Midlands Under-18s were edged out 22-16 by the North in an entertaining third and final Divisional Match of the season at Broadstreet RFC near Coventry this afternoon.
The game offered players a final chance to impress the England Under-18 selectors who are picking a squad to begin training for the AER (Association of European Rugby) Tournament in Treviso, Italy in March and both sides played some open and enterprsing rugby in a game of fluctuating fortunes.
The lead changed hands three times in the final quarter before a well-taken try from the North's replacement winger Thomas Bowden (Kirkham GS and Lancashire) five minutes from time sealed victory for the visitors.
The Midlands, with just two players already through to the first England training session at Bromsgrove School next weekend, had plenty to prove but they fell behind to an early pensalty from North fly-half James Nettleton (Altrincham and Cheshire).
Fly-half Dave Marshall (Nottingham HS, Nottingham and Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire) quickly levelled for the Midlands but the North regained the lead on 21 minutes when the impressive number eight Freddie Silcock (Sedbergh School, Chester and Chshire) rounded off a period of sustained pressure with a close range try.
Nettleton was unable to add the extras and his miss looked like proving costly as the Midlands, inspired some pentetrative running from centre Guy Michels (Stamford School and NL&D) went 13-8 up by the break.
Michels' darting run and perfectly-timed pass set up right wing Earl Collins (Rugby School, Old Coventrians and Warwickshire) for the Midlands' opening try and Marshall tacked on the conversion followed by a penalty.
The North responded with a close range try from lock Myles Scott (Sedbergh School, Chester and Cheshire)midway through the second half and Nettleton's conversion allowed them to reclaim the lead.
But the Midlands were soon back in front when the North ventured off-side and replacement fly-half Luke Massey (King Edward VI School, Lichfield, Lichfield and Staffordshire) stroked over the penalty.
The North rallied again with an attack down the left side of the pitch and crisp handling which allowed play to be switched sharply right to create the overlap for Bowden who scampered over close enough to the posts to allow Nettleton to add the conversion.
In today's other Divisional Match, London & SE beat the South West 36-27 at Maidenhead.
The South West were 20-10 up at half-time with tries from full-back Richard Bright (Ivybridge Community College, SWERA and Devon) and winger Chris Morris (Mounts Bay and Cornwall).
Morris was called into the side as a late replacement for Rhys Howells (Wellington College and Berkshire) who has now decided to pursue his international ambitions with Wales.
Alex Stevenson (Bloxham School, Banbury and Oxfordshire) converted both tries and added two penalties.
Craig Ratford (Twyford College, London Wasps and Middlesex, a London player who was included in the South West side at the request of the England selectors, converted a second half try scored by flanker Ryan Long (Burnham GS, Drifters and Buckinghamshire).
Midlands Under-18s: 15 Jack Pons (Bromsgrove School, Moseley and North Midlands); 14 Michael Allen (Stamford School and Notts Lincs & Derbyshore), 13 Guy Michels (Stamford School and NL&D), 12 Andy Short (Worcester Sixth Form College, Worcester and North Midlands), 11 Earl Collins (Rugby School, Old Coventrians and Warwickshire); 10 David Marshall (Nottingham HS, Nottingham & NL&D), 9 Darryl Veenendaal (Oakham School, Bedford Blues and East Midlands); 1 Sean McCarthy (Warwick School, Worcester and Warwickshire), 2 Robert Beddard (Hartpury College, Burton and Staffordshire), 3 Alex Waller (Wellingborough School, Northampton Saints and East Midlands), 4 Chris Bailey (Bromsgrove School, Worcester and North Midlands), 5 James Freeman (Bromsgrove School, Camp Hill, Worcester and North Midlands), 6 Tom Maguire (Bromsgrove School, Moseley and North Midlands), 7 Dominic Taylor (Hartpury College, Burton and Staffordshire), 8 James Ingle (Bedford School, Ampthill and East Midlands). Replacements: Daniel Croll (St Joseph's College, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Staffordshire), Luke Massey (King Edward VI School, Lichfield, Lichfield and Staffordshire), Richard Wilson (Newcastle-under-Lyme and Staffordshire), Ryan Simpson (Nottingham and NL&D), John Revell (West Notts College, Mansfield and NL&D), Adam Woodfield (Nuneaton and Warwickshire), Luke Willmott (High Pavement College, Paviors and NL&D).