- Two second-half French tries scuppers England U16 A
- "I'm really proud of them," says head coach Shortland
England U16 A 10 France A 20
Two tries midway through the second half signalled defeat for the hard-working England U16 A side in the final match in the inaugural Wellington College International Festival.
England had scored first playing with the slope in the opening half before a stoppage time try from France had the match tied at 7-7 as they changed ends.
Both sides then swopped penalties early in the second half before France took control with two unconverted touchdowns.
“I’m just really, really proud of them,” summed up England U16 A head coach Steve Shortland afterwards. “We had some scoring chances in the second half and could have saved the game but we didn’t, unfortunately, fulfil them.
“But the effort from these young boys has been absolutely tremendous throughout and they just didn’t stop playing throughout. We also got a few unfortunate injuries early on which we couldn’t cope with at the time but players came on and did their best.
“They’ll have learnt a lot his year, they leave as better people as well as better players.”
England had the best of the opening exchanges and had the French under a lot of pressure, particularly in their 22.
It paid off when full back Ralph Dowds sent left wing Saeed Agboke flying in to touch down under the posts and give fly half Jonathan Taylor the simplest of conversion kicks.
France replied immediately winning a penalty at the other end but scrum half Thibault Daubagna’s kick hit the upright and bounced to safety.
But, a final flourish to the half from the French paid dividends as they exposed England’s right flank and made enough room for prop Bessoe to charge over wide and bring out an excellent conversion from fly half Francois Bouvier to tie the score 7-7 at the interval.
France even went ahead just four minutes into the second half when Daubagna’s penalty just scraped inside the upright.
However, from the restart, England replied as France, in turn, were penalised for hands in a ruck and Taylor levelled the score at 10-10.
But, midway through the half, France had forced their way back into the England 22 and from a scrum Daubagna almost scored before hooker Romain Ruffenach finally got the touch down.
And soon after France exploited a three on two overlap on the England left flank for replacement centre Tomas Bouyxou to shake off a weak tackle and snatch their third try.
“They’ve been absolutely outstanding and we couldn’t ask for anymore commitment from them,” re-iterated Shortland. “They’ve given and given and given every weekend we’ve been together.
“They’ve given us full commitment and tried to learn, adjust things and do new things. They’ve set their own goals and values as they want to be different and be unique and they’ve been exactly that and we’re incredibly proud of them.”
England U16 A: Ralph Dowds (King Edward VII & Queen Mary, Lytham/Lancashire), Alex Wootton (Sedburgh School/Cheshire), Niall Crosley (Bishop Rawstorne High School/Lancashire), Alex Smith (Colfe’s School/Kent), Saeed Agboke (Denstone College/Staffordshire); Jonathan Taylor (Cheadle Hulme School/Cheshire), Simon Sexton (Wellington College/Surrey); Kieran Davies (Sidmouth College/Devon), Luke Cole (Hipperholme & Lightcliffe High School/Yorkshire), Alex Gale (Coombeshead College/Devon - c); Daniel Grange (Ilkley Grammar School/Yorkshire), Harry Wells (The King’s School, Peterborough/Notts/Lincs & Derby); James Bloxham (Millfield School/Somerset), Gus Jones (Eton College/Oxfordshire), Rory Anderson (Eton College/Surrey).
Replacements: Matt Beaumont (Bradford Grammar School/Yorkshire), Harry Thacker (Leicester Grammar School/Leicester), Tomas Rhodes (Flegg High School/Eastern Counties), Thomas Hilton-Stevens (RGS Guildford/Surrey), Steve Uren (Higham High School/Bristol), Harry Nuttall (The King’s School, Worcester), Seb Tullie (Bradford Grammar School/Yorkshire), Oliver Claxton (Adams` Grammar School/Staffordshire), Nicholas Carpenter (Clevedon School/Somerset), Andrew Hodgson (The Kings School, Macclesfield/Cheshire), Lee Melotti (William Parker School/East Midlands).