On a wet, windy night this hugely anticipated game came right down to the wire with the Harlequins pack, featuring 6 England internationals, finally grinding out the win to bring the London Irish U18 undefeated record to an end.
Irish started the stronger, with young U17 prop forwards Tyler White and Jake Waterman taking the game to their England U18 opposition front row and putting in a huge amount of work on the night. This work paid dividends when Abingdon School and England U18 fly half Theo Brophy-Clews put St Pauls Catholic College fullback Cam Cowell into space on the half way line. Cowells pace and footwork again left two defenders for dead before feeding St Pauls and England U18 wing Harry Lightfoot-Brown who beautifully stepped the last man to cross for the first score.
The Quins pack responded, taking the game to the Irish forwards through the power of their driving game resulting in a try out wide to level the scores. An incredible, curling conversion gave them a 5-7 lead.
On the stoke of half time Irish added a penalty through St Pauls Catholic College scrum Half Conor Murphy to give the exiles a 8-7 lead at half time.
The second half, kicked off with a bang and London Irish were quickly on top of their opposition. Strong carrying from the back row and RGS High Wycombe centre Ross Neal resulted in a try for St Pauls open side Max Berry to take the score to 13-7.
At this point, Irish would be expected to push on and extend the lead, however losing their two replacement props in the warm up to injury and their options for fresh legs limited, the power of the well drilled Quins pack began to take it’s toll.
Quins reverted to their simple game plan and carried close to the break down with their big forward pack. With the exiles growing noticeably tired the Quins soon extended their lead adding a penalty and two final tries to bring the final score to 13 – 20 in their favour.
Irish mounted a spirited come back at the death with replacement Wellington College Fly Half Ross Catlin orchestrating an audacious attack from their own line only for fullback Cowell to be hauled down on half way.
After the game Academy Manager Billy Clark said: "We’re hugely disappointed, the guys fronted up, came out fighting and took the game to a big quins pack. Our line speed in defence was good and for much of the game we looked the better side. Losing our front row cover moments before the game doesn’t help and the guys were noticeably out on their feet in the last 20 minutes, but that wasn’t the reason we lost. We conceded far too many penalties, coughed up the ball in key positions on the field and weren’t clinical enough in the red zone. We left a couple of tries out there. This is a very good Quins side however and they played a very intelligent game on a wet night and will take away the points. That’s the lesson for our lads, it’s about winning at this level and we came up short tonight. We know we have lots to work on before we meet Bath on the 3rd January so it’s case of learn from our errors, develop as a team and individuals and move on."