Leicester Tigers and London Irish shared the Under-18 Academy League title with a 22-22 draw in the Final on Sunday.
Chasing a third successive title after wins over Gloucester in each of the last two seasons, Tigers had to come back from a 10-point deficit to gain a share of the spoils at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium.
Both teams made it to the final with five wins from six rounds and they could not be separated at the final whistle of the campaign.
First blood went to Irish with prop Tarek Haffar beating away several attempted tackles to reach out and score with just five minutes played and Monty Bradbury added the conversion.
Tigers spent most of the opening 10 minutes in their own half, not helped by several handling errors, before finally setting up a position to get on the scoreboard themselves.
After two lineout drives on the left, the forwards exerted some pressure on the tryline. But despite being held up over the whitewash from one attack, they made best use of another penalty when scrum-half Edwards tapped and dived in to score. Charlie Titcombe levelled the scores with the conversion.
But Irish claimed a second score just around the halfway mark in the opening period when No8 Marcus Rhodes forced his way over from close range to make it 12-7.
An incisive attack from right to left brought a third try for the Exiles just after the half-hour, with Will Joseph showing good pace and power to get the ball down in the corner to stretch the lead to 10 points.
Tigers missed a potential chance for an instant rely by misjudging a penalty into the left-hand corner but were quickly back on the ball, carrying through the forwards on the edge of the Irish 22 until another penalty took them into the corner, only to be met by stubborn resistance from the rivals who protected their 17-7 lead up to the break.
A chargedown from Bobby Singer allowed Tigers to build some pressure in attack at the start of the second half and they made good use of it as back-rower Tebbatt scored in the corner. Titcombe judged his touchline conversion to perfection to bring it back to 17-14.
Titcombe pointed to the posts from a penalty award just short of halfway and his confidence was rewarded with a kick which levelled the scores with less than 10 minutes gone in the second period.
Irish were next on the scoresheet, putting ball through hands in the backline for wing Finley Brown to score their fourth try of the day on the left. Bradbury’s conversion was held up in the wind with five points between the teams.
Tigers, though, fired the next shot with Henry Joule scoring in the right-hand corner after some strong work up front just in front of the posts to level the scores at 22-22.
Irish replacement Alexander Harmes thought he’d added another try after breaking through on the right, only to be penalised for a double movement as he was talked just short.
There were five minutes remaining on the clock when Tigers were awarded a penalty and they played into the right-hand corner to set up a drive f0r the line but were penalised five metres out and Irish cleared towards halfway.
It made for an anxious closing few minutes with both teams looking for ne last chance as play was locked in the middle third of the field.
A high tackle in midfield provided that chance to Irish who kicked to the right for a lineout just seven metres out but the Tigers pack stuck to their task and the maul was held up without making much ground as the final whistle blew.
Worcester Warriors secured third place with a 29-17 victory over Saracens, and Newcastle Falcons scored a last-minute converted try to beat Bristol 35-34 in the fifth-placed fixture on Finals Day.
TITLE SHARED AT SIXWAYS!
The U18 League title will be shared after a 22-all draw at Sixways Stadium!
IRISH WITH THE CHANCE
A penalty to The Exiles on halfway hands them a chance to kick for the line, deep inside the Tigers 22, with not long remaining now in this match.
PENALTY AGAINST MOMENTUM
A penalty is awarded the Irish way after a driving maul from the Tigers youngsters towards The Exiles line goes to ground.
CUBS ON THE MARCH
The Cubs are within 5m of the Irish line, in the dying stages of this U18 Final, and all level at 22 points each!
A last ditch defensive effort from the Cubs prevents an Irish try as they go over but are ruled to have made a second attempt and double movement is the call.
JOULE LEVELS IT UP!
A try in the corner for Henry Joule sees us back level again, 22-22, after an impressive build-up from the Tigers forwards sets up the chance for the winger to score in the corner!
TIGERS RESPOND TO THE TEST
The Exiles are testing the Tigers defence from everywhere but, as Irish look to push through the middle, the Cubs hold strong and force an error to regain possession near halfway.
IRISH TAKE BACK THE LEAD
The Exiles have another, through Finley Brown, after moving the ball well to the left hand side and finding an overlap for the winger to run it in and score in the corner.
TITCOMBE LEVELS IT UP!
A beautiful strike from 45m out levels up the scores as Charlie Titcombe adds three with an impressive penalty goal.
TITCOMBE LANDS THE CONVERSION
Charlie Titcombe adds the extras from the touchline to cut the Irish lead to just three points after as many minutes in the second-half.
TEBBATT IN FOR A TRY!
The Cubs have the first of the second half after back-rower Jordan Tebbatt is gifted a beautiful, delayed pass from the base of a ruck by scrum-half Sam Edwards and crashes over in the corner.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY!
We are back underway in Worcester for the second half, trailing The Exiles by ten points.
IRISH LEAD AT THE BREAK
London Irish take a ten-point lead into the break at Sixways Stadium after an eventful and entertaining first half in the U18 League Final.
IRISH GO WIDE FOR A THIRD
The Exiles are in for a third try, extending their lead to ten points [17-7] after going wide to the left for outside centre Will Joseph to win the one on one battle from close range and dive over to score.
TIGERS DEFENCE PUT TO THE TEST
The Cubs are being put to the test in defence as Irish pepper the line but, the Tigers hold strong and after winning a lineout near their own line follow it up with a penalty to allow to kick for the line and out of trouble.
CLEMENTS ON FOR SMITH
Dan Clements is injected into the action at loose-head prep in place of Seb Smith.
TEN LEFT IN THE FIRST HALF
The difference is still just five points, with Irish leading 12-7, as we tick over into the final ten minutes of the first half at Sixways.
KICK TENNIS CONTINUES
Both sides continuing to play for territory, through the boots of their 'playmakers' out in the middle.
The wind not playing a major factor but, the cold has arrived after a sunny start to the match.
IRISH HAVE A SECOND
The Exiles go over for their second try, through No.8 Marcus Rhodes, after the Irish pack work their way, patiently towards the Tigers line, ruck by ruck.
CALNAN HELPED OFF
Cormac Calnan is replaced at outside centre, moving Ollie Smith from fullback into the No.13 position, by Henry Joule after the midfielder came up with a shoulder injury from a covering tackle.
ALL TIED UP AT SIXWAYS
The scores are levelled as Ollie Smith converts the Edwards try to make it 7-7 after 15 minutes in Worcester.
Tigers scrum-half Sam Edwards goes over to score the first of the afternoon for Leicester, with a quick-tap after a third successive penalty is given away by the Irish Academy.
The Cubs are held up over the line and we go back for a penalty advantage being played. The youngsters opt for another lineout, 5m out.
TIGERS CHANCE FROM CLOSE RANGE
The Cubs with an opportunity deep inside the Irish half after finding touch from a penalty 20m out as Jordan Tebbatt wins a line-out and the Tigers push towards the line.
TERRITORY BATTLE CONTINUES
Both sides looking to play the game in the opposition's half this afternoon with territory on the agenda early in this U18 League Final at Sixways.
London Irish convert their opening score and extend the lead to seven points after six minutes at Sixways Stadium.
IRISH GET THE OPENER
The Exiles score the first try of the Final, through Tarek Haffar, after the loose-head prop picks up a nice pass inside the Tigers 22 and powers his way over.
WE ARE UNDERWAY!
Here we go!
London Irish get us underway with a deep kick off, which Tigers return back down field almost immediately.
The Exiles then, in a bid for territory, send it back and into touch just 5m out from the Tigers line.
CAN THE CUBS MAKE IT THREE IN A ROW?
After back to back titles in recent seasons, can these young Tigers make it three straight U18 League titles?
The teams have left the changing rooms and are heading down the tunnel at Sixways.
ACADEMY FINALS DAY
Welcome to Worcester, where the Tigers Academy are taking on London Irish in the U18 Finals Day!
We are only minutes away from kick off at Sixways Stadium, where the rain has stopped and the sun is shining on the next generation of English rugby stars.