Hartpury were chasing their third AASE League Championship since its inception three years ago and though they were pushed hard they ran out winners once again.
This was the first time the London Wasps AASE squad had reached the finals and was a great opportunity to assess the progress that has been made since the AASE programme was transferred from Twyford High School to Henley College, albeit this transfer will only complete at the end of this year's summer term. With the disruption of split training sites and split training groups to have reached the final this year is in itself a huge achievement.
The game started with Hartpury using width in attack with their wings attacking with great pace. Equally, Hartpury used their strong back row ball carriers to generate momentum. Henley College defended well albeit with some fairly last ditch scrambled defence. With ball in hand Henley dropped into their normal expansive approach but were finding it difficult to get forward momentum. The first score came from a Henley error when a miss hit territory kick skewed across the field presenting the Hartpury right wing with a good scoring opportunity which was duly converted.
Henley settled into their game and started to put some good phases together. After a series attacks with good ball retention and width in attack, Henley progressed up to the Hartpury line and Tom Rowlands crossed the line for the first Henley try followed by a conversion by George Eastwell from out wide right, levelling the scores at 7-7.
As the first half progressed Hartpury certainly had the upper hand but Henley defended strongly. Now this had been the pattern of several games this season with Henley always finishing the stronger, so players and coaches were still confident. However the quality of Hartpury and also most likely the occasion led to some uncharacteristic errors from Henley presenting Hartpury with more scoring opportunities. The first half ended with Henley trailing by 20-7.
Confidence at the break was very high, Henley College had been here before and won through. Certainly as the second half progressed the game was levelling out and Henley were getting more territory. However a couple of very good lineout positions were lost forcing Henley back into their own half. Hartpury continued to attack and crossed the Henley line twice more with conversions taking the game too far away at 34-7s. This 20 minute period after half time was most likely the deciding factor with Henley unable to take the opportunities they had during this time.
Sure enough Henley mounted attack after attack in a strong last quarter, running into space, raising the pace with high continuity as Hartpury started to run out of steam and became desperate in defence. Two tries from George Eastwell and Oscar Hirsky Douglas followed, Eastwell taking the extra points equalising the second half scoring.
Hartpury deservedly went home with the honours, however with just a bit more accuracy and composure which will come from this experience Henley College can look forward to taking their game to a higher level next season. Well done to all involved and fantastic first season and a great day at Twickenham.
Wasps AASE: Ollie Foster, Liam O’Neil, Lewys Weaver, Jono Woodward, Greg Brayley, George Eastwell, Jack Daly, Craig Parker, Ryan Kirby (C), Tom Rowlands, Bradley Scharff, Luke Paynter Kia George, Conor Morrison, Oscar Hirsky Douglas. Subs: Tyrone Brown, Tom Mawle, David Hughes, Samir Karbouch, Alec Harrison, Jake Elias, Kieran Duffin – 23rd Man – Harry McCartney