An action-packed week for the Academy set-up has seen the return of league action for the under-18s, with continuing involvements in international and first team set-ups also.
Ollie Allan began his continuing association with Rams from the wing away to Hull, joining the fold as a replacement out wide before eventually being moved more infield to his native scrum-half in the second half.
Allan’s strong tactical kicking complemented his positional change in the second period, bringing pace to the game at right time despite trying weather conditions in Yorkshire.
The youngster’s snipes and game management contribute to the 24-19 win, Rams remaining four points off top spot in National League 1 and trailing league leaders Sale FC with a game in hand, nevertheless.
In another away trip, Louis Kirkham (back-row) and George Makepeace-Cubitt (full-back) represented Barnes in their National League 2 East venture to Dorking, finishing up 17-13 in favour of the home side.
Kirkham made his presence known with a physical display both in the carry and defensively, despite similar conditions, with Makepeace-Cubitt slotting a penalty to punish a Dorking offside.
The full-back was involved in the backfield in fielding balls and covering kick space, himself kicking well and engaging opposing defenders but a late Toby McRae score won it for Dorking in Surrey.
Esher Cardinals boasted the talents of Oran Murphy (prop), Afolabi Fasogbon (prop) and Oliver Stirling (back-row) in a battling test against Amthill seconds, the latter coming out on top 22-12.
Premiership Rugby Cup progression
Eight Academy products and five current Senior Academy players played their part in London Irish qualifying for successive Premiership Rugby Cup semi-finals with a 23-7 win over Bath Rugby.
Jacob Atkins, converting six points on the evening, made his 50th Club appearance at the Gtech Community Stadium alongside brother Ben, both products of the Exiles’ bountiful youth system.
An all Academy back-row made up of Jack Cooke, who was captain on the evening, alongside Ben Donnell and Ben Atkins was further bolstered further by half-backs Caolan Englefield and Jacob Atkins.
Senior Academy winger Michael Dykes started on the left flank in the Round 4 encounter, reinforced by Mikey Summerfield, Lucas Brooke, Monty Bradbury and Jack Walsh off the bench.
Returning from injury was Luke Green and Josh Smart, each fronting up excellently with Matt Williams too making a considerable contribution aerially.
Back on the international scene
Chandler Cunningham-South, Afolabi Fasogbon and Calum Scott have been named in Alan Dickens’ first England under-20s Elite Player Squad of 2023.
Cunningham-South is one of eight players previously capped at under-20 level, with the team convening at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre this week.
Senior Academy talents Monty Bradbury and Jack Walsh were also called in for this week’s training and are set to feature against Oxford University this Saturday (14th, 3pm ko).
It is the first involvement of Scott and Fasogbon at the age-grade, with Dickens commenting on the benefit of his side’s preparation games coming up against Oxford as well as Loughborough University the following week.
“These warm-up games are an important part of our preparation for the Under-20 Six Nations tournament and will provide an opportunity to see players perform as a team ahead of the Six Nations.”
England under-20s begin their Under-20 Six Nations campaign this year with a home tie against Scotland under-20s on Friday 3rd February, kick-off at 7pm at the Twickenham Stoop.
Premiership Rugby Under-18s Academy League
London Irish’s under-18s secured their third consecutive win of their Academy League campaign with a 21-17 victory over Saracens under-18 at the Hazelwood Centre.
The young Exiles repeated the fate of the first team before Christmas in conquering a previously unbeaten Sarries outfit, returning from the school break in style.
Converted scores from Sam Rockley and Kepu Tuipulotu made it an impressive opening 20 minutes, but the away side would fight back with two tries of their own either side of the break through Barney Merrett and Freddie Simcott.
Benjy Mills would add three more for Saracens, but Tuipulotu’s second try would prove decisive eight minutes from time.
Off the back of previous wins over Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby, Irish are now atop of the Academy League Southern Conference as one of only two unbeaten teams in this year’s competition.
Speaking on the win, Academy Manager Patrick O’Grady emphasised the collective work put into continuing such emphatic form after a lengthy time away from league action.
“The final score was a result of a massive squad effort on the field as well as behind the scenes, I’m very proud of the Academy on days like this.
“It’s credit to hard work put in to get to this point from pre-season, and credit to staff involved for the countless hours they put in in the programme.
“We had a few injuries pre-game and the boys performed excellently, it shows how strong the squad we have here in the Academy.
“On a day where weather conditions were pretty trying, I was incredibly pleased for them to manage that so well and get a performance like that.”
London Irish under-18s squad vs Saracens under-18s
15 Ben Frampton, 14 Theo Williamson, 13 Oliver Miall, 12 Harrison Hall, 11 Sam Rockley, 10 Louie Heard, 9 Noah Cowan; 1 Ralph McEachran, 2 Kepu Tuipulotu, 3 Brandon Vince, 4 Tayo Adegbemile, 5 Will Saunders, 6 Reggie Hammick, 7 Finn Worley-Brady, 8 Jack Lee.
16 Nodari Gorgidze, 17 Jasper Cockburn-Miller, 18 Phillip Truscott, 19 Louis Brickley, 20 Ciaran Brickley, 21 Michael Morgan, 22 Charlie Griffin, 23 Finlay Wiseman.