- England Students end season on a high after Wales win
- It’s been a great season – Captain Josh Beaumont
Photo: Tania Richards
Despite a gutsy second-half showing from Wales Students, James Farndon’s England side ended their season on a high, winning 27-20 in Bristol.
With Newport Gwent Dragons’ Rodney Parade ground waterlogged, National Two South club Clifton R.F.C. kindly agreed to use of their facilities at the eleventh hour, and a healthy crowd was treated to a powerful start from England.
The Welsh were put under heavy pressure right from the off and, with barely five minutes on the clock, referee Cammy Rudkin had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try after repeated infringements by the Welsh pack at scrum time.
England, with Rob Coote and Simon Hammersley to the fore, showed no signs of letting up and it was not long before they registered a second. A bruising break from Hartpury centre Alex Dancer blew open the Welsh midfield defence, giving Durham’s Hammersley a clear run to the line. Sam Katz’s second conversion of the day put England 14-0 up.
Two penalties from Loughborough’s Katz saw Farndon’s team head into the break 20-0 to the good but, inspired by a vociferous supporting contingent, the Welsh came out firing after the interval.
Photo: Tania Richards
Gareth Thompson, switched to fly-half following James Cordy-Redden’s introduction at full-back, hit two sweetly struck penalties to reduce the arrears and when England and Durham University flanker Harrison Collins was sent to the bin 10 minutes into the half, it was very much game on.
The Welsh pack rumbled into life, forcing England to play within their 22 and defend wave after wave of red-shirted attacks. They held firm, though, and delivered the ultimately fatal blow just after the hour mark.
Michael Allan’s mazy break gave his side the platform, from which they fully exploited the resulting overlap. Exeter winger Michael Pope was the beneficiary, crashing over in the corner to seemingly put the game out of sight, Katz’s conversion putting England 27-6 ahead.
Wales, fresh from winning 35-17 in Germany a fortnight ago, refused to buckle, however, and scored two tries in the final ten minutes – tangible reward for their much improved showing in the second 40 minutes.
Oli Edwards was driven over from close quarters for the first before a slick try from Jonathan Howard, the replacement hooker racing to the line after being put away by Steffan Jones and Cordy-Redden, two of the stand-out performers in the Welsh line-up.
England Students captain Josh Beaumont, in his final appearance, spoke of his pleasure of leading the team in a hugely successful campaign.
This team has grown incredibly close – Beaumont
“It’s been a great season and this team has grown incredibly close, both on and off the pitch,” he said.
“Right from the initial camps at St. George’s, everyone involved has brought into the ethos and way of thinking and that’s been reflected in our performances and results.
“To win in Portugal was absolutely massive and we were within a whisper of beating a very good France team. Considering the fact we were thoroughly outplayed by them last year, it was a real positive.
“We knew today was going to be another physical encounter, and so it proved. We put Wales on the back foot from the off but they came at us hard in the second-half. We battled so hard, though, and our defence was superb when we were a man light.
“It’s a great way to end the programme and a big thank you must go to everyone involved – the players, coaches, backroom staff and all the family, friends and supporters who have supported us.
“To play for your country, let alone being captain, is an honour and personally I will take a lot from my involvement with the Students’ side over the last two years.”
England Students starting XV:
15 Simon Hammersley (Durham)
14 Michael Allan (Hertfordshire)
13 Alex Dancer (Hartpury)
12 Sam Katz (Loughborough)
11 Michael Pope (Exeter)
10 Luke Cozens (Hartpury)
9 Rob Coote (Exeter)
1 James Gibbons (Hartpury)
2 Tom Dunn (Bath)
3 Josh Bayford (Durham)
4 Jamie Gray (Exeter)
5 Josh Beaumont (Durham) ©
6 Harrison Collins (Durham)
7 George Messum (Loughborough)
8 Matthew Chambers (City University, London)
16 Max Maidment (Bath) – for Bayford, 55
17 Callum O’Connell (Hartpury) – for Gibbons, 75
18 Jack Pattinson (Durham) – for Chambers, 55
19 Miles Normandale (Cardiff Metropolitan) – for Gray, 62
20 Richard Coskie (Manchester) – for Dancer, 71
21 Craig Dowsett (Loughborough) – for Allan, 62
22 Chris Lewis (Bath) – for Pope, 75
23 Jeremy Cunnew (Loughborough) –for Dunn, 75
T: Penalty try, Hammersley, Pope
C: Katz (3)
P: Katz (2)