TEENAGE rugby talent Max Fletcher has achieved what is believed to be a first for an Islander — grabbing a winner’s medal with a team crowned the top rugby school in the country.

The Isle of Wight-born 18 year old wore the 14 shirt for Hartpury College, Gloucestershire, in the final of the AASE League national final against Beechen Cliff, played at Allianz Park, the home of Premiership club, Saracens.

Although it was the ninth time the college had won it over the past decade, Hartpury were the underdogs going into the game, coming through 26-20 on Wednesday last week.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The victorious Hartpury College rugby team, which included Islander, Max Fletcher, 18.  

The AASE is the country’s top level of under-18 rugby and Island-born Max, of Shanklin, has enjoyed a huge spike in his development since he moved to Hartpury, to study BTEC sports science, last year.

The former Sandown Bay Academy student, who learned the sport at Ventnor Rugby Club, also joined Premiership Gloucester’s academy ranks earlier this year, during which time he was signed up on an England players’ academy contract.

Max, who plays at full-back or as a winger, played his part in the AASE final.

Delighted with his successes this past year, Max said: “Playing for Hartpury this season has been amazing — and to play at Allianz Park was a great experience.

“The final was a very physical, tough game, with the lead swapping hands throughout, but our determination and fitness gave us the edge in the end.

“Our defence was stretched to the max for long periods, but as a team, we trusted each other.”

With Max in his thoughts, Wayne Thompson, Hartpury’s junior rugby academy manager, said the performance reflected strongly on his players’ strength of character, as well as their talent.

Max, supported by Wightlink, is selected for the Gloucester Academy side to face Saracens this evening (Friday).

“Having progressed from the third team in September last year, I am now a regular starter for the AASE first team,” he said.

“The training is brutal — the hardest I have ever done — but it has been more than worth it.”

Gloucester Academy has games against Saracens, Bristol, Bath, Harlequins, London Irish and Exeter pencilled in between now and February, with the academy final on February 17.

“This will be a step up for me playing against, and with, international under-20 players. It will be a big test,” added Max.

Over the past decade, more than 150 Hartpury graduates have gained international honours, including England winger Jonny May and Italy forward Sebastian Negri.

Students at Hartpury, the training base of Gloucester, have access to a range of world class facilities, including a new £8.8 million sports academy.