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Wasps U18s suffer first defeat

Despite a spirited performance, London Wasps U18s suffered their first defeat in the Academy league, against an efficient and physical Saracens side 24-10.

The visitors went ahead after five minutes, when they gathered an overthrown lineout throw, just outside their 22. They moved the ball quickly downfield, setting up a series of drives for the line, which ended with hooker Sam James going over for a try which Josh Sharp was unable to convert.

With both sides moving the ball at every opportunity, the crowd was treated to some exciting rugb but the defences managed to hold out until the last few minutes of the half.

Eight minutes before the break, Saracens thought they had stretched their lead when left winger George Perkins produced an astonishing burst of speed, to race away to the line only to be called back for a forward pass.

Two minutes later, Wasps went ahead from an adventurous attack in which winger Tom Howe showed blistering pace down the right, making more than 50 metres before passing infield to Alex Harrison, who sent fellow centre Dan Barnes over between the posts. Jake Elias added the extra points, to put Wasps 7-5 ahead.

It took just three minutes for the visitors to regain the lead, after fullback Nathan Earle sliced through the Wasps defence with a run which took him from inside his own half to deep inside the Wasps 22. He was stopped a few metres short of the line, but Wasps were penalised and Sharp landed a straightforward penalty which made the halftime score 8-7 to the visitors.

That lead was stretched to 11-7 inside the first minute of the second half, after the Saracens forwards chased the long restart en masse to force a penalty inside the Wasps 22. Sharp made no mistake with the kick.

Five minutes later, Wasps almost went back in front, after Jake Elias’s half-break and inside pass sent Barnes through a gap. The centre almost made it to the line for his second try and Saracens were penalised in front of the posts. Elias indicated his intention to go for the posts and then waited an age for the kicking tee to arrive. He eventually decided to drop for goal, and his kick was on target to narrow the gap to a single point.

With ten minutes of the half gone, Wasps number 8 Oskar Hirsky-Douglas was shown the yellow card for an offence at the breakdown, a few metres from his own line. Saracens decided to kick for the corner. The numerical superiority immediately paid off as an efficient catch and drive ended with replacement prop Charlie Woollard going over for their second try, which Sharp converted.

Despite being a man down, Wasps continued to display their attacking skills and a superb break by replacement scrum-half Danny Williams almost produced a try for Alex Harrison.
There was no change to the score, during Hirsky-Douglas’s time in the sin bin and his return coincided with a yellow card being shown to the Saracens scrum-half Ben Calder, 14 minutes from time.

Wasps were unable to capitalise, as two minutes later, another Sharp penalty put his side 11 points clear. He added three more points, when a Wasps replacement ambitious chip ahead went badly wrong and Wasps were penalised, in front of the posts.

Wasps produced another thrilling counterattack, when Tom Howe leapt high to keep a Saracens kick in play, a few metres inside his 22. The ball was moved quickly out to the left, and the move took play deep into Saracens territory before it was snuffed out by the defence.

The last few minutes of the game were spent in the Wasps 22, with the visitors being awarded a series of penalties, which they chose to take as scrums. With their massive physical superiority up front, another try seemed on the cards, but the Wasps pack, with all the replacements now on, dug deep to drive them back. The final play of the game, following a penalty to the corner, saw the Saracens pack making another drive for the line but Wasps again kept them out, and the final whistle went.

Wasps coach Chris Lloyd had no complaints about the result. “That was a good quality game – just the sort of game I want the lads to be playing in, even though the result was disappointing. We were taught a bit of a lesson in how to play tactically astute rugby by a good rugby side. We had our moments and it was very pleasing to see how much pressure we put on them at the scrum, despite the huge difference in size."

“All in all, we were shown how to play pragmatic rugby. We’ll learn our lessons from it and come back stronger. This is the sort of game we need to play. We’d have liked to win today, but we didn’t.”

Mention must be made of the team of volunteers at Maidenhead RFC, who gave up several hours of their time on the morning of the game, clearing the snow from the pitch. Their efforts ensured that the game went ahead, and Wasps are very grateful for their hard work, which is very much appreciated.

London Wasps
1.Alex Lundberg 2. Ian Brown 3. Will Stuart 4. Jake O’Leary 5. Matt Blandford 6. Tommy Spinks 7. Gus Jones
8. Oskar Hirsky-Douglas 9. Akira Takenaka 10. Jake Elias 11. Joel Harvey 12. Dan Barnes 13. Alex Harrison 14. Tom Howe 15. George Saunders
Replacements
16. George Davis 17. Tom West 18. George Edgson 19. Tom Kynge 20. Jackson Burton 21. Danny Williams 22. Dan Rowland 23. Louis Clayton-Molloy

Saracens:
1. TOM WEBB 2. SAM JAMES 3. JEREMY REASON 4. MARO ITOJE 5. HENRY WHEADON 6. CHARLIE KINGHAM 7. MATT ELIET 8. HAYDEN STRINGER 9. BEN CALDER 10. JOSH SHARP 11. GEORGE PERKINS 12. ELLIOTT REEDER 13. NICK TOMPKINS 14. AARON MORRIS 15. NATHAN EARLE
Replacements
16. JOSH TAYLOR 17. CHARLIE WOOLLARD 18. W. BROWN 19. JAMES THACKER 20. RYAN Ward 21. LOUIS MULHOLLAND 22. MARK LAWRENCE
23. JOSS LINNEY


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