England Under-20s staged a second-half rally to overcome Newcastle Falcons’ A-Team at Kingston Park Stadium on Saturday.
The Falcons had led 19-7 at the midway point after a dominant opening half, with England scoring three second-half tries to take some revenge for the 43-22 loss at they had suffered at the same venue back in March.
The early exchanges saw Newcastle probing down the left through Cooper Vuna and Pete Lucock, the game coming to a halt for five minutes while Falcons wing Matty Ward – playing for England against his home club – was stretchered from the field with a serious-looking leg injury.
Upon the game’s resumption the Falcons maintained their dominance with Tom Arscott hitting a straightening midfield line, the resulting penalty seeing Kyle Cooper held up over the try-line from a close-range pick and go.
A further two penalties in the right corner eventually ended with a try for the Falcons, hooker Robbie Smith scoring from a trick play at the front of the lineout.
Will Haydon-Wood, himself an England Under-20s cap, slotted the conversion from the right touchline, and it was a fellow Sedbergh old boy who grabbed the second try of the game after half an hour when Rob Farrar scored from a pick-and-go in the left corner.
That opportunity came about after a quick transfer along the line and a break from Tom Marshall got the Falcons to within striking distance, the home side’s forward power and incisive running seeing them camped in the England half.
It was therefore against the run of play that the Under-20s got themselves off the mark on 36 minutes, Bristol wing Deago Bailey scoring from a break down the short-side as he picked out a mis-match in the defensive line.
Wasps fly-half Charlie Atkinson converted from in front to reduce Newcastle’s lead to five, but the Falcons maintained their momentum with skipper Connor Collett earning a trademark jackal penalty quickly after the restart.
Cooper was held up over the try-line for a second time following a short-range burst down the left, but from the resulting scrum-five Pete Lucock had a walk-in from a superb running line as Will Haydon Wood found him with a well-timed pop pass.
Haydon-Wood converted from in front of the posts for a 19-7 half-time lead, but England came out for the second half with new-found fire, scoring their second try through Gabe Goss in the right corner.
Gloucester hooker Ethan Hunt drew the teams level when he scored from a 12-man maul in the left corner, and he repeated the trick just three minutes later with a score from an almost identical position to take the lead for the first time.
They built on that when Bristol’s Jack Bates collected an inside pass to score from a Crossfield kick in the left corner, meaning that Charlie Maddison’s try for Newcastle with the last play of the game, even with Haydon-Wood’s touchline conversion, was not enough for the home side.
Newcastle Falcons A: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Chidera Obonna, 13 Pete Lucock, 12 Joel Matavesi, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 James Blackett; 1 Kyle Cooper, 2 Robbie Smith, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Toby Salmon, 5 Will Montgomery, 6 Rob Farrar, 7 Connor Collett (captain), 8 Tom Marshall.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Oscar Caudle, 19 Charlie Richards, [BL] Freddie Lockwood, 20 John Hardie, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Zach Kerr, 23 Iwan Stephens.
Scorers – Tries: Robbie Smith, Rob Farrar, Pete Lucock, Charlie Maddison. Conversions: Will Haydon-Wood 3.
England Under-20s: 15 Elliot Gourlay (Sale), 14 Deago Bailey (Bristol), 13 Oscar Beard (Harlequins), 12 Seb Atkinson (Worcester), 11 Matty Ward (Newcastle), 10 Charlie Atkinson (Wasps), 9 Tom Carr-Smith (Bath); 1 Lewis Holsey (Worcester), 2 Sam Riley (Harlequins), 3 Harvey Beaton (Saracens), 4 Alex Groves (Bristol), 5 Ewan Richards (Bath), 6 Freddie Thomas (Gloucester), 7 Lucas Brooke (London Irish), 8 Nahum Merigan (Bath).
Replacements: 16 Ethan Hunt (Gloucester), 17 Fin Baxter (Harlequins), 18 Luke Green (London Irish), 19 Arthur Clark (Gloucester), 20 Toby Knight (Saracens), 21 Xavier Hastings (Bath), 22 Marcus Rhodes (London Irish), 23 Matty Jones (Gloucester), 24 Tommy Matthews (Northampton), 25 Dan Lancaster (Leeds Tykes), 26 Jack Bates (Bristol), 27 Gabe Goss (Bath), 28 Olly Hartley (Wasps), 29 Arthur Relton (Exeter).
Scorers – Tries: Deago Bailey, Gabe Goss, Ethan Hunt 2, Jack Bates. Conversions: Charlie Atkinson, Tommy Matthews.
Referee: Hamish Smales.