Cranleigh School maintained their winning record this term, running in six tries against Hurstpierpoint College.
Some observers might have been forgiven for predicting that 2017 would be a year of rebuilding for Cranleigh, with only a few starters from last season’s immensely successful side returning to the school. Any such theories have been swiftly dispelled by four successive wins against quality opposition, including Brighton College (their opponents in the “winning draw” at St Joseph’s last October), and Epsom College by a convincing margin. While the core of the team includes some familiar names, including Quins Academy players Harry Barlow, Heyden Hyde, Hugh Tizard and (still a U16) Oscar Beard, it is noteworthy that they have been very effectively joined by a number of players who had been playing at C or even D team level in prior seasons: a tribute to the strong Rugby culture that has been built at the school.
Hurstpierpoint enjoyed a promising start to the season, the highlight being a rare win over local rivals Brighton College. They had also come close against St John’s Leatherhead and will not have been overly discouraged by losses to Reed’s (who will surely take some stopping in the NatWest U18 Vase) and Seaford. Captained by lock/flanker Jonathan Stanway, their side includes Quins Academy centre James Bourton and County Fly Half Tom Heath.
With earlier threats of rain gone, conditions were excellent as the home side kicked off and enjoyed the bulk of early possession and territorial advantage. Cranleigh had a chance to clear when they won a penalty on their 22 but fly half Sam Lubbock uncharacteristically failed to find touch with his kick and Hurst kept up the pressure. After a strong carry by No 8 Harry Shields a penalty was conceded by the defence, but Heath’s long-range kick for goal drifted wide.
Momentum then shifted to the Surrey side, Lubbock showing his excellent footballing skills as their kicking game kept Hurst pinned inside their half and, with Tizard dominant in the lineout, possession was retained. It was no surprise when a penalty was won 20m out, but Jamie Barden’s kick was hooked to the left of the posts. Barden was quick to make amends for his missed kick, when, after a run by scrum-half Harry Serjeant and quick ball made available from the breakdown, he linked with right-wing William Vincent who scored in the corner.
This pattern of play continued, with Lubbock’s kicks finding the corners and Tizard continuing to catch the eye in both set piece and loose play. After Vincent had been stopped just short, Cranleigh kept the pressure on the Hurst line and Hyde eventually forced his way over. After another beautifully drilled kick to the corner by Lubbock had re-established field position, the Cranleigh fly-half showed his running skills, stepping his way through in midfield before moving the ball to the left where Beard crashed over in the corner. With halftime approaching Hurst once again attracted the unwelcome attention of the Referee at the breakdown and Lubbock’s kick set up a lineout in the left corner, from which successive mauls saw powerful second row Benji Carr force his way over. Although Barden continued to have an unusually unproductive day from the tee, the game was slipping away from Hurst.
Halftime Hurstpierpoint College 0-20 Cranleigh School
The second half opened with Cranleigh continuing to dominate territory and possession. Serjeant’s box kicks and sniping runs finally brought him a score, as he kicked through and outpaced the defence to the loose ball to score in the corner.
Although a tremendous run back of the restart by the athletic Hyde had taken playback to the Hurst 22, a forward pass saw the Sussex side finally managing to regain and retain some decent possession. Pay was taken close to halfway and Shields put into space. He showed impressive pace for a No 8, breaking clear down the left and timing his pass perfectly to left wing Joe Routledge, who was just caught around the ankle by a desperate cover tackle but managed to stretch for the line. Heath’s touchline conversion attempt was beautifully struck and just had the legs to cross the bar.
A second converted try for Hurst at this stage could have made for an exciting last ten minutes, but any such hopes were extinguished when another penalty was conceded close to the line and Barden opted to go for the simple kick for goal, making no mistake from the tee this time. This sparked a final flourish from Cranleigh, with Serjeant running the show, and it was no surprise that, after good work by Beard, Hyde and Carr, it was the scrum-half who dived over from short range for his second try, Barden converting to complete the scoring.
Cranleigh has opted not to defend their St Joseph’s Festival title, given the slightly later timing of that tournament, but will be on the road when facing Denstone College on neutral ground at Aylesbury RFC on Wednesday. Further challenges await them in the second half of term, including a home game against Whitgift. Hurst is entered for St Joseph’s and will after half term faces two further Sussex Derbies against Worth and Eastbourne before also hosting Whitgift.
Full time: Hurstpierpoint College 7-35 Cranleigh School
Hurstpierpoint College: Toby Reed, Elliott Dryden, Noah Jenkins, Sam Dussek, James Pearson-Miles, Jonathan Stanway (Capt.), Matthew Dandy, Harry Shields, Luke Heath, Tom Heath (Vice- Capt ), Joe Routledge, James Bourton, George Allen, Osler Holt, Finley Chesson
Cranleigh School: Dylan Stingemore, Ollie Mitchell, Ollie Gook, Theo Canham, Benji Carr, Hugh Tizard, Bear Williams, Hayden Hyde, Harry Serjeant, Sam Lubbock, Oscar Beard, Harry Barlow, Jamie Barden, William Vincent, Jasper Sykes. Replacement: Piers Nichols
Schools Rugby Correspondent
Images: Martin Williamson/Cranleigh School