- Three tries each but England edged out in Rome
- Son of a famous father drops for Wales’s glory
Wales U16 28-27 England U16
Photo: Getty Images
England were defeated by a Wales dropped goal in the last two minutes of a see-saw battle watched by around 1000 spectators on the opening day of the annual Four Nations Tournament in Rome, Italy on Saturday (April 3).
It was an agonising finish for the England team captained by flanker Harry Ledger who three days previously had tasted victory with his school Whitgift in the Daily Mail RBS U18 Cup final at Twickenham.
And though the result did not go their way, Ledger's England were thankful for the support of George Catchpole, the Norwich School centre who had been due to take part in the Four Nations until he broke an arm in another of Wednesday's schools finals.
Catchpole was able to travel with his family to Rome on a Saturday morning flight and was cheering his England squad-mates on at the Stadio Unione Rugby Capitolina as they replied to an early penalty goal by fly half Sam Davies – son of the Scarlets coach and former Wales centre Nigel – with a penalty from wide out by fly half Will Hooley for 3-3.
It was nip and tuck from that moment forward in a match of three tries to each side in sunny spring conditions.
After 20 minutes, England scrum half Sam Pointon went through a gap on the blindside from a wheeled scrum on the 22 and Hooley converted for a 10-3 lead.
A penalty and a converted try by Davies put Wales 13-10 up by half-time and England maintained the same XV for the second half.
Hooley kicked his second penalty in the first minute of the second half to make it 13-13, then Wales missed with a long-range dropped goal attempt. But while England had an injured player being tended to, Wales counter-attacked for a converted try by flanker Daniel Thomas and a 20-13 advantage.
England were inspired by full back Anthony Watson who caught a high Wales kick and made an excellent break before feeding Ledger who scored halfway out on the right-hand side, with Hooley converting to tie the scores again, 20-20.
Wales had replacement Tomos Owen in the sin bin and during this period Watson again showed great skill, sidestepping through the Wales defence to score near the posts. Hooley converted again for a personal total of 12 points and England were 27-20 in front.
But the Welsh scored a try through left wing Jake Randell from a slight defensive lapse to get within two points at 27-25. And England had a lineout and scrum on the Wales line without making the most of their chances, before the late and decisive Welsh dropped goal by Davies, who finished with 18 points.
"As a pure spectacle it was a great game but obviously disappointing for us to lose, and particularly that way," said Phil Stanlake, England U16 head coach.
"We have some small things to work on but we were very pleased with the way the boys applied themselves.
"The scrummaging was outstanding and the lineout went well. It was just that we gave up field position from time to time which put us under pressure."
England next face France on Tuesday at the same Rugby Capitolina ground followed by a meeting with hosts Italy on Saturday at Rome's Stadio Flaminio.
England Under 16
Anthony Watson; Jack Arnott, Tom Wallace, Tom Stephenson, Oliver Cicognini; Will Hooley, Sam Pointon; Tom Smallbone, Jamie Charlton-Little, James Thraves, Matt Thomas, Jake Oldaker, Harry Ledger (capt), Gabriel Carroll, Alex Bradley. Replacements used: Callum Braley for Pointon, Max Crumpton for Charlton-Little, Scott Wilson for Thraves. Replacements not used: Marcus Webber, Jordan Burns, Jordan Husband, Jonathan Burn; Damon Poole, Adam Peters, Hugo Peterson, Jack Allcock.
Tries: Pointon, Ledger, Watson; cons: Hooley 3; pens: Hooley 2.
Welsh Schools U16: tries: Davies, Thomas, Randell; cons: Davies 2; pens: Davies 2; drop: Davies.
Revised Four Nations Tournament fixtures
Saturday April 3, Stadio Unione Rugby Capitolina:
Italy 8-48 France
Wales 28-27 England
Tuesday April 6, Stadio Unione Rugby Capitolina:
Italy v Wales (1.30pm)
England v France (5pm)
Saturday April 10, Stadio Flaminio:
Wales v France (2pm)
Italy v England (4.30pm).