National U20 Championship
Gloucestershire 16 Hertfordshire 15
A JACK Skelton penalty in injury time saved Gloucestershire’s blushes and secured the county’s first win of the season.
Hertfordshire had the first chance to open the score with a sixth minute penalty from Ollie Walker but the Bishops Stortford outside half’s kick bounced off the post and was cleared.
After 11 minutes Gloucestershire attacked and after several phases Old Centralians’ Ollie Locke side-stepped past two defenders and raced in to score by the posts. Skelton’s conversion put Gloucestershire 7-0 ahead.
The hard-running of the Gloucestershire centres was causing problems for Hertfordshire and on 20 minutes Skelton kicked a penalty for a 10-0 lead.
From the restart Hertfordshire took play to the Gloucestershire line and their forwards drove prop Jack Culverhouse over for a try from a rolling maul.
The conversion missed but five minutes later the scores were tied when a fine counter-attack from their 22 saw wing Alex Bendin evade two tacklers and race in for a second try.
The Gloucestershire scrum was struggling but Culverhouse was yellow-carded for offside and Skelton put Gloucestershire back ahead with a penalty.
Despite being a man short again after the referee yellow carded Walker, Hertfordshire scored next when Bendin reached the Gloucestershire 22 before passing to Joe McKay in support for the Hertfordshire captain to score the visitors' third try. Crucially, the conversion went wide but Hertfordshire were ahead again at 15-13.
Skelton had an opportunity to regain the lead from the restart when Hertfordshire infringed but the kick went wide.
As the match went into stoppage time Hertfordshire infringed and Skelton kicked the penalty that put Gloucestershire 16-15 ahead.
There was time for Hertfordshire to restart and Gloucestershire conceded a penalty but George Elliott was not able to kick the points and Gloucestershire won by the narrowest of margins.
Gloucestershire cannot win the pool but will need a maximum five points when they play Berkshire at Cinderford on March 16 to have a chance of going through as runners-up. Progress to the quarter-finals could come down to points difference.
Scorers – Gloucestershire U20: try - Ollie Locke; conversion - Jack Skelton; penalties - Jack Skelton (2)
Hertfordshire U20: tries - Jack Culverhouse, Alex Bendin, Joe McKay.
Teams – Gloucestershire U20: Jack Skelton (Weston-Super-Mare); Rob Skipsey (Cinderford), Sam Hanks (Cinderford), Daniel Spencer-Tonks (Old Centralians), Ed Sheldon (Thornbury); Ollie Locke (Old Centralians), Sam Watkins (Cinderford); Kieran Harris (Old Redcliffians), Finlay Sinclair (Cinderford), Lyon Kent (Gordon League), Lance Randall (Cinderford) (c), Angus Hodges (University of Gloucestershire), Ben Charlton-Hibbert (Filton College), Max Woodward (Old Redcliffians), Jake Holcombe (Dings Crusaders).
Replacements: Dean Brooker (St Mary’s University), Ryan Roach (Cleve), Chance Ridler (Cinderford), Sam Morse (Cinderford), Ben Large (Drybrook), Ryan Woodhouse (Matson), Ollie Whiting (Cinderford).
Hertfordshire U20: George Elliott (Bedford Blues); Alex Bendin (Hertford), James Orbart (Bishop’s Stortford), Connor Reynolds (Old Albanian), Zac Michalski (Tring); Simon Hrbek (Letchworth), Ollie Walker (Bishop’s Stortford), Freddie Mercer (Welwyn); Jack Elborn (Luton), Josh Pieterse (Bedford Blues), Jack Culverhouse (Hertford), Tom Jeffries (Hitchin), Ben Cave (Letchworth), Luke Mongston (Letchworth), Joe McKay (Welwyn) (c), Kennet O’Neill (Bedford Blues)
Replacements (all used): Harry Mack (Old Verulamians), Ben Harrison (Bishop’s Stortford), Simon Hrbek (Letchworth), Richard Beeny (Tring), Scott Glynn (Cheshunt), Louis Haddon (unattached).
Referee: Neil Reid-Warrilow (North Midlands).