- Counties Under 20 trial becomes a 12-try jamboree
- North win but Midlands share plaudits
Twelve tries and a banquet of attacking rugby and unselfish handling provided the new England Counties Under 20 selectors with plenty of material to ponder after the North had beaten the Midlands 41-34 in a hugely enjoyable trial at Morley RFC.
Not surprisingly, there was generous appreciation from both camps at the way their players and coaches had delivered such a compelling spectacle.
2The coaches of both sides deserve a lot of credit for what their players achieved in such a short space of time together," said North Manager David Ewing. "Defensively, there are areas to work on, but some of the attacking play was excellent and provided a very entertaining game.
"When you start to make changes from the bench, the game inevitably breaks up to some extent and in the end attack comfortably beat defence, but we enjoyed watching those creative skills being put on show."
Midlands Under 20 Chairman Danny Tolfts said: "I thought it was an exciting game with a lot of skill, pace and power. We saw young men keen to go forward and I thought it was everything we hoped it would be.
"I was very pleased with the game and as Chairman of the Midlands, I’m very proud of our performance. This was 80 minutes of very good rugby which showed what ability there is at this level below the elite game.
The Midlands were twice ahead in the early stages with a penalty by fly half Lee Chapman and a try by flanker Jordan Diston, converted by Chapman, but the North eventually broke away after full-back Eddie Stobbart’s opening try to add six further touchdowns through centre Peter Homan (2), wing Jamies Harrison (2), centre Elliott Brierley and prop Matt Shields. Fly half Grant Connon kicked two conversions and replacement No 10 Sam Watkinson one.
While the North were always ahead after the Midlands’ bright start, the visitors refused to buckle under a salvo of three North tries in a five-minute spell and stayed in touch to the death thanks to tries by centre Gareth Clarke, prop Joe Pass and a brace from replacement centre Matt Fisher.
The England Counties Under 20 will meet their Scotland counterparts at West Park Leeds on May 6.
North Under 20 Team
Eddie Stobbart (Cheshire/Sedgley Park); Jamie Harrison (Lancashire/Broughton Park), Elliott Brierley (Cheshire/Macclesfield) vice-capt, Peter Homan (Yorkshire/Middlesbro’), Tommy Banks (Lancashire/Westoe), Grant Connon (Cumbria/Carlisle), Rory Bell (Cheshire/Stockport); William Dutton (Yorkshire/York), Tom Moody (Yorkshire/Morley), Matt Shields (Northumberland/Tynedale) capt, Josh Beaumont (Lancashire/Fylde), Sam Brady (Yorkshire/Pontefract), Carl Kirwan (Yorkshire/Middlesborough), Sam Mullarkey (Cheshire/Morley), Ben Morris (Yorkshire/Westoe).
Replacements used: Ben Sowery (Yorkshire/Wharfedale), Lewis McKay (Cheshire/Wilmslow), Callum Rowlandson (Cumbria/Whitehaven), Harrison Collins (Lancashire/Fylde), Matt Mellish (Durham/Blaydon) (for Bell, 33), Sam Watkinson (Yorkshire/Ripon) (for Connon, 53), Tom Bramwell (Northumberland/Tynedale) (for Homan, 50).
Midlands Under 20 Team
Mark Woollard (NLD/Scunthorpe); Leo Donnelly (Leics/MarketHarborough), Gareth Clarke (Leics/South Leicester), Huw Morgan (East Mids/Leighton Buzzard), Rob Brown (North Mids/Bournville); Lee Chapman (Warks/Nuneaton) capt, Andrew Murray (Warks/Nuneaton); Joe Pass (NLD/Derby), Dan Kirby (North Mids/Newport), Kieran Stone (Leices/Leicester Vipers), William Ward (Leics/Melton), Liam Mather (NLD/Nuneaton), Jake Barron (NLD/Scunthorpe), Jordan Diston (Warks/Old Coventrians), Joe Collingham (NLD/Paviors).
Replacements used: Oliver Taylor (NLD/Nuneaton), Gareth Gripton (NLD/Mansfield), Charlie Potter (N Mids/Harper Adams UC/Newport), Simon Johnson (Liecs/Lutterworth), Matthew Fisher (Leics/South Leics), James Stokes (NLD/Mansfield), Adam Shaw (NLD/Mansfield).
Referee: Chris Sharp (RFU)