Tuesday, 29 March 2011

National Schools Sevens - Wins for Bromsgrove and London Oratory

The first titles of this year's National Schools Sevens went to Bromsgrove in the Prep Schools Competition and London Oratory in the Junior Competition this afternoon.

Bromsgrove, the pre-tournament favourites swept in convincing fashion to the final with resounding victories over St Olaves 46-5 and Shrewsbury House in the semi final 31-7 before securing a 27-0 victory over a resilient Bedford Prep School side. Both Bromsgrove and Bedford were unbeaten in the fifteen a-side game and although the latter had been succesful at the Warwick tournament, they were always seen as underdogs with two key players being unavailable as a result of the competition's weight restrictions.

The final stages of the Junior Competition proved to be very competitive with the London Oratory securing a 19-0 victory over Whitgift. In the semi final London Oratory had narrowly beaten John Fisher 28-24 while Whitgift had squeezed past Cowbridge from Cardiff 26-21.

Today also saw the group stage and play off rounds of the Festival Competition for schools who just play one term rugby. All the main contenders navigated their way through the early stages with some intriguing last sixteen matches tomorrow including the Daily Mail quarter finalist, Plymouth College against the impressive Wellington College. While Bedford take on Epsom with Bryanston facing Cheltenham College.

Tomorrow sees the start of the Colts competition with 156 schools represented.

Graham Henry just needs three words to coach New Zealand to a World Cup title

In keeping with Fabio Capello's claim that he only requires a grasp of "100 words" to communicate in English with his players, it has been reported that Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach has indicated that he just needs three words in order for his team to win the 2011 World Cup. Henry divulged those words in a press conference this morning.

Sonny Bill Williams

Monday, 28 March 2011

Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens kicks Off

Today saw the first day of the week long Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens. From the first competition in 1939, the festival of sevens rugby has developed into the world's largest rugby tournament with 7,000 boys and girls aged 13 - 19 competing in the six different competitions. A new feature this year is the sponsorship of the event by HSBC.

The Prep Schools and Junior Schools competitions started today with the final stages taking place tomorrow afternoon. Last year was a unique and highly successful year for Millfield School with a hat trick of titles including the Prep School, Colts and Open competitions. Their prep school side failed to reach the last eight this year in going down 24- 19 to St Olave's from York. Convincing wins by Bromsgove and Shrewsbury House saw them ease into the quarter finals.

Prep School Quarter Final Draw

Packwood Haugh v Shrewsbury House
St Olave's v Bromsgrove
Bedford v St Johns on the Hill
The Downs v Downsend

In the Junior Competition for Under 13 teams in 11-18 schools, there were convincing last sixteen wins for QEGS Wakefield, Whitgift, Bedford Modern and John Fisher with the latter two teams playing each other in the quarter finals. While Whitgift will be involved in a Croyden derby with local rivals, Trinity.

Junior Competition Quarter Final Draw

London Oratory v QEGS Wakefield
John Fisher v Bedford Modern
St Benedict’s v Cowbridge
Trinity,Croyden v Whitgift

Tomorrow morning sees the start of the Festival competition with 120 schools taking part.

What we can learn from the Crusaders along with Israel Dagg's Try

There were sublime moments of great skill yesterday in the Crusaders - Sharks match up, as a great game unfolded. Give the Sharks their due there contribution was significant and a mini revival in the second half helped to keep the game truly competitive right up to the final whistle.

I took three things from the game and in all cases they are not often seen at Twickenham:

  1. It is possible to execute a strike move from a scrummage.
  2. Imaginative well executed back row moves create attacking opportunities.
  3. Power can be combined with subtlety and guile although in this respect it does help to have Sonny Bill Williams in your side.





Saturday, 26 March 2011

If there was a British Lions Tour in 2011 - My Virtual Tour Squad

Have had serious selectorial matters on the mind since last weekend and I am now ready to announce the tour squad for the 2011 Virtual British Lions Tour. Using the same squad structure as the 2009 tour to South Africa I have selected a squad of 37. Those who only played in the recent Six Nations or were part of a match day squad were considered for selection.

While selection in a number of positions was relatively straightforward, certain areas did prove to be quite challenging. The back three looks to be a very strong area and I have gone with Keith Earls as the utility man. Probably both Ashton and Bowe would deserve to be in the starting line up and some thought would need to be given to whether the latter might feature in the centre. It is interesting to note that Will Greenwood in his 2011 Six Nations team selects Bowe and O'Driscoll as his centre partnership. The Irish captain finished the Six Nations on a high, looking as dangerous and effective as ever. The Welsh pairing of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies get my vote and in keeping with the utility theme, I include Sean Lamont off the back of his impressive performances for Scotland. My final centre place goes to Gordon D'Arcy just ahead of the emerging claims of Joe Ansbro.

I thought long and hard about the inclusion of Jonny Sexton, but in the end I have gone for the older and wiser Jonny to be in the squad along with Toby Flood and James Hook. I am in no doubt that a consistent run in the Ireland team over the next two years will see Sexton as a near certainty for the 2013 tour.

The two superior scrum halves for me have been Morgan Parra and Fabio Semenzato while the incumbents from the home nations have tended to be plagued by inconsistency. Ben Youngs gets the nod despite going in to meltdown last week and Mike Phillips has to be picked on sheer potential alone. Despite the claims of Reddan and Laidlaw of late, I go for Danny Care as the third scrum half.

In the back row Sam Warburton, John Barclay, Tom Wood and James Haskell are selected on the basis of their consistency and influence throughout the tournament and they are joined by the Irish duo of Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip who finished the tournament strongly. With Haskell providing cover across the back row and with two open sides already selected, David Wallace misses out with Tom Croft selected after returning from injury.

It was great to see Paul O'Connell back to his best belligerent self in the tournament and he has to be a key member of not only the pack but the squad as a whole. I am great fan of Richie Gray's all-round game and at times I thought his performances were close to world class. The athleticism of Tom Palmer has been a key factor in England's success and he is joined in the squad by Bradley Davies mainly for his ball carrying strengths. Although Donnca O'Callaghan had a truly outstanding game against England I just favour the consistency and increasing influence of Louis Deacon for the remaining second row slot.

The front row is an interesting area with injury in a sense limiting the options available. A Lions squad touring this summer would have a potentially young and relatively inexperienced front row group with most pundits selecting a team of the tournament looking no further than France and Italy for the front row with Domingo, Servat and Castrogiovanni being the likely unit.  It is a good job that Adam Jones completed 52 minutes for Wales against France to be selected alongside another British Lion, Matthew Rees. On the tight head side, Jones is joined by Dan Cole along with Mike Ross, while the increasingly impressive Cian Healy is joined by the surprise package of the tournament, Alex Corbisiero, who was quietly effective as loose head for England once Andrew Sheridan was ruled out. Dylan Hartley certainly deserves a place as a result of a very consistent tournament and I go for Rory Best just ahead of Ross Ford as the third hooker.

The tour party has 15 representatives from England, 9 from Ireland and Wales, along with 4 from Scotland. This is in comparison with a split of 14 from Ireland, 13 from Wales, 8 from England and 2 from Scotland in 2009.

For leadership of the squad, there is no need to look beyond the Irish duo of Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell. The big question remains whether they will still be in contention for 2013.

The Squad

Full Back
Lee Byrne, Ben Foden

Wings
Chris Ashton, Tommy Bowe, Max Evans, Keith Earls, Mark Cueto

Centres
Jonathan Davies, Sean Lamont, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Roberts,

Fly Half
Toby Flood, James Hook, Jonny Wilkinson

Scrum Half
Danny Care, Mike Phillips, Ben Youngs

Back Row
John Barclay, Tom Croft, James Haskell, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Sam Warburton, Tom Wood

Second Row
Bradley Davies, Louis Deacon, Richie Gray, Paul O'Connell, Tom Palmer

Props
Dan Cole, Alex Corbisiero, Cian Healy, Adam Jones, Mike Ross

Hookers
Rory Best, Dylan Hartley, Matthew Rees

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Final RBS Six Nations Statistics - the good, the bad and the ugly

Just before this year's tournament started I wrote a post in which I expressed my hope that this campaign was an improvemennt upon the relatively poor quality of 2010 in which a fairly average French team were able to secure a Grand Slam. Certainly the level of intensity, tempo and quality has improved and apart from England's hammering of Italy and France's dominance over Wales we have had some highly competitive games. In my post I bemoaned the lack of fire in the encounter of a year at Twickenham when Ireland were the visitors - thank goodness there was no repeat this year.

As we now look towards the World Cup it is clear that England Scotland and Italy have all progressed from a year ago, while Ireland's outstanding performance at the weekend suggests that they have regrouped and have a great deal to offer. The French supporters must be bitterly disappointed that they have not been able to build upon the grand slam of 2010 and a similar lack of progress has plagued Wales - Warren Gatland and his squad will need to improve a great deal if they are to provide any threat in New Zealand.

Below I have highlighted some of the final statistics from this year's tournament under the Good. Bad and Ugly tags. They make for interesting reading.

Good
Most offloads in the tackle - Scotland 59
Most passes completed - England 902
Most line breaks - England 28
Most amount of ball won in opposition 22 - Ireland 144
Most turnovers won - Ireland 22
Least possession kicked - Italy 88
Highest tackle completion - Ireland 96.1%
Highest line out completion - England 89.1%
Least number of penalties conceded - Italy 41

Bad
Least number of offloads - Wales 47
Lowest tackle completion - France 91.6%
Most missed tackles - Scotland 45
Least amount of ball won in the opposition 22 - Wales 60
Highest number of errors - England 70
Least number of turnovers won - Wales and France 11

Ugly
Least passes made - Wales 725
Most possession kicked - Wales 134
Highest number of scrums lost - Scotland 4
Lowest line out completion - Italy 61.5%
Most penalties conceded - Wales 59

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Thomas The Tank Engine arrives at Twickenham Station

I always thought that it was common knowledge in rugby circles that the birthplace of a grandparent could have major bearing on who you might end up playing international rugby for. In this context it is somewhat surprising that Thomas Waldrom seems to have had a "eureka moment" and phoned his mum in the early hours of the morning to clarify whether his grandma was born in England. Instead of waiting to be eligible on the grounds of residency, Waldrom who has probably been one of the most influential players of the season, now finds himself potentially a World Cup prospect for England.

Before Martin Johnson gets too excited Waldrom will need to show a little more care than his fellow New Zealander, Shane Howarth who ended up playing for Wales nineteen times between 1998 and 2000 despite the fact that his grandfather was not born in Wales as suggested but in New Zealand. Howarth could have qualified for Wales through residency before he retired but by then the IRB had changed the rules so that players could only represent one country; Howarth had already gained four caps for New Zealand.

It is going to be very interesting to see how this fortuitous discovery develops. It will certainly give Johnson and his coaching team some food for thought. Waldrom has successfully operated at blindside and No.8 for Leicester Tigers and he could provide some interesting options for Johnson in an area where many selectorial issues still need to be resolved. While the Easter continues at times to be rock like for England his lack of pace was once again exposed in the Six Nations. Johnson also needs to consider the return of Crofts and Moody, while Wood and Haskell proved to be the more than adequate replacements. The importance of Crofts and Wood to England's line out also needs to be factored in.

So what are the possibilities for Johnson? I have listed some of the permutations below as some food for thought!

6.Waldrom 7.Moody 8.Easter

6.Wood 7.Haskell 8.Waldrom

6.Haskell 7.Moody 8.Waldrom

6.Haskell 7.Moody 8.Easter

6.Waldrom 7.Fourie 8.Haskell

6.Crofts 7. Moody 8.Waldrom

6.Crofts 7. Moody 8.Easter

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Foot rushing and a good old fashioned performance by Ireland

This was the day that the spirit of Lansdowne Road finally arrived at the Aviva Stadium as Ireland produced a good old fashioned performance full of passion, intensity, desire and impressive physicality. When the splendid Donncha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell combined to produce a 50 metre foot rush you just knew that England were damned for the day and that the Irish dander was well and truly up!

The jubilant Irish supporters must have been left last night reflecting on why Ireland had only managed to produce this level of performance in the final game of the campaign. Yesterday it was Ireland rather than the battered England side that looked the Grand Slam contenders. There was a real cut and thrust about Ireland from the early exchanges onwards and they were marshalled perfectly by Jonny Sexton with a Man of the Match performance. It was also a day when the old guard came up trumps and anyone doubting whether Messrs O'Driscoll, O'Connell , O'Callaghen and Wallace could have an influence at this level need to think again.

The problems England encountered at the breakdown last week against Scotland were once again cruelly exposed by the muscularity and intensity of the highly impressive Irish pack. England were found wanting in this area as Ireland were able to create turnovers through keeping the England players off the ground - at times it look liked men against boys and Martin Johnson will need to be thinking long and hard about how his team are to compete in this crucial area in the future.

Unlike the Irish in Cheltenham this week, England were never at the races yesterday with the nature and margin of the defeat being a big blow to the squad. While the back row never stopped working and the front row continued to cause Ireland problems in the scrum, Johnson must be concerned with the performance of Ben Youngs who seemingly went in to meltdown in the face of the pressure of the day. The lack of subtlety, guile and pace in the centre was once again evident on a day when England seemed to have very little cutting edge.

We all have got a bit carried away with comparisons with the England squad of 2003 but in the cold light of day there was certainly no Martin Johnson type character on the field yesterday for England, no Richard Hill and Neil Back either. Moody and Tinadall would have surely made a difference but it must be remembered that current England Squad is an emerging one and patience will need to be shown before they become anywhere near the finished article.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

It is ruggers Curruthers but not as we knew it!

The old guard were certainly twittering (not in the tweet sense) at Twickenham on Sunday when Matt Banahan came on as a replacement for Mike Tindall at half time. Certainly bigger than your average forward and probably even a bear, Banahan's act of destroying the Sweaties Number 8 created a bit of a stir as yes, a back, boshed a forward in to oblivion. My fellow blogger Total Flanker commented this week on how certain sections of the press took great delight in pronouncing their rather sanctimonious view of what they described as Banahan's brutal act.

It might be rugby not as we knew it but "Ox Like" backs on the hoof are here to stay as Matt Banahan and Rupeni Caucau show below!



Wednesday, 16 March 2011

How long before Lievremont considers Henson for France?

The French Rugby Federation  have moved quickly to dampen rumours that Marc Lievremont the beleagured  French coach has been in touch with Gavin Henson to check whether he might be available to play for France in the near future. It is understood that Lievremont has been a fan of Gav "The Dancer" for some time and he genuinely feels that Henson has some of the qualities that are sadly missing in the current French squad. Lievremont was heard to comment earlier in the week: "Gavin est un bon gars et a montré beaucoup de courage".

The fact that Henson has yet to play for Toulon since joining in February and was born in Pencoed seems to have not deterred Lievremont whose selection policy has been roundly criticised by many observers. The FFR are already taking soundings from the French Governement on whether Henson might be eligible for Dual Citizenship on a new special "Really Fast Track" basis!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Why Dickson is so very important to Northampton Saints

It will be interesting to reflect at the end of the season on whether Northampton Saints victory over Leeds Carnegie at the weekend was a truly defining moment for the club in what has became a far less straightforward campaign than seemed likely three months ago. The hard fought away victory was absolutely essential for a struggling Saints side who had lost six premiership games on the bounce. After a second half hammering at the hands of Exeter Chiefs the week before, Jim Mallinder held his nerve and resisted the temptation to pull his side and therefore the pattern of play apart. Stephen Myler was retained at fly half with his main selectorial tinkering being at full back where Shane Geraghty was selected with Bruce Rheihana moving to the wing.

Despite losing Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley, TomWood and Joe Ansbro to international duty over the last month and Lawes to injury, it was generally expected that the strength of the squad would see the Saints through this period without too many difficulties. What Mallinder did not count on was the loss of his hugely influential scrum half, Lee Dickson. I would suggest that the absence of Dickson over recent weeks has actually had more influence on the performance of the team than the loss of the internationals. The Saints have really struggled to assert themselves and they have just not been anywhere near the potent attacking force we saw earlier in the season. Mallinder was clearly delighted to have Dickson back for the Leeds game for the first time since the New Year Day's game against Harlequins, commenting:

"When Lee Dickson plays he gives real energy and tempo to the side and I think he did that today," he added. "I think that some of our attacking play looked a lot sharper and we got on the front foot and created quite a lot of opportunities."

It was also interesting to see Myler playing with far more confidence in giving one of his more accomplished all-round performances. The coaching staff will be hoping that their internationals come through unscathed at the weekend and that they can reignite their campaign with a full squad being available. They have the benefit of back to back home games in the Aviva Premiership to start with against London Wasps and Sale Sharks followed by the Heineken Cup quarter final against Ulster at stadium:mk.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

England v Scotland Thirty Years Ago - Pick Pockets and Woodward's try

I have watched a good number of internationals over the years at Twickenham and for various reasons some games do stand out and linger in the memory. As I was thinking about my trip to Twickenham tomorrow, I had one of those Max Boyce "I Know 'Cos I Was There!" moments in relation to the Calcutta Cup match of 1981, the second game of England's Five Nations campaign of that year. The game was memorable for two reasons - a pick pocket took a fancy to my Dad's wallet which was never seen again and Clive Wodward produced a stunning and truly memorable try.

Quite rightly, Woodward's try was recently considered to be one of the ten best tries seen at Twickenham and I just remember him running away from us as we stood in the newly completed South Stand. He glided past a mesmerised Scottish defence beating probably half a dozen attempted tackles as he ran the length of the Scottish half to score one of three England tries on the day. It is the sort of try that is unlikely to be seen in modern international rugby again with the chances of so many missed tackles occuring in one sequence of play being very rare nowadays. England won the game 23-17 with fly half Huw Davis scoring on his debut

For Woodward there was a sense of redemption after England's opening game against Wales. England were very much fancied to continue in their winning ways following the Grand Slam of 1980 and with most of that team intact they travelled to Wales with confidence and the hope of a first victory in Cardiff since 1963.

The legendary coach Carwyn Jones in reporting for the Guardian, reckoned that the game was: "forgettable, but exciting…lacking in skill, lacking in respect for the laws of the game and lacking the essence of a handling game".

All England's points came from Dusty Hare as he scored a try and five penalties while lock Clive Davis scored the only try for Wales.  Gareth Davies weighed in with a drop goal with four penalties and a conversion coming from the boot of Steve Fenwick. For Woodward, the game will be remembered for what he described as "the worst moment of my career". With only a few minutes reamining, England held a 19-18 lead as Wales had the put in at a scrum 30 metres from the England line. Brynmor Williams then completely hoodwinked Woodward with a dummy pass from the base of scrum and a lunge towards Gareth Davies at fly half. Woodward jumped out of the line while the rest of the backs stood firm behind the offside line. JB Anderson, the Scottish referee had no hestiation in blowing for a penalty and Fenwick duly stepped up and gave Wales the lead.

There was still time for more drama as Hare had the opportunity to regain the lead with an injury time penalty which to the despair of the travelling supporters proved to be beyond his range.

Friday, 11 March 2011

What the Stats tell us about the RBS Six Nations so far

Anyone who follows onthetryline regularly will know that from time to time I have reviewed the current Aviva Premiership statistics from a team and individual player perspective. With the next round of Six Nations matches nearly upon us I take a look this time at the team statistics for the first three matches and reflect on what they tell us about each of the teams.

England
Top try scorers (11) - does help though to score 8 against Italy!
Highest number of line breaks - 20
Most ball won in the opposition twenty two - 92
Highest tackle completion - an impressive 97% with only 11 missed tackles
Least ruck clearances - 73%

Wales
Most tackles made - 372
Most possession kicked - 78 a total of 46% of possession won
Least passes made - 442 and not surprising given the figure above
Most penalties conceded - 36
Least number of own throws at a lineout - 18
Most number of own put ins at a scrum - 17
Least number of mauls won - 8

France
Most errors made  - 42 along with Scotland and Ireland
Least amount of ball won in opposition twenty two - 33

Ireland
Most turnovers won - 13
Most errors made - 42

Scotland
Most offloads in the tackle - 37
Most passes completed - 594
Least tackles made - 290 and most missed tackles 32
Least number of turnovers won - 4
Least number of penalties conceded - 22

Italy
Least offloads in the tackle - 23
Least amount of possession kicked - 55
Least number of line breaks - 4
Highest ruck clearances - 86%
Least number of own put ins at a scrum - 4
Most mauls won - 17

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Hilarious Dead Cat Bounce Rugby Video

I thought that this video by Dead cat Bounce deserved a bit more that just being in the "Video of the Week" section. I picked up the release of the video from the Dublin based rock and roll comedy band through twitter and already it has  a good deal of interest and acclaim from the rugby fraternity.

The supergroup (their words) describe themselves as writing songs in a variety of styles, from hip-hop slow jams to 80s stadium rock anthems, all performed in tight trousers with smoke machines and a lot of rock posturing. My favourite quote from their website is attributed to The List:

“So far ahead of the curve that they’re on the outermost tip of the zeitgeist’s serrated edge.”

Dead Cat Bounce made the film for last night's  Republic of Telly on RTE and the single will soon be available on iTunes.

See what you think - some cracking lyrics and does Shane Bryne really have a future in film?



Schools Sevens Circuit Gets Underway with a treble for Bedford School

This weekend saw the first round of tournaments in this year's build up to the National Schools Sevens. On Saturday, the 42nd Annual Warwick Sevens took place with 25 schools represented across five age groups. A strong Warwick School side emerged as winners in the Under 12 competition beating Millfield Prep, while in the Under 13 age group, a large and mobile Bedford Prep side came back from a two try deficit against Portsmouth Grammar School to record their first win in the tournament.

Sedbergh were the dominant force in the Under 14 and Under 15 age groups proving to strong for Wimbledon College and Adams Grammar School respectively. The Under 16 final proved to be a splendid and hugely competitive game between Sedbergh and St Joseph's College. With the lead changing hands throughout the game, the Ipswich based side just proved to be too strong with two late tries securing the victory. Austen Bennett, St Joseph's and Northampton Saints Academy Under 15 winger impressed with his pace and deft off loading, causing problems for the Sedbergh defence throughout. Everything points to both sides featuring strongly over the forthcoming sevens season.

In the 62nd Windsor Sevens, Bedford School took the title after a five try to two victory over Eton. Earlier Bedford had beaten St Edward's Oxford in the quarter final and Stowe School in a gruelling semi final. Bedford secured their third victory of the weekend with a 29-5 win over Sherborne in the final of the St Edward's U16 tournament. 

The South Coast Sevens organised by Portsmouth Grammar School saw two AASE (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) colleges who appear in the final with a strong Hartpury side defeating Ivybridge Community College 31-5 to take the title. 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Daily Mail RBS Cup: Whitgift squeeze past Wilmslow to face Oakham

Whitgift the current Under 18 Cup holders endured an almighty test at the hands of Wilmslow High School on Saturday to secure a back to back visit to Twickenham and a place in the final against Oakham School. Last year's Under 15 champions pushed Whitgift all the way as they responded to a 20-7 deficit at one stage to produce a late rally and ten unanswered points.

The Cheshire School had taken the lead through a long range interception try from captain, Ethan Harding with Whitgift levelling the score through Chris Crane's converted try. As anticipated, Elliot Daly who has been successfully mixing England Under 20 duty with his school commitments had a major bearing on the game. His penalty after the break was followed up by a slicing break through the Wilmslow defence to give his side a 20-10 lead. Wilmslow refused to give up as they tried to protect their unbeaten record. Another converted try by Harding, set up a last minute penalty opportunity to tie the scores but the kick just went wide. The young Wilmslow side will surely feature strongly next year and they must be already one of the favourites for the 2012 title.

It was another centre, this time, Charlie Walker for Oakham who proved to be the main difference in the other semi final, with Old Swinford Hospital not able to shackle the talents of the England Under 20 star. It was the Harlequins player who changed the course of the game eight minutes after half time with one of his trademark  breaks. From 30 metres, the young centre eluded four tackles with a string of sidesteps to touch down. Earlier he had launched a swift counter attack which resulted in a penalty in the Swinford Hospital 22 and it was his quick thinking from a tap penalty which resulted in a relatively straightforward try for winger, James Harris after a carefully crafted cross field kick.

It could have been very different for the courageous and hugely resilient Old Swinford Hospital side from Stourbridge. In fact thirteen points were on offer in the first ten minutes with Max Stelling missing two penalty attempts and the ball spilling over the Oakham line when a try beckoned. Their only try of the game came from a powerful catch and drive with scrum half Oliver Simcock finishing the move with a powerful charge to the line.

Despite exerting a good deal of pressure in the latter stages of the match, Old Swinford Hospital were unable to breach the Oakham line again and with Walker relieving the pressure with some fine kicking from hand a 17-10 victory was secured along with a place in the final for the first time since 2003. The Daly-Walker contest is a mouth watering prospect with Whitgift likely to be the favourites for the 6th April final.

In the Under 15 competition, two equally titantic semi finals saw Truro School and RGS High Wycombe emerge as this year's finalists. Truro stormed in to a 13-0 first half lead against Whitgift with tries from Tom Holdsworth and Oliver Hallworth only to be pegged back after the break as the the Surrey side fought back with two scores from Jubril Adamson  and Geddy Stringer to go 15-13 in front. In the end Truro just about kept their nerve, with centre Ned Warne kicking the side in to the final with a late penalty. In the dying minutes of the game the Cornish side were indebted to scrum half Rory Christopher who made a courageous match saving tackle on Adamson to maintain their four season unbeaten run.

RGS equally had to endure a second half surge from The Perse School after cruising in to a 15-0 lead. A controversial penalty try after a kick head along with a 60 metre run from winger, George Cloy pulled the Cambridge side back in to contention, but ultimately RGS were able to hold on to reach their first final since 1999 with a 15-14 victory.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

What might Kyle Eastmond bring to Rugby Union

There is always a degree of added excitement in rugby circles when a cross code move is in the offering. In the old so called "amateur days" it was very much a move from union to league with Scott Quinnell and Jonathan Davies being some of the highest profile players to "defect" to the other side. The migration of talent is now very much in the other direction and the excitement around Kyle Eastmond's  move to Bath is certainly well founded. Living up the tag of being the new Jason Robinson is a demanding one but he clearly has huge potential. It will be very interesting to see how Bath utilise the 21 year old scrum half's talents with the club being an interesting choice for the youngster. As Eastmond arrives, Shontayne Hape, a great success as a convert for the club departs for London Irish.

Bath skills’ coach Brad Davis reflecting on the signing indicated: “Our record is good with converts. We can provide Kyle with a platform from which he can not only have a magnificent domestic career, but push on to international honours as well.”

Eastmond who joined St Helens as a youngster 10 years ago,insisted that he would be totally committed to Saints for the remainder of Super League, and determined to play a major role in bringing home more silverware.

Commenting on the move he said: “It was the most difficult decision of my career so far, and hopefully I have made the right choice.

“St Helens have been fantastic with me since I arrived as a starry-eyed 11-year-old, and I will always be indebted to them for their amazing support.

“The fans, too, have also been great to me, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Below I produce a list of some converts from league to union and classify them as Hit, Near Hit and Miss. Of course feel free to disagree!

Hit
Jason Robinson
Chris Ashton
Brad Thorn (Converted twice)
John Bentley (Union - League - Union)
Lesley Vainakola
Alan Tait
Shontayne Hape
Henry Paul
Sonny Bill Williams
Stephen Myler

Near Hit
Andy Farrell (Some fine games but plagued by injury)
Barrie John Mather
Mat Rogers
Wendell Sailor

Miss
Iestyn Harris
Chev Walker (A less successful Bath import)
Karl Pryce
Lee Smith