- Never-say-die effort earns reward
- ‘Local boy’ Bell snatches prize
Photo: Getty Images
A try five minutes from time enabled England Under 18s to come from behind five times in a pulsating game against Australia Schools at Heywood Road and extend their unbeaten run to 18 games.
England finished winners by four tries to three after an exhilarating contest in which the lead changed hands repeatedly before replacement Tommy Bell from the Sale Sharks Academy, rounded off a fine movement for the match-winning score after 65 minutes.
Coach John Fletcher was delighted with his side in all aspects of their game. He said: “I’m very, very pleased. It was a great game of rugby – we both passed the ball around and scored some fine tries. Who says teams in the Northern Hemisphere can’t play rugby?
“I knew that Australia would be dangerous in broken play and they lived up to expectations, but we stuck with it and I thought that for large parts of the game we were the better side.
“We played some good rugby and we kept going at the end, which was great.”
England were in contention at the interval thanks to a smart piece of work by scrum-half Dan Robson at a quickly-taken throw-in, the No 9 seizing the chance to catch Australia napping and give lock Dominic Barrow time and space to gather the ball and dive over for the first try of the game after 18 minutes.
Fly-half George Ford hit the woodwork with the conversion, but he was successful with penalty kicks after 22 and 30 minutes to keep his side in the hunt.
The tourists were always threatening in broken play and created a handful of openings with strong counter-attacking, but it was not until first-half injury time that Australia finally broke through with a try by No 8 and captain Jordan Tuapou.
Fly-half Rohan Saifoloi added the conversion to his earlier hat trick of penalties to give the tourists a 16-11 half-time advantage, but that was short lived as a penalty try for deliberate knock-on, converted by Ford, restored England’s lead.
The second-half was a frenetic nip-and-tuck affair to the final whistle, tricky wingman Kimami Sitauti twice rounding off smart handling movements for tries for the tourists and Saifoloi adding a conversion.
England, however, stuck tenaciously to the challenge, edging in front with a smart try from replacement scrum-half Joel Hodgson 21 minutes into the second-half and then snatching the prize in the closing minutes when Hodgson was held just short after a flowing movement from inside their own half and Bell was on hand to drive over.
England Under 18s: Ben Ransom (Saracens); Chris Elder (London Wasps), Elliott Daly (London Wasps), Jamie Elliott (Northampton Saints), Marland Yarde (London Irish); George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Dan Robson (Gloucester); Nick Auterac (Saracens), Koree Britton (Exeter Chiefs), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Sam Twomey (Harlequins), Dominic Barrow (Leeds Carnegie), Billy Vunipola (London Wasps), Chris Walker (Leeds Carnegie), Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors).
Replacements: Nathan Morris (Newcastle Falcons), Ant Brennan (London Wasps), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Will Skuse (Bryanston & Bath), Sam Northcote-Green (London Wasps), Joel Hodgson (Newcastle Falcons), Mark Jennings (Sale Sharks), Tommy Bell (Sale Sharks).
Tries: Barrow, Pen try, Hodgson, Bell
Conversions: Ford 2
Penalties: Ford 2
Australia Schools: Jacob Woodhouse (NSW); Chris Feauai (QLD), Tom Kingston (NSW), Tyson Frizell (NSW), Kimami Sitauti (QLD); Rohan Saifoloi (QLD), Ruka Hanlon (QLD); Scott Sio (NSW), Hugh Roach (NSW), Paul Alo-Emile (QLD), Luke Jones (NSW), Angus Hamilton (VIC), Jack De Guingand (VIC), Liam Gill (QLD), Jordan Tuapou (capt)
Replacements: Jack Kimmince (QLD), Ross Marais (QLD), Joe Welch (NSW), Curtis Browning QLD), Matt Ika (QLD), Matt Lukis (QLD), Kyle Godwin (WA), Joel Faulkner (QLD).
Tries: Tuapou, Sitauti 2
Conversions: Saifoloi 2
Penalties: Saifoloi 3
Referee: D Bodilly (Wales)