Austin Beckett takes on the England Under-18 defence © Frank Ring (BGR Photography)
Academy News ACADEMY 19 ENG U18 27 International opposition too strong for young Saints
The Saints Academy succumbed to a good England Under-18 side on Sunday afternoon, the hosts outscored four tries to three at Franklin’s Gardens but in touch throughout one of their toughest tests of the season.
It was that closeness and the Saints’ ability to front up to their international visitors that impressed George Wacokecoke and the winger is sure the contest will put the side in good stead for the season to come.
“I think we played well,” the winger told SaintsTV. “I thought we adapted to the game and the physicality that England brought to us from the first few minutes. As the game went on we adapted well and that’s one positive we want to take away from it.
“Playing against teams and beating them quite comfortably you’re not really getting challenged but with this game it was really good to see where we are at as a team. We’ll be looking to keep improving until our next game against Leicester.
“That was a very strong England side out there, it’s just another level up. The boys did well to step up and I don’t think there’s too much difference between us and England.”
The visitors came out strong and after opening the try scoring as early as the fourth minute, sandwiched a spell of Saints attacking with their second of the afternoon as forwards again found gaps in the home defence.
Yet an opportune score for Wacokecoke, who scooped up a stray ball to run over from halfway, seemed to bring a momentum shift and only a good piece of cover work from the England defence denied Rotimi Segun a score as an action packed opening quarter came to a close.
Saints stayed on the front foot though and continued to play their way back into the game, good forward pressure allowing Ollie Lyons to squeeze through for the levelling try converted by Sam Olver.
Having fought back to 12-all, however, the hosts would still trail at the break, a quick tap by England’s scrum-half followed by a one-two and their third of the game.
They would maintain that pressure in the second half, too, but while the Saints youngsters were pegged back it would take the best part of half an hour for the game’s deciding score as number four stretched the England advantage to 12-24.
Still, the Saints weren’t done and as the clock ran down things started to pick up once more.
More of the ball meant more chances for the men in black, green and gold but while Tim Cardall would capitalise after a dominant maul – closing the gap to a single score with his try and Harry Mallinder’s conversion – an England penalty quickly after the restart stretched the lead back to two scores and the Saints ran out of time.
4mins ENG U18 Try & Con 0-7
13mins ENG U18 Try 0-12
16mins SAINTS Try Wacokecoke 5-12
25mins SAINTS Try Lyons Con Olver 12-12
32mins ENG U18 Try 12-17
HALF-TIME SAINTS 12 ENG U18 17
65mins ENG U18 Try & Con 12-24
68mins SAINTS Try Cardell Con Mallinder 19-24
69mins ENG U18 Pen 19-27
FT SAINTS 19 ENG U18 27
SAINTS – Bullivant; Beckett, Segun, Mallinder, Wacokecoke; Olver, Lee-Everton; Eveleigh, R Marshall, Lamprell, H Marshall, Onojaife, Betts, Ludlam, Lyons
Reps – Fish, Morley, Jeannot, Cardall, Cox, Morris, Defeo, Furbank