The Reading Oratory 17- Eton College XV 29

Saturday, 15th September 2012

Tries: Ashworth, Carleton-Smith, Cobb, McRae, Zervudachi. Conversions: Carleton-Smith (2)

The XV's last encounter with the Oratory ended in defeat, so this year's instalment away at Reading was expected to be a tough start to the season. Pleasingly, Eton came out on top.

The performance was by no means perfect, however, and ill-discipline in particular is something Eton will need to address if they even are to entertain the notion of a win in the next match against Abingdon. The back row of MacDonald, McRae and Scarratt were penalised consistently at the breakdown for much of the first half and, as a consequence, fly-half Carleton-Smith was unable to release the back line. Some early chances were scuppered by poor handling in the backs, and it was only on the thirty minute mark that Eton gained some measure of momentum. An excellent rolling maul and try from McRae marked a turning point, and there followed a period of aggressive and determined attacking play, with the back three of Dickson-Tetteh, Zervudachi and Cobb running destructive lines through Reading’s feeble chase off defensive kicks.

The centre partnership of Callum Koessler and Frankie Ashworth developed into a solid defensive base around which the team, finding their drive, began to work. A delightful show and go from Carleton-Smith, with all the Quade Cooper flair that we have come to expect of him, put Zervudachi into the corner and Eton ended the half with seventeen points on the board. The second session was set to provide much of the same. The fearsome front row of Salter, Hume-Kendall and Goodall caused problems in the scrum, whilst Vare and Gray were dominant in the line-out. Koessler and Ashworth were outstanding, wrapping up the ineffectual Reading attacks in midfield and making a significant number of breaks. Ashworth went through untouched to score after fifty minutes, and Koessler was unlucky not to join him.

Overall, it was an impressive showing, but Eton should be careful of complacency. Reading’s increasingly aggressive kicking game took its toll and a desperate and doglegged defence was eventually overwhelmed. The technical skill of the back row and the blistering pace out wide both pose a threat to any opposition this season, but a better team – perhaps Radley, Wellington or Harrow – would have punished Eton for the lack of discipline at the breakdown and some squandered try-scoring opportunities.

Jake Donald OS (MJP)