Test Valley School U16 team have battled their way through to the Hampshire Plate Final to be held on 17th December. The squad have worked hard over the last five years to reach this pinnacle in their final year at the school.
The team have won through three rounds beating Eggars School 59 -10 in the first round and Romsey School 28 – 12 in the quarter finals.
The semi-final brought Test Valley School a tough draw in Westgate School, Winchester. Test Valley’s squad were determined to do well and hit the ground running with Alfie Pickard driving over from close range and some good driving work by the forwards. After the initial shock Westgate came out with determination and in a first half that was never dull they managed to pull back an unconverted try making the score at half time 5 – 5.
The second half started as the first but this time it was Ben Reed’s jinking run that led to an off load to Harry Diaper who did enough to get over the line, again the extra points were added. By now Test Valley’s confidence was high and directly from the kick off Test Valley’s quick hands led to Jon Darling adding a third try which was also converted.
Westgate raised their game and started to put the pressure on, spending a lot of time in the Test Valley half and it eventually tolled on the home defence when Westgate got the ball out wide and squeezed over in the corner, 19 – 10.
The game swung each way with both teams making small errors when they looked likely to score. The good hands of the half backs out to Jacob Breach meant he could use his pace to beat the opposition’s wing and full back to take Test Valley back into a 14 point lead and victory seemed in sight.
Unfortunately, Westgate had not read the script and decided that the game was not over and poor tackling led to Westgate scoring under the posts, bringing the game back to 24 – 17 and only one converted try between the teams.
Westgate again applied pressure but were stung on a fast break and gave away a penalty in front of the posts. Skipper Darling sensibly decided to take the 3 points on offer to stretch the difference to two scores and, despite Westgate camping on the Test Valley line for the five remaining minutes, they were unable to cross, leaving the result as a 27 – 17 victory to Test Valley.
Skipper Jon Darling is hopeful that the team can go one better than last year’s U16 squad, who retained the Hampshire Bowl that they won as U15s, and win the Plate competition which is the level above.