- East Midlands trounce NLD
- North Midlands collapse against Eastern Counties
There were contrasting fortunes for East Midlands and North Midlands in the opening round of pool matches in this season’s National Under 20 Championship on Sunday (February 2).
East Midlands powered to a 49-5 win over Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire at Chesterfield but North Midlands crashed to a 31-24 defeat against Eastern Counties at Dudley Kinsgwinford where they surrendered a 24-point lead with a spectacular second half collapse.
East Midlands opened up a 27-0 first-half lead and kept up the pressure after the break.
Loughborough University wing Sam Pointon scored two tries for East Midlands before the break and replacement prop Ryan Taylor (Bedford Athletic) secured the bonus point when he crossed five minutes before the interval.
Taylor crossed for his second try early in the second half with East Midlands' other tries coming from wing Joe Cornwell (Stockport), full back Brandon Lewsey (Luton), scrum half Jack Davey (Cambridge) and replacement back row forward Conor Gracey (Cambridge).
Fly half and captain Ben Penfold kicked an early penalty and then converted three of the tries.
NLD’s try came from Derby lock Luke Frixou midway through the second half.
At Dudley Kingswinford, North Midlands appeared to be coasting to victory when they went 24-0 up five minutes into the second half but then appeared to switch off and Eastern Counties hit them with 26 unanswered points in a 17-minute period.
North Midlands missed a chance to regain the lead when replacement fly half Tom Biggs (Worcester Wanderers) was off target with a penalty attempt and Eastern Counties clinched victory when North Midlands failed to control the ball at a scrum and lock Joe Brock (Diss) touched down.
In the proverbial game of two halves, North Midlands eased into a 21-0 lead with centre Jake Landon (Worcester Wanderers) crossing for the opening try after a period of sustained pressure.
North Midlands were then awarded a penalty try as Eastern Counties interfered with the ball just as number eight Connor Nicholls (Worcester Wanderers) was about to touch down.
Fly half Ed Spalding scored the third in first half injury time after North Midlands moved the ball wide from a lineout and the Worcester University player added his third conversion.
Biggs’s penalty early in the second half stretched the lead but momentum shifted with two tries in as many minutes from Eastern Counties.
Replacement hooker Sam Maile (Bury St Edmunds) galloped away for a breakaway try, which fly half Charlie Pask (Bury St Edmunds) improved.
North Midlands were caught napping again from the restart when centre Tom Jackson (Holt) finished off a bold counter-attack.
Pask again added the conversion and the lead was reduced to five points when right wing Austin Beckett (Northampton Saints Academy) provided an excellent finish to a sustained attack.
Beckett’s elder brother, scrum half Fraser (Sudbury), darted over from a five-metre scrum to level the scores and Pask added the conversion that gave Eastern Counties the lead for the first time.
Eastern Counties ended the match with 13 men after number eight William Dodds (West Norfolk) and loose-head prop Simon Uzokwe (Ipswich) were sin-binned in quick succession but North Midlands could not make their numerical advantage count.