South Africa Schools edge past England U18
South Africa Schools 36 England Under 18 29
England Under 18 came close to beating South Africa Schools in Cape Town, going down 36-29 at the University of Western Cape.
Head Coach John Fletcher’s side outscored their opponents five tries to three but the clinical kicking of fly half and captain Handre Pollard – a 2012 IRB Junior World Championship winner – proved to be the difference.
South Africa took an early lead through Pollard but England hit back with a try from Worcester Warriors wing Josh Watkins.
Pollard then scored South Africa’s first try, which he converted himself before adding his second penalty to make it 13-5.
Exeter Chiefs’ Joel Conlon got his side back into the game with England’s second try but that was countered by South Africa when Rohan Janse van Rensburg dived over to make it 20-13 at the break.
Two early second half penalties from Pollard extended the host’s lead but England hit back through Northampton Saints centre Tom Stephenson. South Africa then scored from the restart, but England again narrowed the gap with a first England Under 18 try from Maro Itoje to make the score 33-24.
With South Africa tiring, England continued to press but a late try from Newcastle Falcons wing Zach Kibirige proved to be in vain as South Africa held out for a 36-29 win.
Speaking about the game Fletcher said: “We knew that we’d have to move them around and play at a high tempo to stand a chance of winning and in large parts we did that. The penalty count against us is ultimately what killed us. We didn’t grasp the interpretation soon enough and their kicker was very accurate.
“I can’t fault our performance though, I thought that we were the better rugby side – although they were definitely the bigger side! Our lads gave everything, their work rate was excellent and it’s just a shame that we couldn’t get the win.
“We’ve ended up with one win on this tour but we could have ended up with no wins, or we could have ended up with three wins. The margins in all of the games have been close and all four sides competing were very close.”
England points: Josh Watkins 1T, Joel Conlon 1T, Tom Stephenson 1T, Maro Itoje 1T, Zach Kibirige 1T, Billy Burns 1C, Sam Olver 1C.
England Under 18 starting XV against South Africa
15 Howard Packman (Moulton College) (Northampton Saints)
14 Nathan Earle (Oaklands) (Saracens)
13 Tom Stephenson (Moulton College) (Northampton Saints)
12 Nick Carpenter (Filton College) (Bristol Rugby)
11 Josh Watkins (Bromsgrove School) (Worcester Warriors)
10 Billy Burns (Hartpury College) (Gloucester Rugby)
9 Callum Braley (Hartpury College) (Bristol Rugby)
1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Moulton College) (Northampton Saints)
2 Harry Thacker (Leicester Grammar) (Leicester Tigers)
3 Biyi Alo (Haileybury College) (Saracens)
4 Maro Itoje (Harrow School) (Saracens)
5 Charlie Ewels (Bryanston School) (Bath Rugby)
6 Ross Moriarty (Hartpury College) (Gloucester)
7 Gus Jones (Eton College) (London Wasps) (c)
8 Joel Conlon (Ivybridge Community College) (Exeter Chiefs)
16 Alex Lundberg (Hampton) (London Wasps)
18 Zach Kibirige (Yarm School) (Newcastle Falcons)
19 Sam James (Bishops Stortford) (Saracens)
20 Jake Oldaker (Wellington College) (Bath Rugby)
23 Sam Olver (Oundle School) (Northampton Saints)
24 Ollie Claxton (Adams Grammar School) (Unattached)
25 Nick Tompkins (Oaklands College) (Saracens)
26 Stephen Uren (Filton College) (Bristol Rugby)