- Max Clark’s brace helps England Under 16 withstand fightback
- Coach Phil Stanlake praises players’ instinct
England Under 16 39 Wales Under 16 34
England withstood a stirring Welsh fightback to clinch a thrilling victory in a fast and furious Under 16 International at Wellington College in Berkshire this afternoon.
England appeared to be coasting to victory when they ran in four first half tries to lead 31-15 at the break but Wales proved resilient opponents and they scored two tries in injury time while England were down to 14 men following the sin-binning of fly half Rory Jennings for off-side.
Wales launched another counter-attack from deep with the final play of the match but England right wing Richard Galloway (Bournemouth GS, Bournemouth and Dorset & Wilts) managed to drop on the ball and England scrambled it into touch to start the celebrations.
"Both sides tried to force the issue a little bit and they wanted to express themselves without thinking how they were going to manage their way through the game," said England lead coach Phil Stanlake.
"There was a lot of pressure on both sides but once we settled in we maintained a lot of pressure and a lot of momentum and that stood us in good stead later on.
"I said at half time: We are playing a nation next door and they are going to come back at you. Credit to Wales, they lost a few players through injury but they still battled and they were in it right until the last minute.
"Rory’s sin-binning meant allowed them to have a bit more space to operate in. We tried to make the adjustments but we couldn’t. Credit to Wales they kept coming and kept exploiting the fact that we were a man down.
"I take my hat off to our pack because of the amount of pressure they maintained in the first half which allowed the backs to operate as well.
"Sometimes technique went out of the window and it was a backs-to-the-wall job. That’s testimony to their character that they kept fighting to the end regardless of what was coming at them. They were fighting on instinct and that’s a mark of very strong character in players."
England’s win followed another hard-fought victory over Italy Under 17 in Parma last Saturday and was the second consecutive season that they had gone unbeaten at this age group.
The win was based on two tries from centre Max Clark, who worked well with Jennings, a team-mate at Bryanston School and Dorset & Wilts, in three minutes just before half time which helped England recover from twice going behind in the first 20 minutes.
Centre Brett Herron, playing on his home school ground, kicked England in front with a first minute penalty, but Wales hit back when centre Tyler Morgan intercepted and galloped over from 30 metres for a try that Daniel Jones improved.
England regrouped quickly and worked openside flanker Sam Underhill (Sir Thomas Rich’s School, Longlevens and Gloucestershire) over on the overlap and Jennings made a difficult conversion look simple.
But an accurate crossfield kick from Jones was not picked up by England and the ball bounced kindly to allow right wing Elis Wyn Benham to put Wales back in front with an unconverted try.
The lead lasted only two minutes before Galloway crossed after England scrum half Stuart Townsend (Ivybridge Community College, Kingsbridge and Devon) had broken from a scum on the Welsh 22.
Clark scored his first try after he followed up a clever break by Jennings which left his school-mate with an easy conversion. Jones landed a penalty for Wales from the re-start but Clark pounced again immediately when he picked up and powered over with two tacklers holding on.
Heavy rain during the interval made handling conditions more difficult for the second half and there was a cautious beginning with Jones and Jennings trading early penalties.
England replacement lock James Thacker (Bishop’s Stortford College, Bishop’s Stortford and Hertfordshire) intercepted close to half way and raced away for England’s fifth and final try but there were still more than ten minutes of injury time to play during which Wales pushed England to the limit.
Replacement wing Owen Davies crossed after Wales stretched England’s defence but Jones could not land the conversion. Persistent pressure than brought another try for centre Joe Thomas which Jones converted.
"We have talked about values and setting your own standards and the boys have aspired to that with the management as a group as well. Once they buy into it they know that everything we do we set a standard every day. Every day the bar went up culminating in the performance today," Stanlake said.
"The results are fantastic, but I look at the journey some of the players have been on and hopefully we have given them enough to step up to the next level and higher. But that’s for the future. At the moment I’m very pleased for the players and I’m very pleased for averybody who was pleased to watch one of the oldest schoolboy rugby fixtures in the world and, as always, a fantastic contest."
England Under 16
15 Harry Lightfoot-Brown (Claremont Fancourt School, Teddington and Middlesex)
14 Richard Galloway (Bournemouth GS, Bournemouth and Dorset & Wilts)
13 Max Clark (Bryanston School, North Dorset and Dorset & Wilts)
12 Brett Herron (Wellington College, London Irish Academy and Berkshire)
11 Austin Beckett (St Joseph’s College, Sudbury and Eastern Counties)
10 Rory Jennings (Bryanston School, Salisbury and Dorset & Wilts)
9 Stuart Townsend (Ivybridge Community College, Kingsbridge and Devon)
1 Lewis Boyce (MacMillan Academy, Middlesbrough and Yorkshire)
2 Jack Walker (Settle College, North Ribblesdale and Yorkshire - captain)
3 Sebastian Adeniran-Olule (Whitgift School, Sutton & Epsom and Surrey)
4 Guy Borrowdale (Tapton School, Sheffield Tigers and Yorkshire)
5 James Catlin (St Gregory’s School Bath, Corsham and Dorset & Wilts)
6 Charles Beckett (Merchant Taylors’ Crosby, Waterloo and Lancashire)
7 Sam Underhill (Sir Thomas Rich’s School, Longlevens and Gloucestershire)
8 Henry Cheeseman (Whitgift School, Chipstead and Surrey)
Replacements used: Matthew Radley (Arnold School, Fylde and Lancashire), James Thacker (Bishop’s Stortford College, Bishop’s Stortford and Hertfordshire), Jacob Conner (Northampton School for Boys, Old Northamptonians and East Midlands), Will Goodrick-Clarke (Chipping Campden HS, Stow on the Wold and Gloucestershire), Jay Tyack (Penair School, Truro and Cornwall), Tristan Rawcliffe (Culford School, Colchester and Eastern Counties), Will Homer (Sherborne School and Dorset & Wiltshire).