Premiership Rugby U18 Academy Competition – London Irish and Gloucester Rugby on top
Exeter Chiefs Under-18s coach Marek Churcher admits a back-to-basics approach in the second half nearly saw his side snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Wasps – but for a missed kick at the death.
Wasps started the stronger in Maidenhead and raced to a 14-0 lead by half-time thanks to converted tries from James Seabrook and Caleb Shepherd.
Things got worse for Chiefs after Connor Eastgate kicked a penalty upon the restart, but in response a neat set-piece move was finished off by Charlie Wright before prop Marcus Street rumbled over.
Both tries were converted by Harvey Skinner, but in blustery conditions his third conversion attempt went astray after Wright crossed the line late on.
That meant Chiefs fell to an agonising 20-19 loss at Wasps, who picked up their third Premiership Rugby U18 Academy Competition win to go second in the Southern Conference.
“We lacked a bit of composure, both in attack and defence, during the first half,” he said. “At half time, though, the boys knew they could get back into contention by just simplifying what they were doing.
“It was really unfortunate for Harvey at end as that was a kick he would of made in his sleep, but these things happen in rugby.”
Unbeaten London Irish lead the way at the top of the Southern Conference after an emphatic 44-10 triumph over Bath Rugby.
Matt Kouris crossed twice but there were seven different Irish try-scorers in total, with Joe Cokanasiga, Connor Hayhow, Harry Norton, Sam Evans, Will Attfield and Matt Williams all joining in.
Elsewhere in the south, Saracens’ youngsters are off the mark in the competition after battling to a 26-17 win against Bristol Rugby.
Tom Ffitch was trusty with the boot as well as with the ball in hand, dotting down and kicking conversions to three of his team’s four tries – Ollie Morris, Will Kaye and Bryn McCall the other scorers.
And in the Northern Conference, Gloucester Rugby continue to reign supreme with a 100 per cent record after arriving back from Newcastle Falcons with an impressive 33-17 win.
Harry Randall, the competition’s current top-scorer with six tries, raced over with barely a minute on the clock and the scrum-half then went on to set up a score for his half-back partner Robbie Forbes.
Randall then crossed again leaving the Cherry & Whites three tries up in the first quarter-hour.
To their credit Falcons did respond – Lewis Roxby, Charlie Gowling and Charlie Wilson all touched down before the game was up – but further Gloucester scores by Harry Robinson and Henry Walker meant the visitors were always in control.
Gloucester were not the only ones to record a superb victory on the road, as Leicester Tigers emerged with a 26-5 win over Sale Sharks.
The next generation was on show for Leicester, with Fred Tuilagi Jr – son of the former Welford Road favourite – and Jacob Umaga, whose uncle is All Blacks legend Tana, crossing over.
Sam Yawayawa and Harry Simmons conjured up the other tries as Sale were kept to a single score from Alistair Wealthall.
Sale Sharks 5 – 26 Leicester Tigers
London Irish 44 – 10 Bath Rugby
Saracens 26 – 17 Bristol Rugby
Wasps 20 – 19 Exeter Chiefs
Newcastle Falcons 17 – 33 Gloucester Rugby
All scorers and statistics compiled by Stuart Farmer Media Services
Boxing Day Sale! Click here to grab a bargain with 20% off tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 28 May at Twickenham.