England Under-20s, captained by Leicester Tigers scrum-half Ben White, made it two wins out of two in the Six Nations Championship with a 37-12 victory over Wales Under-20s at Kingston Park, Newcastle on Friday evening.
As well as opposing captains White and Tommy Reffell, Tigers had Jordan Olowofela and Sam Lewis starting for the first time at this level and Joe Heyes named in the England front row for his first Under-20s cap. Morgan Jones, another player with Tigers connections having spent some time in the club’s academy, was a late call-up in the Wales line-up, moving up from the bench to start in place of Max Williams.
England, bonus-point victors against Italy in Round 1, led 18-5 at half-time on a cold evening in the North-East against a Wales side who also got the Championship off to a flying start with a win over Scotland last weekend.
After two tries in the opening period, England had two in the opening six minutes after the restart, including the bonus-point score from Olowofela, in front of a 2,582-strong crowd.
Wales gained a consolation score in the closing minutes before England added their fifth of the evening.
England’s first chance of the evening went Olowofela’s way, chasing a kick from full-back Tom Parton on the left wing. The Tigers back caught it cleanly from over his right shoulder and, as three defenders converged, he managed to pop the ball to the support, only for England to lose possession in contact 10 metres out.
Olowofela moved to full-back after Parton limped off just 10 minutes into the game, but he could do nothing as Wales claimed the opening score through scrum-half Harri Morgan.
The rest of the opening period belonged to the home side, however, with Heyes and Lewis central to a fierce push at a scrum which earned a penalty and the opening points from fly-half James Grayson.
White then put England ahead with his second try of the Championship, finishing from close range after some strong work in the left-hand corner.
A Grayson penalty on 26 minutes made it 11-3 and, although a superb turnover from Reffell inside the Wales 22 halted another dangerous England attack, the home pack were making it difficult for the rivals to fully clear their lines.
The forwards provided the momentum for the next score which started with a lineout on the right and featured the power of wing Gabriel Ibitoye and finish by centre Cameron Redpath. Grayson’s kick made it 18-5 in the final score of the half.
A solo score from Ibitoye, leaving a trail of defenders on the floor, put England well clear after just three minutes of the second half, and Grayson’s kick stretched the lead to 25-5.
Olowofela ran in the bonus-point try on 46 minutes, coming into the line on the left 35 metres out and accelerating clear. Grayson again added the extras as the score reached 32-5.
Reffell quickly latched on to loose ball at the restart and, although the England defence covered across the pitch, they were penalised at a maul. Heyes, after a good might’s work in the front row, was replaced as Wales prodded play into the left-hand corner but they lost ball as England defended 10 metres out.
Wales skipper Reffell showed his strengths at the breakdown again after club colleague Lewis threatened to break the last line of Wales defence, the Welsh skipper ripping the ball for another vital turnover.
Hardwick entered the action on 66 minutes, replacing centre Fraser Dingwall, earning his second appearance of the championship, while White left the field with 10 minutes remaining.
Wales gave their travelling support something to cheer with a try from Rio Dyer in the right-hand corner from a smart crosskick but there were just five minutes remaining as Cai Evans kicked the conversion with his side 32-12 in arrears.
But England replied in kind with a score from flanker Aaron Hinkley from a lineout drive as the game approached its final 60 seconds.
15 Tom Parton (London Irish)
14 Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
13 Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)
12 Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks)
11 Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers)
10 James Grayson (Northampton Saints)
9 Ben White (Leicester Tigers) (c)
1 Toby Trinder (Northampton Saints)
2 Henry Walker (Gloucester)
3 Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers)
4 Dino Lamb (Harlequins)
5 Sam Lewis (Leicester Tigers)
6 Josh Basham (London Irish)
7 Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester)
8 Sam Moore (Sale Sharks)
16 Gabriel Oghre (Wasps)
17 Alex Seville (Gloucester)
18 Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints)
19 James Scott (Worcester Warriors)
20 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
21 Rory Brand (London Irish)
22 Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers)
23 Matthew Williams (London Irish)
15 Carwyn Penny (Gloucester)
14 Rio Dyer (Dragons)
13 Callum Carson (Ospreys)
12 Ben Thomas (Cardiff Blues)
11 Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets)
10 Cai Evans (Ospreys)
9 Harri Morgan (Ospreys)
1 Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues)
2 Iestyn Harris (Cardiff Blues)
3 Rhys Henry (Ospreys)
4 Morgan Jones (Scarlets)
5 Jack Pope (Bridgend)
6 Tommy Reffell (c) (Leicester Tigers)
7 Dan Davis (Scarlets)
8 Morgan Morris (Ospreys)
16 Will Griffiths (Dragons)
17 Josh Reynolds (Dragons)
18 Sam Wainwright (RGC)
19 Owen Lloyd (Cardiff Blues)
20 Taine Basham (Dragons)
21 Aaron Hemmings (Scarlets)
22 Max Llewellyn (Cardiff Blues)
23 Tomi Lewis (Scarlets)