Heathfield U17s win the U17s National Bowl, beating Shrewsbury U17s 53-23 in a thrilling conclusion to the National U17s Competition!
The Heathfield Under 17 team convincingly won the National Bowl title with a commanding eight tries to two performance. After winning their two previous games in this competition with nerve-jangling late tries, on this occasion they were clearly the better team by some distance. The headlines will naturally highlight a massive individual performance by Jack Koops with five tries but this must not obscure a complete team performance by the whole squad.
The game was played in excellent conditions at Sixways stadium, the home of premiership side Worcester Warriors. A decent number of Heathfield supporters including some of the current senior first team made the four hour journey and although a small crowd in a stadium of that size they made plenty of noise. A good turnout of deckchair blazer wearers added to the impact and they received many admiring glances and comments, presumably all complimentary or envious.
An early scrum suggested that Heathfield would have an edge in that area although Shrewsbury were first on the scoreboard with two penalties (0-6). Heathfield soon responded with several phases of play and a break by Harry Reilly nearly led to a score in the left hand corner.
With nearly ten minutes gone the Shrewsbury hooker was yellow carded for dangerous play and Heathfield scored two tries in his absence. Koops scored the first of his tries and thereby set the tone for the rest of the afternoon as good recycled ball was moved quickly to Travis Parsons who put Koops away in the corner, duly converted by Reilly (7-6).
Three minutes later a Reilly kick to the corner was recovered and the Heathfield pack kept pressuring until Alex Borg, after a succession of phases, forced his way over near the posts (14-6).
Shrewsbury pressure and Heathfield errors resulted in another penalty (14-9) suggesting that the contest might be close. Both lineouts looked effective while Shrewsbury managed several turnovers at the breakdown at key moments. Shrewsbury may well have left their useful tight head prop on the pitch too long as he bravely tried to cope with a rib injury but Heathfield always had an edge in the scrummage whoever they faced. Borg and captain Max Ellery both made useful runs ball in hand as well as having a good day in the tight. George Bending was involved effectively in several attacking moves and James Wardle was having a tough but productive day at the breakdown.
Heathfield had increasing position and possession although a penalty chance drifted wide. However a secure attacking scrum gave Kieran Burdett the opportunity to snipe his way over to give Heathfield a ten point margin at half time (19-9).
Half Time: Heathfield 19, Shrewsbury 9
Shrewsbury clearly recognised that they had problems and started the second half in determined driving mode. This was the deciding point of the game and the Heathfield defence was being well tested. The Shrewsbury inside centre looked their most threatening player, frequently carrying the ball in heavy traffic, so Piers O’Conor and Gareth Lloyd had their hands full and succeeded manfully. However Shrewsbury hopes went into terminal decline as Bending returned a Shrewsbury kick out of defence with his own precisely judged effort and Koops followed up speedily to steal a touchdown from the surprised defenders (24-9).
Shortly afterwards Koops collected a high ball near halfway and ran through the opposition, beating four tacklers, for a fine individual try (31-9).
Heathfield continued to catch the referee’s eye for the wrong reasons and after a final warning, James Higgins, only just on as a replacement, was yellow carded for an offence at the breakdown. Shrewsbury duly capitalised on the extra man with a converted try and perhaps had hopes of a turnaround in their fortunes (31-16). But even though a man short Heathfield were mostly in control and a regulation Heathfield backs move saw Reilly put Koops, running a superb line, in for his fourth try (38-16).
Then Heathfield won turnover ball in their own 22 which allowed Rob Flett to make another characteristically physical sally into the defending midfield and a timely pass gave O’Conor the opportunity to outpace the defence (45-16).The game was opening up with the result clear although Shrewsbury deservedly completed their scoring with a converted try (45-23).
The last words were however Heathfield’s as Reilly completed his thirteen points with a drop goal from forty metres and then Koops finished his outstanding day with yet another try after Ellery surged through a drifting defence before supplying the final pass (53-23).
Squad: Lewis Golding, Alex Borg, Max Ellery, Henry Ross, Isaac Brown, Rory Cramp, James Wardle, Rob Flett, Kieran Burdett, Harry Reilly, George Bending, Gareth Lloyd, Piers O’Conor, Travis Parsons, Jack Koops, Adam Davies, Jack Smith, James Higgins, Freddie Jones.
Coaching team: Guy Ellery, Brady Burdett, Mike Brown
Manager Matt Jolliffe