By Josh Bartholomew
Hampton’s 1st VII kickstarted their Sevens season with a triumphant victory in their home tournament, beating Cranleigh 31-12 in the Founders’ Day Sevens final to win their own 7s tournament. After winning all four group matches, tries from Joe Sykes, Ethan Knight, Jamie Benson and Aidan Barry were enough to help Hampton to exact revenge over Daily Mail Cup winners Cranleigh, who beat them last season in the final of this competition.
Hampton showed excellent patience in the early stages of the match, building methodically with precise passing and skilful stepping. After drawing the Cranleigh defence in, there was space on the outside for winger Joe Sykes to score.
Hampton’s play was all day characterised by acrobatic catching from kick-offs, with Aidan Barry and Jesper Hartikainen often leaping highest to claim high balls. The final was no different – this time, Barry caught the ball, but his team were unable to take advantage as Cranleigh built possession for the first time.
Defensively, Hampton were equally patient, forcing Cranleigh wider and wider as they retreated down the field. They were, however, able to breach the home team’s 22, before a wily turnover from captain Pat Silcox halted them in their tracks.
Silcox immediately saw space, throwing a perfect offload from the floor to Sykes, who sprinted the length of the field and scored under the posts to give Hampton a 12-0 lead.
Hampton and Cranleigh have met four times in the final of this competition, with the boarding school’s victory last season giving the teams two wins each. And Cranleigh weren’t willing to hand Hampton bragging rights back too easily, bouncing back well to score and reduce their deficit to seven.
There was time before the interval for one more Hampton attack, though, and they were proving difficult to repel as Dan Finlay sped past his defender on the outside, before expertly drawing the last man with a pinpoint pass that allowed Harlequins U16 Ethan Knight to score.
After half-time, it was clear that tension was building – for a period, neither team was able to overwhelm the other’s defensive endeavour. Hampton, however, were able to break the deadlock, with Sykes once again starring. The winger broke through two tackles before expertly offloading to England U18 Jamie Benson, who stepped the final man dazzlingly to score and all but seal Hampton’s title.
Cranleigh hit back shortly after, scoring on the left touchline, but as the clock ticked dead, USA 7s playmaker and Sixth Former Aidan Barry broke through to score the try he deserved, topping his team’s triumph off with a spectacular backflip as he dived to score and give Hampton a glorious victory in their home tournament.