- North Midlands keep quarter-final hopes alive
- Kirby try ends East Midlands fightback
North Midlands kept alive their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals of the National Under 20 Championship with a 25-14 win over a hard-working East Midlands at Moseley’s Billeseley Common ground.
A try by right wing George Kirby (Malvern) 11 minutes from time and converted by Bromsgrove centre Bar Bartlett decided a competitive and entertaining contest after East Midlands had pulled to within four points just two minutes earlier.
The win followed a narrow defeat by Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire in their opening match for North Midlands. But East Midlands face an early exit from the competition having been heavily beaten by Gloucestershire last month.
Bartlett nudged North Midlands in front with a third minute penalty but full-back Joe Daniel of Kettering was off target with two penalties in four minutes for East Midlands.
Malvern flanker Harry Nuttall extended North Midlands’ lead when drove over from close range after East Midlands had lost the ball at a line-out five metres from their line.
Bartlett was off target with the conversion attempt but was successful with a penalty five minutes later which stretched the lead to 11 points.
But East Midlands pulled back seven points late in the first half when right wing Danny Breeze (Bedford Athletic) slithered over in the corner and Daniel landed a difficult conversion from the touchline.
Birmingham & Solihull’s livewire full-back Chris Fensome cancelled out that score early in the second half when he jinked through for an excellent individual try that Bartlett improved but East Midlands responded with a penalty try and a conversion from Daniel to put the game in the balance.
But a lovely break from replacement scrum-half Takuya Osaki of Bromsgrove unpicked the East Midlands defence and the supporting Kirby went over for the winner.
North Midlands travel to play Gloucestershire at Cinderford in their final group match on February 10. East Midlands host NLD in their final pool match at a venue and on a date to be agreed.