponents, Reeds’ and Wimbledon College indicated a slight advantage on paper to the home side. Fisher, after a tough tournament at St Joseph’s, seemed to be rounding into form with a win over Dulwich and a narrow defeat against Brighton College who scored on the final play. However, they were without a couple of key players, Harlequins EPDG member Conor Oresanya and first choice fly-half Liam Sullivan.
Thankfully there was a break in the seemingly incessant rain, with the game mostly played under clear skies and only one light shower. The KCS ground staff had done well to get the main pitch at the school into a playable condition, though the surface was slippery throughout. Fisher got off to a flying start when a KCS handling error at the kick-off gave the Purley-based school an attacking scrum. With possession won from that and from a second set-piece, they drove deep into the KCS 22 and second-row Onyema crashed over on the left. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
The home side did not take long to bounce back from this setback, gaining good field position and driving through their forwards deep into the Fisher 22. Possession was retained through several phases and despite good defence, second-row Ed Blake forced his way over, full back Finn MacLeod converting.
Both sides had problems winning set-piece possession, Fisher knocking on at a line-out on halfway and a crooked feed into the scrum by KCS spotted by the referee. KCS gained some momentum when Fisher were penalised twice in quick succession, and the ensuing line-outs took play up to the Fisher 22. After good work by the KCS forwards on the left, the ball was moved through the hands to the right but the final pass went astray. The KCS pack produced an excellent shove at the scrum but Fisher were able to get the ball to scrum-half Seiji Takahashi whose box kick relieved the immediate pressure.
The respite was short-lived as KCS ran back the clearance kick, No 8 Noah Chamberlain carrying strongly, and Fisher were forced to concede a penalty on their 22, giving KCS the opportunity to set up an attacking line-out in the left corner. With possession won, a driving maul was set up and made inexorable progress to the line, second row Will Staples touching down. MacLeod’s touchline conversion was beautifully struck to add the extras.
KCS made a good exit from the restart with centre Robbie Phillpot making ground on the left but good line speed by the Fisher defence forced a handling error, giving the Purley school a line-out on the right from which they set up their maul. That was well defended and KCS won a penalty, from which they drove upfield, Chamberlain carrying again, before good handling and recycling on the right were followed by a carry into the 22 by flanker Piers Keller. Fisher was forced to concede a penalty in front of the posts, and KCS elected to keep the scoreboard ticking over, MacLeod making no mistake from the tee.
The home side’s problems at the restart continued, a knock-on giving Fisher an attacking scrum. With Onyema carrying strongly, KCS was forced to concede a penalty, kicked to the left corner. Possession was won and although forward pressure on the KCS line was initially resisted the ball was moved to centre Michal Saladziak who crashed over on the left. Full back Ted Dwyer’s touchline conversion attempt was on target to reduce the deficit to five points at the interval.
Half-time King’s College School, Wimbledon 17-12 John Fisher School, Purley
The shift in momentum to Fisher continued as the second half began, another good box kick by Takahashi put KCS on the back foot. A knock-on at the ensuing line-out gave Fisher an attacking scrum, but that was disrupted by another effective shove from KCS, which saw them move the ball through the hands on the right, Phillpot linking with his forwards and winning a penalty that was kicked to the right corner. Again the KCS driving maul proved unstoppable, with captain and hooker Matty Hawthorn getting the score. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
Although KCS managed their exit from the restart, an excellent clearance kick by Dwyer gave Fisher good field position. Although KCS were able to win their line-out ball and clear, the Fisher forwards drove out on the left to half-way where KCS conceded successive penalties, the second kicked to the corner. With possession won, Fisher again pressed close to the line, but the defence held firm and the ball was switched to the backs, centre St John Amon breaking on the right and the forwards taking play close to the line. Although the referee ruled that a try had not been scored, penalty advantage was being played and Fisher decided to go for the points, Dwyer’s kick from the tee reducing the deficit to a single score.
When Fisher’s attempted clearance kick from the restart was charged down, they found themselves pinned inside their own half. KCS were quick to capitalise on the field position, switching play to the right, where centre Benji Tozer made ground and combined with Philpott who offloaded to Keller who squeezed in at the corner. The touchline conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
The momentum was now firmly with the home side. Scrum-half Callum Turner broke from a scrum on the short side and after paly was carried on by the forwards Tozer carried to within 5m of the line, but the ball went forward and Fisher were able to clear. KCS kept up the pressure, wing Tom Oswald showing excellent pace to run deep into the 22 on the left and, although a knock-on gave Fisher the put-in at a 5m scrum, more excellent scrummaging by KCS saw the ball pop out at the base, rescued by Amon who was forced back over his own line.
With KCS now having the put-in at the 5m scrum, they secured possession and drove over the line, but the Fisher defence was tenacious. The referee was perfectly placed to conclude that the ball had been held up and KCS had another scrum. Although that was again won, more good defence forced a knock-on and this time Fisher were able to secure their set-piece ball with Onyema picking up at the base. When KCS were penalised on the 22, it seemed that they had missed an important scoring opportunity, but they recovered possession and put Philpott into space on the left. The centre showed great pace to beat the cover defence and dive over in the left corner. The difficult conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
With time running out, Fisher were able to recover their restart and drive to the KCS 22. There was a fleeting possibility of a late consolation score, but the ball was scrambled into touch to bring the end of what had been an enthralling contest. Having fallen behind by two scores late in the first half, Fisher did well to get back into the game, but the home side dominated the final quarter and thoroughly deserved the win. KCS now face the prospect of a trip to Dorset to face Sherborne, a tie due to be played next week, with a block fixture against Aylesbury GS scheduled in the interim.
Full-time King’s College School, Wimbledon 32-15 John Fisher School, Purley
By Peter Crawshaw
KCS Wimbledon: Jack Fox, Matty Hawthorn (Capt.), Freddie Hawkins, Will Staples, Ed Blake, Rory Hyatt, Piers Keller, Noah Chamberlain, Callum Turner, Marcus Heenk, Tom Oswald, Benji Tozer, Robbie Phillpot, Ollie Nichols, Finn Macleod
John Fisher School: Nathan Jacobs, Robbie Ashton, Dom Brookes, Onyema (Vice-Capt.), David Williams, Ryan Biggs (Capt.), Paddy Mallows (VC), Eoian McGlaughlin, Seiji Takahashi, Tom Sullivan, Michael Mbomema, Michal Saladziak, St J Amon, Ciaran Conneely, Teddy Dwyer
Replacements: A Kisembo, S Charnock, T Higgins Esson