By Josh Bartholomew
Hampton’s 1st XV have become the first U18 team to reach a national semi-final in the school’s history. Only 20 schools entered the invitation-only competition, but the calibre of each side is extremely high. Here’s how Hampton reached the latter stages.
Round One: Hampton 21-10 Tonbridge
Hampton’s Champions Trophy campaign started with a professional victory over Tonbridge at Hanworth Road. Tries from Jesper Hartikainen, Alex Taylor and Luke Greenall, as well as nine points from the boot of Jamie Benson secured a trip to Berkhamsted in Round Two.
Round Two: Berkhamsted 0-38 Hampton
Despite a tough trip to North London against a team stacked with Saracens and England players, Hampton convincingly beat Berkhamsted to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions Trophy.
Hampton raced into an early lead, taking a 12 – 0 lead to half-time with two tries from Dan Finlay. The away side were equally rampant after the interval, with another Finlay try, along with scores from Rupert Reddish and George Price sending the team back to Hampton with a brilliant 0-38 victory.
Quarter-final: Hampton 27-7 Uppingham
In a feisty quarter-final at Hanworth Road, Hampton came through with the spoils after a brilliant first-half performance. Tries from backs Aidan Barry, Pat Silcox, Rory Carr and Dan Finlay ensured Hampton’s place in the next round to set up a huge game at Rugby School.
After powerful forward play forced Hampton into Uppingham’s 22, the 1st XV quickly found space – centre Tim Lamming combined with Alex Taylor to send Aidan Barry over in the corner. Jamie Benson’s kick from out wide was unsuccessful, leaving Hampton with a 5-0 lead.
If Hampton’s first try was professionally taken, their second was sublime. Almost straight from the kick-off, the team broke to the half-way line with commanding carries from front-rowers Iestyn Humphrey and Rupert Reddish. But the best was yet to come – from a set-piece move, George Price found Benson with a creative pull-back.
Harlequins fly-half Benson sprinted free, showing excellent acceleration to ensure that only one defender was left to beat, and he did exactly that, finding Patrick Silcox with a sublime ball inside to score a wonderful try.
With the lead at only 12 points, Hampton’s advantage was by no means secure. But they continued to build on their advantage, breaking into opposition territory once more. From an attacking five metre scrum – forced after another Benson break – Hampton spread the ball wide, where replacement winger Rory Carr scored. The conversion was again successful.
Hampton were entirely in the ascendency now with the pace of their backline play leaving Uppingham with few answers. After Toby Robinson’s skilful turnover on halfway, Hampton spread the ball wide, and London Irish academy player Hartikainen was able to sprint into open space. He drew the final defender adeptly to allow Dan Finlay to score in the corner, continuing his four-game scoring streak to give Hampton a 24-0 lead at half-time.
Hampton eased up a little in the second-half, but their quarter-final work was done, winning 27-7 and looking forward to a semi-final at the home of the sport.