HAMPSHIRE Under 20s 12

MATCH REPORT by Richard V Isaacs

Hampshire’s Under 20s kicked off their County Championship campaign with a nail-biting 12-10 away victory over 2016 semi-finalists Gloucestershire in a pulsating Pool 4 match at Lydney.

Two tries in the space of four first-half minutes on the half-hour for the 2016 Championship Shield winners was just about enough to stave off the challenge of the West Country men, despite their two second half scores.

But had Salisbury’s Matt Loader kicked the conversion of Gloucestershire’s second try, he would have grabbed a share of the spoils for his team with the final action of this enthralling match.

It was Hampshire who started the stronger of the two sides but were finding it hard to penetrate the stout Gloucestershire defence, while Hampshire were easily keeping their vaunted hosts at bay.

So when flanker Josh Moore of Esher took advantage of excellent work by the forwards to drive over the line, it was nothing more than Hampshire deserved – Eddie Lewis adding the extras.

And when, from the restart, Havant’s Jerome Rudder made some 50 yards with an exquisite weaving, driving run at the Gloucestershire defence and released winger James Wise for a second try three minutes later, the visitors were sitting pretty.

Gloucestershire came out strongly in the second period after an extremely stern half-time team talk but, once again, the visitors were standing strong until, with 15 minutes remaining, Brighton University’s scrum-half Sam Boyland finally broke through close to the posts.

But Loader’s conversation attempt was horribly skewed leaving Gloucester seven points in arrears and their task of closing the gap was made slightly easier when prop Ollie Baker-Clipston was sent to the 
sin-bin for the remaining ten minutes.

Facing a rare home loss, Gloucestershire hit Hampshire hard, peppering their line with force but were being withheld excellently before centre Robbie Smith cracked the code wide out, leaving Loader’s conversion for the draw.

Much to Hampshire’s delight, it sailed way wide to the right as the final whistle blew.

So, Hampshire avenge their Under 20 County Championship Final 62-30 defeat at Twickenham six years ago to the same opponent and sit second in the early table, behind Cornwall, who crushed Berkshire at Camborne 62-3.

Berkshire are Hampshire’s next opponents on February 26 at Redingensians RFC before the visit of the fanatical Cornish to Overton Rugby Club on March 19.

U20 Squad

HAMPSHIRE team: Harry Johnston (Winchester), James Wise (Leicester University), Matt Evenhand (Trojans), Cameron Smith (London Scottish), Jerome Rudder (Havant), Eddie Lewis (Havant), Ben Holt (Cardiff Met University); Ollie Baker-Clipston (New Milton & District), Stefan Younghusband (Loughborough University – capt), Elliott Bellman (Havant), Ed Grinsted (Chichester), Rob Cuffe (Havant), Seb Herold (Cardiff University), Josh Moore (Esher), Jordan Gray (Plymouth University).  Reps: Rhys Driver (Overton), Charlie Stonehill (Cardiff University), Matt Whitehead (Havant), Grant Hill (Gosport & Fareham), Charlie Chipperfield (Fareham Heathens), Joe Holland (Durham University), Adam Musa (Havant).

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