BY TOM SMITH
Wasps Under 18s produced four tries to secure their third bonus-point win of the season, beating Sale Sharks Under 18s 31-21 at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Despite grey and overcast skies, conditions were soon brightened when a darting run by Olly Hartley exposed a gap in the Sharks’ defence which allowed Charlie Atkinson to slide over the line for Wasps’ first try of the day before he coolly slotted home the extras.
Minutes later, a penalty conceded by Sharks on their own 22 metre line presented the opportunity for Atkinson to kick for the sticks, and he duly obliged, extending Wasps’ lead.
An electrifying run by Toby Baldwin down Wasps’ right hand-side soon added a second try for the young Black and Golds. Before the visitors retaliated on the stroke of half-time through Eddie Mulhuish.
Both sides started the second-half strongly with a rejuvenated Sharks side adding two more scores to their tally through Fraser Jones and Alfie Clark, but Wasps struck back through a Fyn Brown try with Dan Eckersley adding the bonus point try in the final play of the game.
Despite the dull conditions, the young Black and Golds started brightly, with impressive attacking displays being matched by resilient defending throughout the first-half.
Wasps broke the deadlock 11 minutes into the game when a scrum just in front of Sharks’ 22 saw the ball shipped down the blindside to Olly Hartley, whose surging run through the Sharks’ defence created a gap for Charlie Atkinson to run through and touch down for Wasps’ first score of the game.
Under heavy pressure, Sale soon added to their own problems as they were penalised at the breakdown for not releasing the ball. A calm and collected Atkinson opted to kick for the sticks and successfully added the additional three points.
Soon after, a scrum on Sales’ 10 metre line saw the ball shipped quickly to the midfield where it found Toby Baldwin, whose dancing feet set him surging down Wasps’ right hand-side to slide over the line for Wasps’ second score of the day. Atkinson’s impeccable kicking form continued as his conversion made it three successful kicks from three.
With the half-time whistle fast approaching, the Sharks soon bit back after nice supporting play allowed scrum-half Eddie Mulhuish to register the visitors’ first score of the day.
Wasps began the second-half as strongly as they had the first, but a re-energised Sharks side stepped up a gear and were rewarded for their efforts. An impressive length of the pitch run by Fraser Jones and subsequent conversion by Josh Clarke helped to reduce the arrears to three.
The young Black and Golds remaining firm and resolute, quickly found a reply when a commanding driving lineout on Sales’ five metre line powered its way across the chalk with Fyn Brown on hand to place the ball down.
Sale responded only minutes later, as quick hands and fancy footwork allowed Alfie Clark to slide in underneath the posts. Josh Clarke slotted home the extras to keep Sale within touching distance of Wasps, bringing the scoring to 24-21.
With the final whistle imminent, a dogged Wasps’ attack continued to patiently hammer away at Sales’ defence, pushing the visitors back from the half-way to their own touchline. Wasps were soon rewarded for the attacking efforts as Dan Eckersley with the help of Jack English barged his way through Sales’ defence to secure the bonus-point right at the death before Atkinson rounded off an outstanding kicking performance with his fifth successful kick of the game.
Next up for the Under 18s is Leicester Tigers Under 18s at Aylesbury RFC on Saturday 8 February (kick-off 1pm).
11m | Atkinson try 5-0
12m | Atkinson con 7-0
20m | Atkinson pen 10-0
29m | Baldwin try 15-0
30m | Atkinson con 17-0
35m | Mulhuish try 17-5
36m | Bishop con 17-7
56m | Jones try 17-12
57m | Clarke con 17-14
62m | Brown try 22-14
63m | Atkinson con 24-14
66m | Clark try 24-19
67m | Clarke con 24-21
74m | Eckersley try 29-21
75m | Atkinson con 31-21
Wasps U18s | 15 Olly Hartley, 14 Luke Bray (Dawkins 56), 13 Toby Baldwin (Dunn 50), 12 Rekeiti Ma’asi White, 11 Scott Harman, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Ollie Monye (Hughes 53); 1 Archie McArthur (Coombs 35), 2 Dan Eckersley, 3 Max Morphey (Kayada 50), 4 Alfie Bell (Nicholls 42), 5 Fyn Brown, 6 Jack English, 7 Kofi Cripps (Petros 53), 8 Greg Fisilau (Florestein 56)
Replacements | 16 Andy Petros, 17 James Coombs, 18 Issac Kayada, 19 Mason Nicholls, 20 Aaron Florestein, 21 Jack Hughes, 22 Tane Dunn, 23 Ollie Dawkins
Pic by Nick Browning.