Hartpury’s renowned rugby production line looks to have unearthed another diamond after student Mat Protheroe starred on his England Under-18s debut in their win against France yesterday.
The 18-year-old fly-half shone in a man of the match performance, displaying moments of magic which Hartpury supporters have become accustomed to witnessing since he arrived at the college in 2013.
The mercurial youngster led the way with 11 points, including a fantastic solo effort from halfway, ensuring that England’s season got off to the perfect start with a 21-5 victory.
Protheroe was a constant threat and was pivotal in England’s first score, producing a delicate chip which eluded the French defence and landed in the hands of his team-mate, who duly touched down in the corner.
France hit back early in the second half to reduce the deficit to just two points but England then intercepted an opposition pass to score by the posts to put themselves 14-5 up, and Protheroe then sealed the game with a fantastic individual effort.
After picking up the ball near the halfway line from an errant kick, he showed an extra yard of pace to evade his French counterpart and cross the whitewash, adding the extras to maintain his unblemished conversion ratio.
He said: “It was a great performance by the whole team and a great way to start the campaign. Conditions were difficult but we managed to stay on top throughout and we deserved the win.
“To get man of the match was an honour and something I am very proud of but I’m looking ahead to our next game already. Hopefully we can build on this result and push on when we play Wales in a couple of weeks.”
Protheroe, who is a student on the BTEC Diploma Level 3 rugby programme, plays for Hartpury Under-18s first XV and the Saturday RFC squad in National League One, for whom he made his debut in November against Loughborough.
He played a lead role in last year’s college rugby campaign which culminated in the first XV being crowned RFU AASE League champions for the fifth year in succession after a 38-8 victory over Prince Henry’s Grammar School at Allianz Park, a win in which fhe contributed two typical long-range tries.
And the electric outside-half announced himself in similar fashion when making his bow in National League One, scything his way through from deep inside his own half to score.
Protheroe said: “Hartpury was the best place to come to as it has really helped my rugby and academic development. It is a great experience to be playing against the best colleges in the country in the AASE League and it was a special feeling to win the competition last season.
“Playing in National League One has also been a massive learning curve for me and it’s improving my rugby no end! To be exposed to that standard at my age is only going to benefit me.”
Protheroe’s sparkling form has caught the eye of Gloucester Rugby, and he made an appearance in the United team’s fixture against Sale Jets in early January, despite having only made a handful of appearances for Hartpury’s senior side at that time.
And the talented player has high hopes for the future.
“The opportunities that Hartpury provide are the best in the country and to experience what I have done so far has been amazing,” he added.
“It was the best decision I have ever made to come to Hartpury and I’m hoping to continue to push on and hopefully gain a professional contract at the end of the season.”