Leicester Tigers back-rower Emeka Ilione crossed the whitewash in spectacular fashion during England’s final Under-18s fixture in South Africa.
The Tigers Academy player – who captained the age-grade side in the match against South Africa Schools – galloped in to score from more than 30 metres out, beating five defenders in the process.
A further score from fly-half Orlando Bailey plus a penalty try put England six points up at the break, but three second-half scores from the hosts pinned the final score at 33-27, with Jim Mallinder’s young squad narrowly missing out on a second win of the series.
Ilione’s club mates Kit Smith and Sam Edwards both started the final game at No8 and scrum-half respectively, while Archie Vanes missed out through injury.
“We’re disappointed to lose but I’m very proud of the performance today and how far this team have come in such a short space of time,” England U18s head coach Jim Mallinder said.
“We knew South Africa were older than us and physically bigger and have been together for a longer period so we knew it would be a tough test. However, we came here with the intention of playing expansive rugby and moving them around the field and we certainly did that.
“We scored some cracking tries, our defence was outstanding and it was just their power that allowed them to cross so overall I’m happy.
“We’ve made huge improvements over the three games, our set piece in particular, our defence was strong and in attack we looked the better side and played like a real cohesive unit and the coaches and support staff deserve huge credit in how they’ve helped develop this team.
“I now want to see the players crack on with their season, go back to their schools and academies and look to develop and improve and we’ll hopefully see them back later in the season for our next U18 fixtures.”
The tour of South Africa saw England defeat France in game two after losing out to Argentina in their opening fixture. The development trip serves as the start of the U18s international season for England’s pathway.
All four Tigers cubs now return to the club in preparation for the new Premiership Academy League campaign, which gets underway in December.