Match Report: Wasps U18s 34-26 Northampton Saints U18s

Wasps secured their place on Academy Finals day on Thursday 16 February with a 34-26 win against Northampton Saints U18s. 

Wasps will take on Exeter Chiefs U18s in the third placed play-off at Sixways on Thursday (2pm) having finished second in the Northern Conference.

It was a cold wintry day on Saturday for the final regular season game, but the good numbers of parents and supporters who braved the conditions were treated to a fine example of all that is good with the Academy system. Both teams played a high tempo, ball in hand game, that constantly had defences scrambling.

Wasps were first to threaten as good carries by Joe Salkeld and the impressive Tom Willis sucked in the fringe defence and allowed captain Will Porter to find a gap and race clear. He was able to find Kieran Curran, making his first appearance for the Academy, in support and he drove for the line but was stopped short by some good cover by Northampton, whose line speed then caused a knock on.

It was Saints though who scored the first points of the day, after putting together a fine passage of play with forwards and backs combining, they created a two on one which was well executed and finished by winger Ollie Sleightholme. The conversion was missed from wide on the touchline and the score remained 0-5 to Saints. 

Wasps responded immediately and after a passage of play that saw the phases go well into double figures, Willis showed great persistence to find his way over the line, after Alfie Barbeary was stopped just short. The difficult conversion was pushed to the right of the post by Porter and the scores were level at 5-5 with 15 minutes played.

Wasps were next to score, after a fine turn over from the hardworking Barbeary gained possession on their own 10m line. The attacking shape and decision making that has been evident all season was again highlighted as Murray Bellis drew in two defenders and offloaded expertly to Brendan Clarke on halfway, who fended off and outpaced three defenders for an excellent score. The conversion was narrowly off target and Wasps led 10-5.

Just as Wasps had responded well to going behind so did Northampton after a knock on gave them possession in Wasps' 22. The visitors were clinical in exploiting the opportunity with Sleightholme again the beneficiary, as he went over in the same corner for his second try which was well converted by Connor Tupai to put Saints up 10-12.

Wasps went back on the attack following this setback and put together some good pieces of play, with openside James Seabrook making a fine 50 metre break. Although it was Saints who got the next score with an excellent try from their own 22, fullback Joe Green hitting a beautiful line before racing 60 metres to score. Tupai’s conversion was good from wide out to make the score 10-19 and Northampton were know asking some serious questions of the young Wasps resilience.

The resolve and fortitude that has grown through the season was again shown as some creative ball skills from Matt Wells put Wasps back in the Saints 22 and some strong carries from the industrious Salked stretched the Saints defence. Sam Spink was able to get within a metre from the line and from this position Willis again crossed the whitewash. The touchline conversion was missed, but the deficit at half-time was now only four points with very much all to play for.

After the break Wasps were controlling territory and possession with some intelligent kicking from Will Porter. Back-rowers Seabrook and Curran both made strong carries into the 22 and a metre from the line it seemed as if Willis would claim his third try. However, the defence was strong and with the focus on the pick and go, scrum-half Porter darted over to score and with Finn Pietersen's conversion Wasps led 22-19. 

This pattern of play continued with Wasps enjoying good possession and a fine break saw centre Bellis cut through, but again the Saints defence made a last ditch tackle to stop him short of the line. From this range Willis is difficult to stop and the number eight dived over for this third try of the day, the conversion faded to the left and Wasps led 27-19.

Wasps were now in control and were pushing for the decisive try to kill off the game, but were unable to get over the line. Saints survived this pressure and a series of penalties kept providing them with territory and they managed to find a way over the line through Fraser Dingwall. Tupai converted and Wasps lead was now cut to a single point to set up a grandstand finish.

It was Wasps who were able to maintain their focus and a good kick from replacement scrum half Tom Bishop was not gathered cleanly and winger Clarke collected the ball to score the decisive try. The conversion was successful from Porter which put Wasps eight points clear. There was still time on the clock and Wasps were denied a further score from a smart lineout move, when the throw was deemed not straight, leaving the final score 34-26.

This rounded off the League programme and sees Wasps qualify for Finals day as runners up to Sale Sharks on points difference. The young Wasps will get another chance to wear the shirt this Thursday when they face the second placed team in the Southern Conference Exeter Chiefs at 2pm at Sixways Stadium. 

Wasps U18s team that faced Northampton Saints U18s
15. Caleb Selman 
14. Taju Atta 
13. Murray Bellis
12. Sam Spink 
11. Brendan Clarke 
10. Finn Pietersen 
9. Will Porter (c)
1. Joe Salkeld
2. Alfie Barbeary
3. George Strainge 
4. Kieran Sayer 
5. Joe Tunney 
6. Kieran Curran
7. James Seabrook 
8. Tom Willis

16. George Probyn
17. Jarod Leat
18. Paddy Harris
19. Frazer Kiff 
20. Alfred Mawdsley  
21. Tom Bishop
22. Mike Taylor 
23. Matt Wells  

U18 Academy Fixtures and Results:

30th December 2016- Wasps U18s 28-17 Worcester Warriors U18s

7th January 2017- Yorkshire Carnegie U18s 14-38 Wasps U18s

14th January 2017- Sale Sharks U18s 12-22 Wasps U18s 

21st January 2017- Wasps U18s 30-3 Newcastle Falcons U18s 

28th January 2017- Leicester Tigers U18s 31-5 Wasps U18s

11th February 2017- Wasps U18s 34-26 Northampton Saints U18s

16th February 2017- U18s Academy Finals Day: 3rd Place game Wasps U18s v Exeter Chiefs U18s 2pm KO, Sixways Stadium. 

To see the all of the Academy fixtures this season please click here.