- England U16 hold on for narrow Wales win
- England two from two in BMW Wellington International Festival
Wales U16 22 England U16 24
Photo: RFU Archive
An Alistair Crossdale converted try just before the break gave England a two-point lead (17-15), which they clung on to in an exciting and nail-biting match at the Gnoll, home of Neath RFC, this afternoon (April 27).
Wales controlled the first half but a quick tap-and-go penalty by Nick Isiekwe after 30 minutes kept England in the game before Crossdale nudged them ahead.
The 2,000 strong crowd enjoyed moments of individual brilliance by players from both sides and it was electric running and footwork by wing Gabriel Ibitoye that gave England their only try of the second half.
England U16s beat Scotland U16s 32-22 on the final day of the BMW Wellington International Festival last Saturday and with two from two, Head Coach Steve Shortland said: “I am pleased for the boys because they have worked incredibly hard. Obviously we are delighted with the outcome but this programme is about development not results. Over the last week we have encouraged the boys to focus on getting the processes right, knowing that the score would then take care of itself.
“We struggled to get momentum and phase play in the first half. At the break we talked about the need to get the forwards into slightly wider channels and to create the space for our dominant runners to get the ball in hand. Our tries were scored by individual flare at crucial moments and got us out of jail.
“Full credit to Wales for the way they played today. It must have been tough on them going in two points down at half-time. The game was very close and could have gone either way. It was a great challenge for both teams.”
Photo: RFU Archive
Following an early exchange of penalties by the two fly halves, Crossdale and Phil Jones, Wales began to build momentum and continued to target the space out wide until wing Keelan Giles crossed the line inside 15 minutes.
The physicality of the tackles and breakdowns drew gasps from the crowd but despite a determined effort from England’s forwards and stampeding runs from captain Ben Earl, England struggled to build phases and had limited play in the Welsh half.
Wales extended their lead through Patric Lewis to 15-3 before England, against the run of play, gained ground and earned a penalty left of the posts. It was quickly taken by Isiekwe, who drove over the line. Crossdale converted to close the gap 15-10.
The home side continued to pile on the pressure and were unfortunate to fall behind just before the half-time whistle. Crossdale made a darting run and stepped inside the final Welsh defender to touch down and score seven crucial points.
Stoppage for a Welsh injury delayed play early in the second half but England kept their focus. After a number of breaks and an instinctive show-and-go play by Ibitoye, it was only a matter of time before the wing from Trinity School scored. Demonstrating both pace and strength to stay in field, despite the Welsh defensive efforts, he crossed the line.
A driving maul by Wales left them just short but a quick pick and go by their lively captain and scrum half Harri Randall took them over the line. Replacement Declan Williams added the extras to close the gap to 24-22 with the outstanding ten minutes of injury time left to play.
An infringement by England gave Wales the chance to win the match but Williams pulled the penalty wide.
15. Oliver Graham (Castle School, Taunton RFC, Bath, Somerset)
14. Callum Sirker (Harrow School, Richmond RFC, London Wasps, Middlesex)
13. Matt Williams (Wellington College, London Irish)
12. Suva Ma’asi (Wootton School, Ampthill RFC, Northampton Saints, East Mids)
11. Gabriel Ibitoye (Trinity School, Harlequins, Surrey)
10. Alistair Crossdale (Altrincham GS, Bowdon RFC, Sale, Cheshire)
9. Joshua Nott (RGS Worcester, Worcester RFC, Worcester Warriors, North Mids)
1. George Cave (Bedford School, Ampthill RFC, Northampton Saints, East Mids)
2. Henry Walker (Bromsgrove School, Spartans RFC, Gloucester, North Mids)
3. Joseph Morris (King Edward VI Aston, S. Coldfield RFC, Worcester Warriors, North Mids)
4. Ben Kelland (Royal Hospital School, Colchester RFC, Northampton Saints, EC)
5. Nick Isiekwie (Nicholas Breakspear, Old Albanians RFC, Saracens, Herts)
6. Jack Nay (The Hayesbrook School, Saracens, Kent)
7. Thomas Curry (Bishop Heber HS, Crewe & Nantwich RFC, Sale Sharks, Cheshire)
8. Ben Earl (Tonbridge School, Sevonoaks RFC, Saracens, Kent) (c)
16. Matt Kouris (Wavell School, Basingstoke RFC, London Irish, Hants) on for Sirker (56 mins)
17. Will Vaughan (Heathfield School, Taunton RFC, Bath Rugby, Somerset) on for Cave (60 mins)
18. Will Dennis (Selby High School, Selby RFC, Leeds, Yorkshire) on for Morris (60 mins)
19. Kalius Hutchinson (Coundon Court, Old Coventrians, Worcester Warriors, Warks) on for Isiekwie (57 mins)
20. Zac Xiourouppa (Ellesmere College, Shrewsbury RFC, Worcester Warriors, North Mids) on for Kalland (20 mins)
21. Charlie Gowling (Sedbergh School, Falcons, CND) on for Nott (52 mins)
22. Matthew Riddington (Oakham School, Leicester Tigers, Leics) on for Ma’asi (59 mins)
23. Reuben Bird-Tulloch (Eltham College, Blackheath RFC, Saracens, Kent) on for Williams (52 mins)