- Worth School 27 – 28 Exeter College
- Exeter College book their place in the semi-finals of the U18 Vase
Photo: RFU Archive
Exeter College booked their place in the NatWest Schools Cup U18 Vase semi-final after overcoming a determined Worth School side 28-27 in a dramatic and thrilling contest at Allianz Park on Tuesday.
Exeter brought a monstrous forward pack with them to North London, and dominated the first half through their power and the elusive running of their backline.
Such was their dominance, Exeter might have thought they would be further ahead at half-time, but Worth defended admirably and had to survive on minimal possession.
For all their possession Exeter lacked a clinical edge, and had to rely on the dancing feet of fly half Billy Searle to turn the pressure into points, as the stand-off bagged a first-half brace.
Worth fly half Max Bergot ensured the Sussex School stayed within touching distance with two well struck penalties, going in 12-6 down at half time.
Exeter looked as though they had dealt the knockout blow shortly after half-time however, when flanker Ross Watts smashed his way over to take the score to 17-6.
Shortly after, a loose pass allowed Worth centre Rowan Murphy-Hunt to collect the ball and finish exquisitely.
The try was a shot of adrenaline into Worth's play, and gave them the confidence to put more pace and width on the ball.
A Searle penalty extended Exeter's lead, but the increased tempo in the game certainly played into Worth's hands to tire the Exeter pack. Lock Hugh Murphy cut a brilliant line straight through the middle of the Exeter defence to score under the posts and level the game.
The try seemed to instil panic into Exeter who grew a little complacent, and Worth centre Murphy-Hunt preyed on this complacency once again with a well-timed interception to go in under the posts, handing Worth a 27-20 lead.
Exeter reverted back to what had worked well for them previously to find a way back into the game. The touchlines were peppered and big forward runners were sent crashing into Worth.
As Worth were stretched Searle darted through scrambling traffic to score a brilliant hat-trick.
But the conversion was missed and Worth still led 27-25 with five minutes remaining. Searle narrowly missed a penalty that looked to have taken Exeter's hopes with it. With the final play of the game, he was granted a reprieve with a much harder penalty, but the fly half held his nerve and dealt a crushing blow to Worth, who have had a magnificent season regardless.
Exeter's physicality will have been a lesson for Worth, and the Devon college will take some stopping this year.
Will Castleton, Jake Smith, Karl Pearce, Pat Jarman, Zac Ponsford, Billy Searle, Tom Hyam, Matt Harris. George Gosling, Will Ellis, Brad Cooke, Matt Handford, Ross Watts, Joe Burdon, Jack Rouse.
Replacements: Finn Parratt, Tomm Griffiths, Adam Tregedeon, Rich Germon, Owen Mugford, Callum Gill, Harvey Ridgeway
Thomas Ferguson, James Docherty, Rowan Murphy-Hunt, James Kemp, Max Nocton, Max Bergot, Luke Cummins, Toby Jozwiak, Sam Lindsay, Fergus Murphy-Hunt, Hugh Murphy, David Corr, Christy O'Brien, Augus Bonner, Dom Suckling
Replacements: William Harries, Max Tew, Sam McCarthy, Seth Tait, James Thompson, Will Chadd, Rivers Maximillian