- Narrow victory for England Under 18 against France
- This win will breed confidence – John Fletcher
England Under 18 18 France Under 18 16
Photo: Getty Images
England Under 18 kick-started their season with a hard-fought 18-16 win, coming from behind against a strong French side. Tries from Callum Braley and Anthony Watson secured the victory, while two penalties from Billy Burns kept the scoreboard ticking over.
France did have the chance to draw the match, but scrum half Paul Abadie’s conversion with the last kick of the game sailed wide.
England started the brighter of the two sides and really should have taken a fourth minute lead after a strong break from Anthony Watson set up Josh Watkins to dive over, but Watson’s pass to the Worcester wing was adjudged forward by the referee.
Two minutes later and England were punished. French centre Brandon Fajardo barged his way through several challenges to go over for the first try of the game, scrum half Baptiste Serin missed the conversion.
Photo: Getty Images
Watkins’ pace was causing France all kinds of problems and with ten minutes played the 17-year-old again broke free before being tackled into touch just short of the try-line.
French prop Yousef Amrouni was sent to the bin on the twenty minute mark, freeing up the chance for Gloucester No. 10 Billy Burns to get England on the board with a penalty, which he duly did.
Just a minute later and England again made the extra man count, Watson displayed his athleticism and pace to shrug off two French tackles before deftly offloading to scrum half Callum Braley who dived over, Burns converted.
A French penalty just before the break reduced the deficit to two points, but there was still time for England centre Tom Stephenson to again exploit gaps in the French defence, but the Northampton man ran out of steam just short of the line and France cleared.
Neither side created any clear-cut opportunities in the opening exchanges of the second half, but it was England who got the first points on the board through Burns who kicked his second penalty of the afternoon. France hit back with one of their own shortly afterwards to make the score 13-11 with 20 left to play.
Photo: Getty Images
Heading into the final ten the game was for the taking, but with England camped in the French 22, the ball fell to replacement fly half Sam Olver who kicked over the French defence for Watson to pick up and score a deserved try. The conversion was missed, giving England a seven point 18-11 lead.
With just a converted try good enough for France, they really upped the ante and scored through full back Nicolas Metge in the final play of the game, but the conversion went just wide, bringing the game to a close and England U18 their first win of the new season.
Head Coach John Fletcher said: “It was a tight game, we felt that we probably did enough to score a couple more tries, but we’re delighted to get the win. The game lacked a bit of fluidity in the second half and we seemed to get a bit nervous at time, but it’s our first competitive match together and this win will breed confidence.
“Overall I felt that we were the better side, first half performance was good, and France had a lot of possession in the second half. We’ve got a hard working, humble group, we’ve had some good warm up games and learnt some valuable lessons – as you do at this age grade – and they’ve come through well to get the win today.”
England points: Braley 1T Watson 1T; Burns 2P 1C
England Under 18 starting XV v France
1) Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Moulton College & Northampton Saints)
2) Harry Thacker (Leicester Grammar & Leicester Tigers)
3) Scott Wilson (Sedbergh School & Newcastle Falcons)
4) Tom Ellis (Millfield & Bath Rugby)
5) Charlie Ewels (Bryanston School & Bath Rugby)
6) Ross Moriarty (Hartpury College & Gloucester)
7) Gus Jones (C) (Eton College & London Wasps)
8) Joel Conlon (Ivybridge & Exeter Chiefs)
9) Callum Braley (Hartpury College & Bristol Rugby)
10) Billy Burns (Hartpury College & Gloucester Rugby)
11) Josh Watkins (Bromsgrove School & Worcester Warriors)
12) Javiah Pohe (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth 1st & Leicester Tigers)
13) Tom Stephenson (Moulton College & Northampton Saints)
14) Nathan Earle (Oaklands & Saracens)
15) Anthony Watson (St Georges College & London Irish)
16) Reece Marshall (Moulton College & Northampton Saints)
17) Harry Rudkin (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth 1st & Leicester Tigers) on for Danny Hobbs 50 mins
18) Alex Lundberg (Hampton School & London Wasps)
19) Jake Oldaker (Wellington College & Bath Rugby) on for Tom Ellis 45 mins
20) Max Northcote-Green (Millfield & Bath Rugby)
21) Tom Chapman (Colfe’s School & Saracens) on for Callum Braley 50 mins
22) Sam Olver (Oundle School & Northampton Saints) on for Billy Burns 50 mins
23) George Catchpole (Leicester Grammar & Leicester Tigers) on for Nathan Earle 55 mins