3 February 2018
London Irish academy graduates Tom Parton and Ben Loader crossed for tries as England Under-20s opened the defence of their Six Nations title with a 27-17 bonus point victory over Italy.
The duo got themselves on the scoresheet in the second half, while fellow Exiles Rory Brand and Josh Basham came on towards the end of the contest.
Parton, who turned 20 on Friday, marked the occasion with an excellent solo effort on 51 minutes as he seared through the heart of Italy’s defensive line to touch down. Loader secured the bonus point for England, the debutant rounding off a sweeping move in the corner just passed the hour mark.
A further score from Ben White coupled with the boot of James Grayson ensured a winning start for England, who had the narrowest of leads at the break thanks to Ben Earl’s early try.
Basham and Loader were two of seven England Under-20 debutants and will be hoping they can make a significant impression in this year’s Six Nations. .
England were off the mark with a quarter of the game played, catching and driving a lineout for Earl to bundle over off the back of a maul.
On the stroke of half time a succession of penalties took Italy to England’s corner and after several attempts they finally crashed over to score a try through Matteo Canali, which Antonio Rizzi converted.
England were held up over the line shortly after the break, but from the resulting scrum White eventually found space to dart through for his first England Under-20 try. Grayson converted to take England out to a 15-7 lead.
Soon after, Parton scored a superb individual try collecting an up-and-under from just inside Italy's half before racing clear to dot down under the posts with Grayson again adding the extras.
Canali reduced the deficit to 22-10 with a penalty just before the hour mark, but a fine Loader try in the corner after quick handling by England’s three-quarters sent the wing over for the bonus point.
England Under-20 head coach Steve Bates said: “It was a really credible performance in difficult conditions.
“We’ve scored four tries, two of them from really well-worked moves. We fought hard and dominated the game territorially. I thought it was a really good start.
“The starting XV laid a fantastic foundation, which allowed us to make a number of replacements, and gave a lot of players their debut and conserve some bodies for next Friday.
“This is a squad full of talented players and selecting a starting XV has not been easy and the replacements that came on did a really good job.
“We’ll recover now after what was a tough and physical game, we’ll analyse this match and look to go back to our principals of playing high-intensity, high-tempo rugby which are important to us, but what we did today was a good foundation for us to go on in the tournament.”
15. Tom Parton (London Irish)
14. Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
13. Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)
12. Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
11. Ben Loader (London Irish)
10. James Grayson (Northampton Saints)
9. Ben White (Leicester Tigers)
8. Tom Willis (Wasps)
7. Ben Earl- captain (Saracens)
6. Sam Moore (Sale Sharks)
5. James Scott (Worcester Warriors)
4. Dino Lamb (Harlequins)
3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
2. Henry Walker (Gloucester)
1. Toby Trinder (Northampton Saints)
16. Gabriel Oghre (Wasps)
17. Alex Seville (Gloucester)
18. Joe Morris (Worcester Warriors)
19. Sam Lewis (Leicester Tigers)
20. Josh Basham (London Irish)
21. Rory Brand (London Irish)
22. Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers)
23. Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers)
Italy 17-27 England
Tries: Canali, Penalty Try
White, Parton, Loader
Cons: Grayson 2