Autumn International time is nearly here which means club rugby switches over to the Anglo Welsh Cup, before I focus on the match I went to here’s an explanation of the competition from the Premiership Rugby site –
- Each team in pool 1 shall play each team in pool 4 once and each team in pool 2 shall play each team in pool 3 once.
- The Club that wins the Match shall be awarded four Match Points or (if it scores four tries or more in the process) five points.
- The Club that loses the Match shall be awarded no Match Points or if it scores four tries or more in the process or loses by a margin of seven points or fewer they shall be awarded one Match Point or if it scores four tries or more in the process and loses by a margin of seven points or fewer they shall be awarded two Match Points.
- Clubs that draw a Match shall each be awarded two Match Points and any of them that scores four tries or more in the process shall also be awarded a further one Match Point.
- The pool winners will qualify for the knock-out stage. The pool winners will be ranked 1 – 4 by reference to the number of Match Points earned in the pools.
- If two or more Clubs in the same pool end the pool stage equal on Match Points, then the order in which they have finished will be determined by:i. the greater number of matches won by the Club and
ii. if the number of matches won is equal, the Club with the greater total number of tries scored and
iii. if the total number of tries scored is equal, the Club with the greater points difference (points scored for, less points scored against) and
iv. if the points difference is equal, the Club with the fewer number of red cards and
v. if the number of red cards is the same, the Tournament Organisers shall toss a coin.
The knock-out stage:
- The knock-out stage shall be divided into two semi-final Matches and a final Match. Semi-final 1 1st ranked Club v 4th ranked Club Semi-final 2 2nd ranked Club v 3rd ranked Club The first Club listed in each of the semi-final matches shall be the Home Club. In the semi-finals and the final, if after 40 minutes of play each way the scores are level, there shall be a five minute break (where the teams and players shall remain on the pitch) and then a period of extra time shall begin between the teams of 10 minutes each way, with a 1 minute interval. If the scores remain equal after this period of extra time then the winner will be the team which has scored the most tries in the game (including extra time). If the scores are level and the number of tries scored is equal, then there shall be a place kick competition
Harlequins are in Pool 2 with Exeter Chiefs, Sale Sharks and Newport Dragons. Saracens sit in Pool 3 with Northampton Saints, Worcester and Scarlets. The competition is a chance for those on the edge of the Premiership Rugby competition to play competitive rugby with a trophy up for grabs.
In common the A league the teams generally consist of young upcoming players and more experience players who can’t find their way into the first XV on a regular basis. It’s a competition I thoroughly enjoy as it gives fans the chance to watch the stars of the future and in this case, both Saracens and Harlequins have a strong history of bringing Academy players through into their first team and on to the England set up.
And so two teams chock full of young stars lined up against each other at Allianz Park. To highlight a few players from each team,
- Nathan Earle – Age 23 – Saracens Academy – England U18’s & U20’s, Nathan scored 6 tries in 5 games for England U20’s in 2014 from the Wing, he was playing Fullback in this match.
- Alistair Crossdale – Age 19 – Sale Sharks U18, Newcastle U18, England U16’s. U18’s U20’s, Saracens A 2016. Alistair is a Fullback but played on the wing
- Matthew Gallagher – Age 21 – Saracens Academy, England U16’s, U20’s Matt is a Fullback but played Outside Centre, his father John won the World Cup with the All Blacks
- Nick Tompkins – Age 22 – Saracens Academy – England U20’s & Saxons, Nick has played some first team rugby for Saracens and has shone, he’s a Centre and played Inside Centre.
- Max Malins – Saracens Academy – England U18’s U19’s, U20’s The RFU site has Max listed as a Fullback but I’ve only seen him play at Fly Half where he was for this match
- Tom Whiteley – Age 21 – Saracens Academy – Saracens A, Tom is sa lively scrum half who has played Fly Half for the A team. He played Scrum Half
- Danny Cutmore – Age 20 – Saracens Academy – Danny is a Lock and played at 5 next to Will Skelton
- Jack Nay – Age 20 – Saracens Academy – England U16’s, U18’s, U20’s. Jack is a Flanker and played at 6
- Ben Earl – Age 19 – Saracens Academy – England U16’s, U18’s England U20’s – Ben captained the England U’20’s against France and Wales in 2016. He played No 8 and captained Saracens in this match.
Now on to the Harlequins young guns
- Gabriel Ibitoye – Age 19 – Quins Academy – England U16’s, U17’s, U18’s, U19’s, U20’s. Gabriel played in the Academy with my nephew Alex Hogg, he’s now at Oxford University and played in the Varsity match last year. Gabriel is a powerful, fast winger, a great player to watch
- Harry Sloan – Age 23 – Quins Academy – England U20’s – Harry is a Centre.
- James Lang – Age 22 – James started playing his rugby in North Wales under the tutelage of Phil Davies
- Josh McNulty – Age 23 – Gloucester Academy – Josh is a prop and wore the number 1 shirt in this match
- Archie White – Age 20 – Quins Academy – England U20’s – Archie played Flanker, No 7
- Dino Lamb – Age 19 – Quins Academy – England U18’s, U20’s – Dino played at Number 8
I’ve tried to list the players who have come through the Academy of each team, it hasn’t been possible to find full details on their England involvement in some cases. But what this does show is the way this competition gives up and coming players at both clubs the chance to play in a high quality tournament.
Noe for a little about the match, this was most definitely a game of two halves, the first belonged to Saracens in spite of the fact that Harry Sloan scored the first try of the afternoon for Quins. Three Max Malins penalties and a converted try scored by Jack Nay saw the score at Saracens 16 harlequins 5 at half time. The home team had dominated the half and deserved their lead.
However things switched round in the second half after Saracens extended their lead to 21 points with tries from Nathan Earle and Tom Whiteley. In spite of that lead it didn’t feel like a job finished as Quins fought back into the game. They scored through Alofa Alofa and Elia Elia, yes, two players with the same surname as their forename!
Max Malins added a further 3 points to take Saracens to 29 points and they seemed to be looking for a bonus point try, that push saw Quins take possession of the ball and after a 30 phase move battering the Saracens line the referee went to the TMO as he believed the ball had been grounded by Quins. He asked if there was any reason not to give a try and Graham Hughes the TMO had no option than to answer that in the negative. The try was awarded and promptly converted, The final score was Saracens 29 Harlequins 30.
It was very disappointing to hear a few boo’s ring out as the try was awarded, those who did that should probably buy one of the ref radios and check out the laws of the game. Based on their second half performance Quins went home deserved winners, no one likes a bad loser, booing isn’t something that should be happening at a rugby match.
Both teams played some wonderful rugby, it was great to see the young players from both sides shine. It was interesting to see Tim Visser playing at Full Back for Quins as well as Nathan Earle for Saracens, they both did a good job.
A nice added bonus on the day was the ‘performance’ of Sarrie the Camel – he (or she) was laugh out loud funny!