Alas Smith and Jones, as Whitgift are knocked out of cup

RUGBY ROUND-UP: A try one minute from time set up Hampton for a conversion kick that knocked Whitgift’s first XV out of the Daily Mail Cup at Esher last night, denying them a place in the last eight of the national schools competition after a tough performance in which the South Croydon schoolboys had been forced to play with just 14 on the pitch for 20 minutes.

sam cookeHampton had not conceded a try in their four previous games in the Cup so far this season before meeting Whitgift, the 2010 and 2011. Indeed, the Middlesex school had concede just three points from a single penalty as they rolled over previous opposition.

Yet against Whitgift, they were trailing 10-5 at half-time thanks to a dynamic piece of attacking running by centre George Smith, whose try got his side back on levels terms, while fly-half George Jones – yes, Whitgift have a midfield combination of Smith and Jones – slotted the extras and later kicked a penalty.

Under the rules of the competition, Whitgift were missing three of their regular first XV players – all sixth form recruits – and had to soak up enormous pressure through the second period.

Despite Jones making good use of his boot in the second half to manage territory and defend his side’s lead, eventually the Hampton pressure told, as first Frankie Taggert, Whitgift’s Harlequins and Ireland back-row forward, was sin-binned for one penalty too many, and later Smith was ordered off the park when adjudged to have deliberately knocked on with Hampton closing in on a decisive score.

After a gruelling 68 minutes of a game played at a high pace, it left one gap too many in Whitgift’s defensive line, which Hampton’s outstanding centre, Alex Taverner, was able to exploit to score the try that levelled the scores with just a minute of the game to play. Tom McGuire held his nerve to kick conversion that sees Hampton in the cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

“Neither team deserved to go out in what was an outstanding advert for schools rugby,” according to the correspondent from schools rugby website InAtTheSide.com.

If there was any consolation to be had, it came on Thursday afternoon, when Whitgift’s under-15 side beat south London rivals Dulwich College 11-3 in their age group’s fifth round of the Daily Mail Cup.

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