WRFCU16S Holders retain League Championship
Holders retain League Championship
Holders retain League Championship
Hampshire under-16 Championship Final, 15 April 2018
Winchester RFC U16s 17
New Milton RFC U16s 14
Winchester RFC U16s bowed out of the youth leagues with a magnificent victory over old rivals New Milton.
After a number of postponements for frozen or waterlogged pitches, the U16 league championship came to its climax on Sunday with the cup final held at New Milton. Following semi-final successes against Petersfield and Alton respectively, Winchester and New Milton were well matched adversaries with honours fairly even in previous encounters.
From New Milton’s kick off, the visitors were immediately put on the back foot and a hesitant, slightly nervous start wasto be fully exploited by the home team. With less than fiveminutes gone, New Milton capitalised on a Winchester handling error to turn the ball over before shipping it wide. Their ever-threatening full back joined the line at pace to break the visitors defence and touch down for a try, duly converted for a 7-0 lead.
The visitors’ nerves began to settle however with some strong running of their own and good pressure across the pitch. While both sides won promising positions, and were equally ferocious in defence, the next ten minutes were marked by a series of infringements and handling errors, with possession switching frequently.
Excellent defensive work from the backs however, amongst them centres Archie Mildenhall and Jamie Cook, kept New Milton at bay as, slowly, Winchester began to find their game.
The Winchester forwards too were holding their own in the set piece, with strong forward running (lock Cain Williamsmaking some bursting runs) and scrummaging against New Milton’s larger pack and a much-improved showing in the line out, where flanker Henry Gwilliam, and Cain Williams were the main targets.
After 20 minutes, and with the line out operating effectively, Winchester captain and wing Josh Wise put in an excellent kick to touch following a New Milton penalty for holding on.The throw in from Louis Strangeway found its target in Henry Gwilliam, and the ball moved quickly down the line from fly-half Rory King, only to be held up again by another New Milton infringement.
This time Winchester opted for a scrum in front of the posts to exploit the attacking possibilities on both sides. With New Milton’s defence split, scrum-half Toby Gilbey spotted a gapand darted through, stretching for the line as he was taken down. Despite the conversion going wide, Winchester were back in the game, trailing by two points at 7-5.
Following their try, Winchester maintained the pressure but were let down on more than one occasion by wild attempts at the off-load, allowing repeated New Milton interceptions. Their defence was resolute however and possession continued to alternate as both sides sought the gap.
Finally, Winchester were rewarded after some good handling from the backs following another successful line-out. Despite the efforts of three New Milton defenders, Josh Wise broke through the middle to touch down close to the posts, Jamie Cook’s kick rattling the posts on the way through to add the extra points for a 12-7 Winchester lead which they successfully defended until the half time whistle.
After the break, Winchester brought on fresh legs with a number of substitutions, fully utilising the strength of their bench and including a new half-back pairing in the form of Joey Maggs and Henry Williams. Their delivery of quick ball continued to provide attacking opportunities while Winchester’s rush defence effectively negated the threat from New Milton’s strong back line.
Although Winchester were beginning to edge possession, the slender lead meant that the game remained extremely tense for the whole of the third quarter. New Milton’s defence remained effective however and it wasn’t until the hour was up that the deadlock was finally broken. From a brilliant run from deep within his own half, Winchester full-back Ben Pearce was tackled into touch on the opposition’s 10m line,but not before he had successfully offloaded to wing Toby Reid.
With little space to play with, Reid sprinted for the corner, evading an attempted trip before himself being taken into touch by the covering defender. The tackle was adjudged high however and from the resulting penalty, Winchester quickly shifted play to the far side of the pitch, with some great running from tireless lock James Rayner, stretching New Milton’s defence and allowing Josh Wise to touch down in the corner.
The conversion was wide, but the 7-17 score-line meant that New Milton now required two scores with only 15 minutes remaining. Rather than being discouraged however, the home side came back as strong as ever, now keeping it tight with repeated pick-and-go moves through the middle. This required a robust defence from the entire Winchester team: the sight of prop forward Tom Irwin successfully chasing down the highly evasive New Milton full back was a sight to behold.
The strategy proved successful, allowing the hosts to inch ever closer to Winchester’s try line. When finally it was breached however, Winchester’s defence was resolute, holding up the ball and preventing its grounding twice inquick succession.
Eventually however, New Milton’s efforts were rewarded when, after 75 minutes, Winchester were penalised for a high tackle close to their own 5m line. Following earlier warnings to both sides, the referee awarded New Milton a penalty try to take the score to 17-14.
With just five agonising minutes remaining, New Milton threw everything at the Winchester defence. But still the visitors remained firm, with every member of the team playing their part, including a try-saving tackle from Ben Pearce. New Milton retained possession however until after the 80 minutes were up until, finally, James Rayner, again feriocious at the breakdown turned the ball over for Joey Maggs to kick delightedly to touch and end the game and see this side again crowned county champions.
Captain Josh Wise was presented with the trophy by Hampshire RFU Deputy president Ian Kerr. This was a second successive county age-group win for this squad, and a third in four years.
Winchester under-16 squad: Rufus Beck; Jamie Cook; Filippo Hall; Tom Irwin; Cam Jesney; Toby Gilbey; Josh Golledge; Jason Griffiths; Henry Gwilliam; Ed Kellet; Jamie Kesby; Rory King; Jack Layzell; Dan Leake; Will Letty; Joey Maggs; Archie Mildenhall; Ed Mirchandani; Ben Pearce; James Rayner; Toby Reid; Louis Strangeway; Sam Thompson; Cain Williams; Henry Williams; Josh Wise.