26 April 2023
A weekend of involvement in the Championship saw four past or present Academy Exiles ply their trade across the second tier.
Josh Smart (back-row) and Alex Harmes (wing) played out the full 80 minutes of Ampthill’s home encounter with Bedford in the Championship, a game that concluded 33-27 in favour of the visitors.
A changeable match in regards to the leading side saw Bedford’s Sean French record a hattrick to take Mike Rayer’s side to fourth in the division and leave rivals Ampthill in seventh.
Meanwhile, versatile front-row forward Mikey Summerfield earned half hour of action at loosehead prop away in Cornwall for Hartpury University against Cornish Pirates.
In testing conditions in Penzance, Summerfield held his own at the put-in with numerous set-pieces as the game closed out, Pirates exacting revenge from their December loss against the Gloucestershire outfit with a 21-12 victory.
Much closer to home comforts were Lucas Brooke (back-row) and Joe Vajner (hooker) lining up for Richmond in a derby day clash at the Richmond Athletic Ground against London Scottish, the Exiles hosting on the afternoon.
Brooke had an impactful half-hour cameo at openside flanker with strong defence and a turnover won at the breakdown, whilst Vajner upheld the set-piece on what was a trying day for Richmond, losing 49-3 to leave them at the foot of the Championship.
Academy development on the rise
London Irish under-16s earned a 43-21 derby day triumph over Saracens at Harpenden RFC last Saturday (22nd), continuing the upward trajectory of Academy results in recent weeks.
The development game followed on from successful outings for the junior side of the Club in recent weeks, with the under-15s and under-16s attaining unbeaten weekends at the North Bristol Under-15 Academy Festival and RFU Festival, respectively.
The under-17s also took a crucial win last week over their north London counterparts as a precursor to Saturday’s action, winning 52-17 at the Hazelwood Centre.
A 22-point cushion for the under-16s last weekend upheld the burgeoning reputation of the Academy up against their capital adversaries, hooker Oscar Thomas scoring on 15 minutes to open the occasion at Redbourne Lane.
Fellow forward and front-row partner Alfie Holland joined Thomas on the scoresheet four minutes later, with co-captain Cameron Ward and Jensen Kelsey adding to the Exiles’ haul before the break.
The backs showed their class on the day in the remaining 35 minutes as wingers Quinn Dunstall and Dominic Monger, alongside replacement Inigo Langford touched down to round off the convincing victory.
London Irish under-16s team vs. Saracens
15 Jensen Kelsey, 14 Dominic Monger, 13 Will Corbett, 12 Cameron Ward (cc), 11 Quinn Dunstall, 10 Finn Keylock, 9 Aiden Pugh; 1 Leroy Hove, 2 Oscar Thomas, 3 Alfie Holland, 4 Will May, 5 Rory McKnight (cc), 6 Rico Lam, 7 Elliot Giles, 8 Darren Bold.
16 Liam Curran, 17 Jacob Fallon, 18 James Talamai, 19 Spencer Codling, 20 Charlie Wheeler, 21 Lucas Norton, 22 Patrick Keaveney, 23 Lockie Lee, 24 Inigo Langford.
A double-header of development fixtures takes place at the Hazelwood Centre this Saturday as the under-16s and under-17s both take on Northampton Saints, with the under-16s kicking-off at 11am and under-17s at 2pm.
London Irish under-16s to face Northampton Saints
15 Albert Mildenhall, 14 Inigo Langford, 13 Lockie Lee, 12 Cameron Ward, 11 Cameron Knight, 10 Finn Keylock, 9 Aiden Pugh; 1 James Talamai, 2 Oscar Thomas (c), 3 Alfie Holland, 4 Will May, 5 Rory McKnight, 6 Rico Lam, 7 Elliot Giles, 8 Henry Dargan.
16 Liam Curran, 17 Bill Bright, 18 Leroy Hove, 19 Pierce Kelly, 20 Ashton Ilincic, 21 Lucas Norton, 22 Patrick Keaveney, 23 Jensen Kelsey, 24 Lincoln Williams.
London Irish under-17s to face Northampton Saints
15 Freddy Rossigneux, 14 Rafael Varona Blakstad, 13 Lloyd McEwan-Peters, 12 Luc Anfield, 11 Tyler Offiah (vc), 10 Filip Edstrom, 9 George Harris; 1 Otto Bennett, 2 Harry Bicknell, 3 Charlie Holyer, 4 Isaac Sprenger, 5 Oliver Agar, 6 Owen Beswick, 7 Reggie Hammick (c), 8 Edward Bachelor.
16 Hamdan Dawud, 17 Alfie Holland, 18 Milo Bourguignon, 19 Will May, 20 Toby Skelly, 21 Ben Littlefair, 22 Calum Emmans, 23 Martin Betsen.
Three more caps in the bag
Afolabi Fasogbon (prop), George Makepeace-Cubitt (full-back) and Connor Cross (centre) played a role in England under-19s winning 60-14 against Wales under-19s at Dings RFC, Bristol.
To provide each individual in the 29-player squad equal opportunity to play, a first-half XV will play the opening 40 minutes, followed by the remaining players in the second half.
Fasogbon, having accrued his first five England under-20 appearances in the recent Under-20 Six Nations, started at tighthead prop in what was a 25-minute appearance to remember.
The 18-year-old made a considerable effort without the ball and in contact, putting in tackles with a jackal turnover and try from a pick-and-go to boot for Alan Dickens’ side by the Avon.
His fellow Senior Academy Clubmates Makepeace-Cubitt and Cross, who have lined up regularly for National League 2 East outfit Barnes alongside each other, garnered praise for their contributions in the second period.
Cross made an exceptional linebreak and beat numerous opposing defenders, with the full-back also registering many involvements in the backfield whilst standing in as first receiver/playmaker.
England under-19s take on Italy under-19s this Friday (7.45pm kick-off) at Bedford Blues’ ground, Goldington Road, to continue international development through the England Rugby pathways programme.
First half XV
1 Asher Opoku-Fordjour (Sale), 2 Craig Wright (Northampton), 3 Afolabi Fasogbon (London Irish), 4 Harvey Cuckson (Bath), 5 Joe Bailey (Exeter), 6 Finn Carnduff (Leicester), 7 Tristan Woodman (Sale), 8 Josh Manz (Leicester), 9 Ben Douglas (Newcastle), 10 Josh Bellamy (Harlequins), 11 Alex Wills (Sale), 12 Sean Kerr (Harlequins), 13 Toby Thame (Northampton), 14 Thomas Humphreys (Harlequins), 15 Ioan Jones (Gloucester)
Ethan Clarke (Harlequins), James Isaacs (Saracens), Caleb Ashworth (Harlequins), James Halliwell (Bristol Bears), Harry Browne (Harlequins), Patrick Pearce (Bristol Bears), Aaron Tull (Bristol Bears), Nathan Michelow (Saracens), Zach Carr (Harlequins), Ieuan Davies (Bath), Ludo Kolade (Harlequins), Isaac Campbell-Wu (Bristol Bears), George Makepeace-Cubitt (London Irish), Connor Cross (London Irish).