This is a copy of an article published on englandrugby.com on March 30th 2016. That report is available here http://www.englandrugby.com/news/england-counties-u18s-outlasted-france-poles-espoirs/
England Counties U18s suffered a close 14-8 defeat today. France Poles Espoirs set the tone for a physical encounter in the opening 15 minutes with England rarely able to get out of their own half. The lone early bright spot was when lock Charlie Morgan made a great dash up the sideline for a gain of 40 metres after France had sloppily lost the ball at the breakdown as they neared England’s 22.
As the half wore on England began to hit their stride. They had some quality moves showcasing some quick, fluid passing in and around France’s 22. Inside centre Lawrence Thresher, in particular, made a superb line break down the right flank in the 20th minute, only for the move to stall due to a knock-on a couple of phases later as the ball was being recycled quickly by oncoming support players.
For all of the steady, consistent attacking England had been producing for 10 minutes, the breakthrough was to come through a wonderful counter-attacking try in the 25th minute. France tried a kick and chase down England’s left channel only for winger Thomas Carleton to elegantly catch the ball over his head while running back towards his own goal before swiftly turning around and cutting through the French line. Play was then switched from England’s 22 to France’s as the ball was moved across to the right wing before fly half Charlie Fatoma measured a cross-field kick perfectly to Carleton who, in turn, batted it down into the waiting arms of outside centre Joshua Grimes who crashed over from there. Fatoma narrowly missed the resulting conversion.
The first chorus of ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ to be sung by the watching support was cut short almost immediately, however, as the restart was then knocked-on. This was compounded by France winning a penalty at the breakdown from the ensuing scrum. The French fly half duly dispatched it between the posts and France had their first points.
England restored their 5 point cushion in the 31st minute when Fatoma converted a routine penalty straight in front of the posts after France had gone in from the side.
Frustratingly for England, they again quickly gave away another kickable penalty only 2 minutes later due to a high tackle. This was converted to bring the halftime score to England 8-France 6.
In the second half the quality of the game deteriorated as both sides committed more handling errors. This was understandable on a damp, gloomy day when occasional hail storms hit during the match.
France converted an early second half penalty to take their first lead of the match in the 44th minute. Again, it was a high tackle that was the culprit for England.
France then put together some sustained pressure from the outset of the second half and it paid off in what proved to be the pivotal moment of the match as a good team move led to them touching down for a try in the 68th minute. England had demonstrated some dogged defending prior to that but seemed to tire a bit more than their opponents as the match wore on.
It was only in the final 5 minutes of the second half that England really threatened France’s try line. Their efforts to get back into it were ignited when an attempted clearing kick by France was partially blocked down with England securing possession in French territory from there. Some heart-stopping moments followed as England initially tried to convert via the nearside on the left wing. This was met with a well-organised French line of defence.
England then attempted a last gasp move to spread the ball wide. Unfortunately, the French defence adjusted well and the ball carrier just missed out on grounding the ball before being pushed out of bounds.
France held on for the 14-8 victory from there. A good match, played in a great spirit was exemplified by England coach Giles Hegarty, who said afterwards, ‘you have to give full credit to the French, they’re a big, physical side.’