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venue: Stade Georges-Vaills, Palau

11th November 2009


FB, Bousquet, X, X


X 2/3

Full Match Report


England under 18’s Community Lions have been narrowly beaten by France Juniors in a tightly contested affair. The Lions were edged out 22-14 in pouring rain in the south of France but showed good fighting spirit after a poor start. The early signs looked ominous for England as France were quickest out of the blocks, crossing the line twice inside the opening ten minutes.

The first try came inside two minutes; with England’s early eagerness in defence their downfall, they conceded an unnecessary penalty, deep in their own half, which led to the quick thinking French scum half sending his full back over the whitewash with a well executed pass. It didn’t take long for France to double their lead. Sloppy defence again by England, who had been rocked by the early try, invited impressive French prop Bousquet to make it 12-0, before England had a chance to settle into the game.

France’s third try was perhaps the most disappointing for the England coaching staff. Ten minutes later, it was third time lucky for the French, who tried dummy half runs on three consecutive plays, for the last on which, England’s marker defence went to sleep, allowing the French half back to dart over and add four more to the scoreboard. With the score 16-0 and the rain starting to make ball control difficult, England coach, Dave Woods turned to his bench for some inspiration. The introduction of young utility back, Alistair Leek seemed to give the team the direction they had been lacking so far.

However, it was his half back partner, Ian Kerman, that found the key to unlock the French resistance. His well placed kick from right to left picked out speedy winger Joe Bullock, who touched down in the corner to give England their first points of the night. The Lions thought they had added to their tally a few minutes later, with Kerman again in the thick of it, as he sent through powerful second rower Danny Burgon, only for the referee to bring play back for a suspect forward pass at the play the ball.

By now, the England team was growing in confidence and had started to play some more expansive rugby but the slippery conditions weren’t helping, as the Lion’s made far too many unforced errors for the coaches liking. It was a stop-start half, in which the French referee did little to help the match flow, awarding countless penalties for marginal and often questionable infringements. Five minutes before the break, he chose to stamp authority on proceedings, sending French replacement prop Facip to the sin bin for persistent high tackling. At the half time interval England were still well in the game but trailing 16-4, Coach Woods would have had plenty to talk about in the dressing room but will have been encouraged by his sides determination to stay in contention.

The start of the second half belonged to England. After a good build up of pressure down the left in the opening five minutes, the Lions were given feed of a scrum just short of the French line. Half back and Captain, Callum Phillips took control of the situation; collecting the ball from the back of the scrum and throwing an ingenious dummy, which sent two French defenders the wrong way, before darting through the gap and scoring under the sticks. With the extras added, the Lions were within one converted score of the French and the momentum was truly theirs.

Moments later, they were nearly in again. Powerful centre Matthew Fogarty came off the defensive line and intercepted a looping French pass on his own ten metre line. His pace left the scrambling French forwards for dead and he scampered 80m up field and looked certain to score a try, only for his efforts to be thwarted by a superb covering tackle just short of the line. With time running out for the Lions, they stepped up the pressure once again and this time their efforts were rewarded.

With thirteen minutes still on the clock, a move straight off the training ground put the lions in for a try. Senior squad member Anthony Morrison showed good hands to provide the final pass to sent Karl Olstrom over to put the Lions within touching distance of the lead. Trailing 16-14 going into the final stages, England had more good field position but failed to convert. Poor decisions in the French final third is ultimately what cost England the win. As the Lions tried to force the win, the French were able to counter attack and seal the win with the final try of the match.

The full-time score ended 22-14 in favour of the French but England produced a spirited performance in difficult conditions. Loose forward, David Orwell’s all round solid performance earned him man of the match for the Lions. Head Coach Dave Woods agreed there are lots of reasons to be optimistic ahead of the upcoming fixtures but acknowledged there is lots of room for improvement: “We made some real good plays and defensively we looked strong most of the time. Of course we are disappointed that we didn’t carry into the game some of the things we trained for. Perhaps we lacked composure and showed a bit of naivety in that we tried to score from every play rather than build pressure on our opponents.”

The team arrived in the South of France on Tuesday afternoon and the trip was definitely a worthwhile experience. They now have to build on what they have learnt ahead of their match with Australian Institute of Sport on the 26th November in Widnes.

Shane Ackerly, Karl Olstrom, Matthew Fogerty, Blake Mahovic, Joe Bullock, Callum Phillips, Ian Kerman, Glenn Riley, Brad Dwyer, Stephen Welton, Antony Morrison, Daniel Burgan, David Orwell. Subs: Alistair Leak, Matthew Huby, Matthew Syron, Kirk Collins


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