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England Under 18 Clubs and Schools stage sensational second half comeback

11 April 2011

  • England fight back to earn a 23-23 draw in final two minutes
  • In the first half it was just the penalties that killed us – Paul Mullan

Ireland U18 Clubs 23 England U18 Clubs & Schools 23

England celebrate as Jacob Wilson scores in the final two minutes

Photo: Getty Images

A try in the final two minutes earned England Under 18s Clubs and Schools a dramatic 23-23 draw against Ireland Under 18 Clubs at Ashbourne RFC, Dublin yesterday. 

Ill discipline proved costly for England as they gave away 16 penalties to gift Ireland easy points but in a spirited second half comeback the side reduced the 17-0 half time deficit.

A converted try by Ireland in the first two minutes put England on the back foot and ankle injuries to both flanker Hugh Lockhart and hooker Nico Woodward meant that the services of Matthew Lamont and Tom Crozier were required after less than 10 minutes.

With limited possession, England tried to force play and were either turned over or penalised at the breakdown before they had chance to build the phases.   

Ross Harrison carried the ball well and Joe Robinson was inspirational in defence but it took a try-saving tackle from winger Tom Bowen, who covered the width of the pitch, to deny Ireland a second try. 

England’s best attack of the half came just before the break when James Crossley spotted a gap in midfield before sending the pass wide for Tom Harty.  The winger fended off the Irish defence to gain ground but England were unable to capitalise. 

Transformed England team emerged after half time

Freddie Gabbitass kicks the conversion in stoppage time

Photo: Getty Images

A transformed England team emerged from the dressing room after half time and, with Ireland feeling the pressure, England were awarded two penalties within the space of ten minutes.  Captain, Freddie Gabbitass slotted both between the posts to put England on the score sheet, 17-6.

Kieran Ball and Daniel Lee were introduced as part of half time changes and made an immediate impact with driving runs that helped England build momentum.  Solid play in the loose by Josh Pettet and Hugo Govett ensured that England’s forwards kept possession and created a platform for attack. 

An ambitious penalty attempt from Gabbitass from the touchline went wide and minutes later the boys in white were anxiously defending in their five metres as Ireland looked to force themselves back into the game.   A tackle on the line from Harry Sloan, who was outstanding in defence throughout, gave England the chance to clear.

England were consistent in the set piece and a solid take in the line-out by Elliot Stooke, just short of the 22, created quick ball for Henry Taylor.  The scrum half looped round off Gabbitass to off load to JJ Kilmartin whose incisive angle broke the Irish defence and sent him over the line.  A well executed training ground move and the conversion by Gabbitass brought England within four points with 13 minutes remaining. 

A moment of ill discipline from the restart gave Ireland another penalty just in front of the posts and Thomas Daly, who had kicked all of Ireland’s penalties, took the three points which proved crucial to the outcome of the game.

Sensing the possibility of victory, the determined England side were immediately back in the Irish half, using the width to open up attacking opportunities.   With the clock ticking an off load from Kilmartin put Robinson through on the wing but he was unable to control the ball and sent it into touch just short of the try line.

Ireland’s frantic clearance kicks failed to gain them distance and England maintained their dynamic and relentless attack.  With two minutes to go, Taylor’s pick and go opened up the Irish defence, and he offloaded to Crozier. 

The boys showed outstanding character – Mullan

Tom Crozier takes on the Irish defence

Photo: Getty Images

The hooker, whose impressive all round performance was key for England, drew the final two players to create the space for Jacob Wilson to burst down the wing with unstoppable speed and cross the whitewash.  Gabbitass held his nerve to convert the try in stoppage time and give England the well deserved draw. 

“The boys showed outstanding character to come back in the second half,” said Head Coach Paul Mullan.  “It sums up the spirit and commitment they have shown throughout the time we have had together as a squad.” 

“We didn’t actually play badly in the first half, it was just the penalties that killed us and I put that largely down to over exuberance.  At half time we had four key messages: keep the ball, no penalties, better support at the contact and up the defensive work rate and the boys did all of that that in the second half. 

“Having that very physical warm up game against Worcester Warriors Academy Under 19s last week certainly helped us.   Over the two matches the boys have really developed as players and as a team.   All 22 were capped and I am very proud of all of them.”

England U18 Clubs & Schools

15. Jamie-John Kilmartin (Bath Rugby, Millfield School, Somerset)
14. Tom Harty (Cobham RFC, Epsom College, Surrey)
13. James Crossley (North Walsham RFC, Wymondham College, Eastern Counties)
12. Harry Sloan (Harlequins, Skinners School, Kent)
11. Tom Bowen (Lewes RFC, Sussex Downs College, Sussex)
10. Freddie Gabbitass (C) (Bath Rugby, Millfield School, Somerset)
9.  Joseph Bartlett (Taunton RFC, Ivybridge Community College, Somerset)
1. Hugh McBride (Bromsgrove School, North Midlands)
2. Nico Woodward (Coney Hill RFC, St. Peter’s Gloucester, Gloucestershire)
3. Ross Harrison (Lymm RFC, Lymm High School, Cheshire)
4. Elliott Stooke (Hartpury College, Gloucestershire)
5. Josh Pettet (Sevenoaks RFC, Cranbrook School, Kent)
6. Hugo Govett (Leeds Grammar School, Yorkshire)
7. Hugh Lockhart (Bromsgrove RFC, Bromsgrove School, North Midlands)
8. Joe Robinson (VC)  (Newcastle Falcons, Sedbergh School, Cumbria)

Replacements (All were used):
1.  Tom Crozier (Colchester RFC, Colchester VI College, Eastern Counties)
2. Kieran Ball (Wellington College, Essex)
3. Matthew Lamont (Exeter Chiefs, Ivybridge Community College, Devon)
4. Daniel Lee (Exeter Chiefs, Ivybridge Community College, Devon)
5. Henry Taylor (Harlequins, Cranleigh School, Bucks)
6. Henry Purdy (London Wasps, Cokethorpe School, Oxon)
7. Jacob Wilson (London Wasps, Cokethorpe School, Oxon)