SA Schools slumped to a 52-22 defeat against England in Athlone on Saturday to end the U19 International Series winless. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Whether or not this is the worst SA Schools squad to date is debatable, but the class of 2017 will go down as the most underperforming group.
Before the start of the tournament, SA Schools boasted a proud record, which included only one defeat to England back in 2014. In this year’s edition, they lost to Wales (30-28) and France (13-8) before going down to England at City Park.
While there was a definite improvement to the SA Schools’ game, England were superior in every compartment. England’s tight forwards – starters and replacements – were particularly efficient and proved problematic for the SA Schools’ defence.
The visitors dominated the first half and scored three tries through fullback Ollie Hassell-Collins, lock Josh Basham, and captain and No 8 Sam Moore for a commanding 19-0 lead at the break.
SA Schools had plenty of scoring opportunities, but failed to execute in the red zone.
England were dealt a blow when Moore suffered a match-ending injury on the stroke of half-time. They started the second half shakily, and that was the opening SA Schools needed to claw their way back into the contest.
Wing Muller du Plessis put the hosts on the scoreboard with a fantastic effort down the left flank when he turned Hassell-Collins inside-out with lethal stepping off both feet. Two minutes later and flank Henco Martins crossed for SA Schools’ second try, after inside centre Rikus Pretorius initially breached England’s defence with a devastating run from inside his own 22 area.
Fullback Qamani Kota took over the kicking duties and landed both conversions before adding a penalty for a 19-15 scoreline.
But just as the match became evenly poised, England found their second wind and squashed SA Schools’ hopes of a complete comeback. Prop Nick Rigby and flank Tom Willis ran in two tries in the space of two minutes, to all but confirm the outcome of the contest.
And while Du Plessis scored again to complete his brace with a try originating from a counter-ruck, England put the exclamation mark on their victory with three further scores, by Cadan Murley and a double by Sam Spink, to finish the series with a perfect record.
SA Schools – Tries: Muller du Plessis (2), Henco Martins. Conversions: Qamani Kota (2). Penalty Kota.
England U19 – Tries: Ollie Hassell-Collins, Josh Basham, Sam Moore, Nick Rigby, Tom Willis, Cadan Murley, Sam Spink (2). Conversions: Cameron Redpath (3), Kieran Wilkinson (3).
SA Schools – 15 Qamani Kota, 14 Kennedy Mpeku, 13 Diego Appollis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Muller du Plessis, 10 Stephan van der Bank, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Travis Gordon (c), 7 Henco Martins, 6 Mark Snyman, 5 Cristen van Niekerk, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Jordan Clarke.
Subs: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Ruhann Greyling, 18 Nkosikhona Masuku, 19 Keagan Glade, 20 Banele Mthenjane, 21 Celimpilo Gumede, 22 Phendulani Buthelezi, 23 Dylan Richardson, 24 Vian Fourie, 25 Sanele Nohamba, 26 Christopher Schreuder, 27 Conan le Fleur, 28 Yanga Hlalu.
England U19 – 15 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 14 Arron Reed, 13 Cadan Murley, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Tom Seabrook, 10 Cameron Redpath, 9 Will Porter, 8 Sam Moore (c), 7 Aaron Hinkley, 6 Tom Willis, 5 James Scott, 4 Josh Basham, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Will Capon, 1 Tom Rowland.
Subs: 16 George Head, 17 Beck Cutting, 18 Nick Rigby, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Ollie Fox, 21 Kieran Wilkinson, 22 Sam Spink, 23 Nick David, 24 Tom de Glanville.