- Stags win Jason Leonard Cup in dying seconds
- Hertfordshire Stags 31 Kent U20 27
Hertfordshire’s Under 20s, the Stags, won the Jason Leonard Cup in London & South East at Staines RFC on Sunday (March 11), defeating Kent U20 31-27 in dramatic fashion with a last-minute try.
The score by replacement flanker Pat Falvey (Welwyn) takes Herts through as the region’s champions to the semi-finals of the National U20 Championship on April 15.
They will face the winners of the South West Division, to be decided when Berkshire meet reigning national champions Gloucestershire at Reading RFC on Sunday.
Herts and Kent put on a great advertisement for U20 representative rugby with each playing a full part in an exciting match and neither side leading by more than seven points at any stage.
The forwards were evenly matched with Kent having the edge in the scrums, taking at least two against the head, and also won a couple of lineouts against the throw. In the tight loose Herts were dominant winning many turnovers.
Forwards from both sides made telling runs in open play and in particular Kent’s No 8, Doug Ebanks (Medway), caught the eye along with the Stags’ Declan Caulfield (Bishop’s Stortford).
Behind the scrum, Kent may have had the quicker back line, but good Herts defence kept them at bay, while the Stags backs made the most of their opportunities including a telling contribution from scrum half Nick Foster (Old Albanian).
Dan Watt (Old Albanian) kicked Herts into a 3-0 lead, equalised when a good Kent move was thwarted by an offside Stags player and Ryan Redman (Tonbridge Juddians) kicked the penalty.
Midway through the half came a burst of three tries in four minutes. Herts’ No 8 Connor Herlighy (Hemel Hempstead) drove over from a scrum near the Kent line, Watt converting.
Straight from the restart, Ebanks made good ground, set his backs moving and was up in support to cross the line. Redmond converted.
Then Stags scrum half Foster made a 22-metre sprint from a ruck, Watt's conversion taking the score to 17-10.
After a scoreless next 10 minutes three more scores arrived before the interval. Kent prop Reece Conlon (Westcombe Park) drove over and Redman converted.
Then from a scrum against the head fly half Ollie Best (Deal & Betteshanger Lions) scored, giving Redman an easy conversion. It took a Watt penalty to close the gap at 24-20 to Kent.
The second half opened at the same pace and within five minutes Herts had another penalty goal by Watt.
Twenty hard-fought minutes later, the Stags were ahead with a Watt penalty 35 metres out. Not that Kent wasted much time in retaking the lead. A quick break in the backs set up a lineout five metres out and a penalty kicked by Redman for 27-26.
In the remaining six minutes Hertfordshire raised their game and Kent’s defence was equal to the task until Foster and Watt combined to take play to within 10 metres of the Kent line on the right. The forwards won the ball, and it was spun along the line for Falvey to cross for the winning try.
* Reporting by Hertfordshire RFU.
Hertfordshire: Dan Watt (Old Albanian); Henry Mitchell (Tabard), Ashley Boyle (Bishop’s Stortford), Rory Day (Bishop’s Stortford), Dan Roberts (Letchworth); Tom Walsh (Bishop’s Stortford), Nick Foster (Old Albanian); Tom McCrone (Bishop’s Stortford), Will Roberts (Bishop’s Stortford), Declan Caulfield (Bishop’s Stortford), Lewis Dempsey (Oaklands College), Stuart Butcher (Oaklands College), Jamie Campbell (Bishop’s Stortford), James Sonner (Old Albanian), Connor Herlighy (Hemel Hempstead). replacements: Louis Castigline (Welwyn), Jake Bavister (Old Albanian), Pat Falvey (Welwyn), Dan Fitzpatrick (Fullerians), William Hague-Blundy (Fullerians), Jack Noquet (Oaklands College), Tom Cattell (Bishop’s Stortford).
Kent: Ryan Redman (Tonbridge Juddians); Ryan Fuller (Westcombe Park), Aiden Moss (Blackheath), Ben Summers (Aylesford Bulls), Angus Furneaux (Canterbury); Ollie Best (Deal & Betteshanger Lions), Tom Nicholls (Chertsey); Tyler Lawrence (Blackheath), Liam Markey (Beckenham), Reece Conlon (Westcombe Park), Dale Bellinger (Westcombe Park), Matt Suter (Dover), Connor Duffy (Sidcup), Kieron Melly (St Mary’s College), Doug Ebanks (Medway). Replacements: JJ Redman (Tunbridge Wells), Adam Knight (Ashford), Josh Raisey (Old Elthamians), Lovejoy Chawatama (Beckenham), Josh Erskine (Blackheath), Liam Caddy (Beckenham), Dan Hamilton (Westcombe Park).
Hertfordshire: Tries: Herlighy (20 minutes), Foster (24), Falvey (80); Conversions: Watt (20, 24); Penalties: Watt (3, 40, 46, 68).
Kent: Tries: Ebanks (22), Conlon (34), Best (37); Conversions: Redman (22, 34, 37); Penalties: Redman (8, 74).