1st XV Take on Sedbergh, Whitgift and Millfield | Epsom College
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1st XV Take on Sedbergh, Whitgift and Millfield

On Saturday 29 May, the 1st XV travelled to Esher Rugby Club for a four-team festival involving the very best of school rugby: Sedbergh, Millfield and Whitgift. The day hosted the final fixtures played in England this season and, after a long wait, an opportunity for the Upper Sixth to pull on the shirt one last time, across three 30-minute games. As expected, the standard of rugby was very high throughout, with many Academy prospects and England U18 players taking the field.



The day began against Northern powerhouse Sedbergh, arguably the strongest team in England over the past two seasons. A tense first half finished 0-0 with defence very much on top and attacking ambitions stifled at the gain line. In the second half, both teams continued in the same vein, however Sedbergh were more clinical and the relentless waves of pressure eventually broke through for two well-taken tries and a penalty.



Next up were a game Whitgift side, current holders of the U18 Schools Cup. The match began again with defence on top, however Epsom conceded a slew of penalties which allowed Whitgift to gradually gain territory before crashing over from repeated pick-and-goes. Epsom looked to be playing themselves back into the contest after a fantastic turnover from Will Butt (Rn) and a pinpoint kick from Tom Lynagh (F) put the team five metres out, but a misfiring lineout handed possession back to Whitgift.  Nevertheless, Epsom were able to up the tempo with a series of quick tap penalties allowing the team to play in the wider channels and look dangerous. Ill-discipline again crept in and the half ended with Whitgift camped in the Epsom 22, but unable to leave with any points.

After the break, Epsom started brightly; the physicality of the forward pack turning over possession and then testing the Whitgift defence with ball-in-hand.  However, that momentum was wrestled away as Whitgift clinically worked their way up the field over six phases and scored a second try. An immediate response was needed and Kade Bird (Fa) provided that, carrying multiple times in the Whitgift 22 before applying the final touch to a sustained period of pressure from the Epsom pack. Lynagh converted and the game was very much in the balance again. With the clock against them, Epsom continued to play and move the ball from deep inside their own half, but ultimately could not make the telling break.



In the final game of the tournament and the season, Epsom came up against the impressive Somerset outfit, Millfield.  No school has produced more youth-level England rugby players and it was easy to spot the two future stars dictating play in their backline.

However, after an unusually quiet warm-up, Epsom burst into life playing ambitious running rugby from the outset. A powerful run from Olaiya Adenji (F) shortened the Millfield defence, and in the next phase a slick offload from Jude Clark (G) allowed Will Butt (Rn) to skip through. The ball was quickly recycled to Josh Lyon (Fa) who breezed past the inside defender before releasing Louis Russell (C) for a smart finish. Rejuvenated by the early success, the team continued to determinedly test Millfield, with a mixture of power from the ever-willing Ollie Matthews (F), Zac O’Connor (P) and Rhys Day (G), complemented by the quick feet and finesse of Max Franks (H) and Tom Lynagh (F).  The pressure resulted in three more points from the boot of the Captain, and an 8-0 lead for Epsom. The game continued in a back-and-forth fashion with both sides playing fast and wide. Epsom were twice saved by the technically superb Kit Temperley (Rn), who held firm as the last line of defence. But Millfield timed their resurgence perfectly and eventually scored on the stroke of halftime.

After the restart, Millfield retained their momentum and quickly scored again with some neat play in the wider channels. Epsom responded immediately with Temperley (Rn) on the attack this time, sending Leo Hales (F) away down the left flank. After an ambitious chip over, the Millfield fly-half won the footrace to the line but Hales was not to be deterred.  Epsom regained possession and a deft pull-back pass from Matthews (F) sent Lyon (Fa) gliding through the Millfield defence again, and a perfect pass put Hales over in the corner for an “acrobatic” finish. Lynagh (F) dissected the posts from the touchline for the extra points. Millfield immediately bounced back with a moment of individual genius unlocking the Epsom defence.  After a long day and with just ten minutes left on the clock, the two sides were neck-and-neck and the pace of play was still relentless, spurred on by a raucous crowd of parents and pupils. Both fly-halves finally began to look for territory with tactical kicks in behind, but it was Millfield who were able to capitalise on several minutes of sustained pressure, creating enough space for the match-and-tournament winning try.  Epsom went close with the last play of the game; Lucas Schmid (Fa) charging through before an untimely slip halted his progress in the Millfield 22. The ball went wide and Josh King (H) was bundled into touch just metres short, bringing to an end a fantastic game of school boy rugby.


In Conclusion

After a long and challenging year, the Upper Sixth had worn the shirt for the last time, and it was plain to see at the final whistle that they had given everything. Tom Lynagh (F), Ollie Matthews (F), Ross Thurtell (P), Zac O’Connor (P), Nikolai Marinov (H), Luke Marsh (C), Will Butt (Rn), Olaiya Adenji (F), Henry Dalton (P), as well as Bryn Bradley (H) and Kitan Ojo (H) (away to Harlequins duty and injury respectively), should be immensely proud of their contributions to the rugby programme.

A special mention to 5th formers  Kit Temperley (Rn) and Lucas Schmid (Fa) who made their 1st XV debuts. Both made impressive contributions in defence and attack.



Game 1: Epsom 0 – 13 Sedbergh

Game 2: Epsom 7 – 12 Whitgift

Scorers: Try Kade Bird (Fa), Conversion Tom Lynagh (F)

Games 3: Epsom 15 – 22 Millfield

Scorers: Try Louis Russell (C), Try Leo Hales (F), Tom Lynagh (F) 1 Penalty and 1 Conversion.