CORNISH FIGHTING SPIRIT EARNS AWAY DRAW
Oxfordshire 22 Cornwall 22
By NIGEL WALROND for the Western Morning News at Chinnor RFC
A SUPERB try-saving tackle by Mount’s Bay centre Pale Nonu in the dying moments of the game earned Cornwall a battling draw in their second County Shield group match at Oxfordshire.
Nonu was a late call-up into the squad, but he prevented what seemed a certain hat-trick try by Oxfordshire winger Eric Brown when he forced him into the corner flag – a tackle which unfortunately saw Brown stretchered off with an ankle injury.
However, Nonu’s magnificent last-ditch effort was befitting of a passionate and totally-committed display by the men in Black and Gold which seemed a country mile from the previous week’s dismal offering, when they were thrashed 60-14 by Somerset.
The odds appeared to be stacked even more heavily against Cornwall than at Bridgwater, with Oxfordshire boasting 14 National League players in their squad to the Duchy’s three – and they seemed set for another humiliating experience when they trailed 22-0 after only 27 minutes – but there were two major differences this time.
Oxfordshire had a fierce wind behind their backs in the first half, so Cornwall were always going to be up against it in the opening period, while secondly, 10 of those Oxfordshire players came from Chinnor, who have just been relegated from National Division Three South, where they will, ironically, be replaced by Mount’s Bay.
It was the first time Cornwall had avoided defeat in five county championship matches stretching over two seasons, but they still face a relegation decider against Surrey at Camborne on Saturday.
However, on the basis of this display, and the fact Surrey have suffered crushing defeats against Oxfordshire (43-14) and Somerset (53-14) so far, Cornwall should have a great chance of securing their Shield status.
Confident Cornwall coach Joff Rowe said: “Today is the first time in two years Cornwall haven’t lost and I take great pride in being part of that unit, but next week will be the first time that Cornwall win in two years.”
He added: “For me personally, the performance today is a huge victory in itself, but we are disappointed at the result.
“I don’t think we were much better than them, but our commitment was excellent and we showed great fight, and that is something we have instilled in the last eight to nine weeks.”
Rowe was particularly impressed with Nonu, and the back row of Ian Boase, Tom Rawlings and Louis Stevens.
“Hats off to Nonu, who came in to assist us when we were short of a player, while the back row was outstanding. The amount of work, effort and commitment they put in was a major contribution to our result.”
Roared on by another excellent turn-out from Trelawny’s Army – who got soaked as there is no cover from the elements at Chinnor – Cornwall made a good start but still conceded three tries in the opening half.
The first was perhaps a bit unfortunate, with the ball squirming out of the side of a scrum on the Oxfordshire 10-metre line and scrum-half Anthony Cope feeding Brown, who ran 50 metres to score, but the less said about the next two the better.
An overthrown line-out by hooker Darren Semmens close to his own line – a move that cost Cornwall two tries against Somerset – presented winger Brown with his second try; and then Brixham full-back Jake Lawrence’s wayward clearance kick gifted full-back Ben Hewitt a touchdown.
Reading fly-half James Cathcart kicked two conversions and a penalty, and Cornwall were staring down the barrel at 22-0 down.
Crucially, they got a try back three minutes before the break when a period of concerted pressure resulted in a 22-metre scrum, from which fly-half Lee Jarvis put Camborne winger Rob Ley over in the corner.
Three minutes into the second half, Cornwall scored again, when more time spent in Oxfordshire’s 22 created a score for Mount’s Bay winger Olly Faulkner, and when home hooker Henry Mace was sin-binned in the 47th minute, the Duchy capitalised soon after with a try by Cornish All Blacks centre Ryan Westren – his second in two games – after good work by Nonu.
Jarvis converted both, and kicked a penalty after replacement lock Harry Jackman had also been yellow-carded, and all of a sudden Cornwall were level at 22-22 with 14 minutes of normal time remaining, but then the wind dropped.
Both sides had their chances in the closing stages, with Jarvis attempting two long-range drop goals for Cornwall, but Oxfordshire came closest to scoring through Brown, until Nonu’s excellent intervention.
Oxfordshire: Tries, Brown (2), B Hewitt; cons, Cathcart (2); pen, Cathcart.
Oxfordshire: B Hewitt (Chinnor), J Carter (Chinnor), A Henley (Oxford Harlequins), J Hewitt (Chinnor), E Brown (Chinnor), J Cathcart (Reading), A Cope (Oxford Harl), R Fuller (Henley), H Mace (Clifton), J Iosefo (Chinnor), O Root (Clifton), C Burrows (Chinnor, capt), J De Bruin (Chinnor), M Young (Oxford Harl), G Hayter (Newbury).
Replacements: S Chadbone (Oxford Harl) for De Bruin 50-57 & for Iosefo 74, J Eckert (Oxford Harl) for J Hewitt 72, P Soper (Oxford Harl) for De Bruin 74, G Duder (Chinnor) for Cope 72, H Jackman (Chinnor) for Root 58, R Williams (Chinnor) for Henley 72, D Lynch-Smith (Chinnor) for Brown 79.
Cornwall: Tries, Ley, Faulkner, Westren; cons; Jarvis (2); pen, Jarvis.
Cornwall: J Lawrence (Brixham), R Ley (Camborne), R Westren (Cornish All Blacks), P Nonu (Mount’s Bay), O Faulkner (Mount’s Bay), L Jarvis (Mount’s Bay), B Wakfer (Camborne), A Flide (Mount’s Bay), D Semmens (Mount’s Bay), T Stevens (St Ives), B Hilton (Mount’s Bay, capt), J Wilce (Wadebridge), I Boase (St Ives), T Rawlings (Pertemps Bees), L Stevens (St Ives).
Replacements: S Peters (Redruth) for Lawrence 60, B Keary (Mount’s Bay) for Wakfer 75. Not used: D Clackworthy (Mount’s Bay), B Jenkin (Plymouth Albion), T Outram (Mount’s Bay), T Hurdwell (St. Ives), M Woolcock (Camborne).
Yellow cards: Oxfordshire: Mace 47, Jackman 66.
Referee: R Parker-Sedgemoor (RFU).
GROUP TABLE AS IT STANDS
Somerset P2 W2 D0 L0 F113 A28 Pts 4
Oxfordshire P2 W1 D1 L0 F65 A36 Pts 3
Cornwall P2 W0 D1 L1 F36 A82 Pts 1
Surrey P2 W0 D0 L2 F28 A96 Pts 0
CORNISH REACTION By NIGEL WALROND
CORNWALL coach Joff Rowe was pleased with his players after they produced an excellent fightback from 22-0 down to draw 22-22 against Oxfordshire at Chinnor yesterday.
The point leaves Cornwall facing a County Shield relegation decider against bottom-of-the-table Surrey at Camborne on Saturday, but Rowe is looking forward to it.
‘Today is the first time in two years Cornwall haven’t lost and I take great pride in being part of that unit,’ said Rowe.
‘We could have done with the win today, which would have put us in a comfortable position, but let’s bring the Surrey game on.
‘We will take the same approach, I am sure it will be the same group of people, and we have got to show something more on our own turf.
‘We have learned from last week and this week, and next week we have got to be more the finished article in order to maintain our status in this competition.’
The Duchy produced a much improved display from their 60-14 thrashing at Somerset last weekend, and could have come away with a win against an Oxfordshire side fresh from a hefty home win over Surrey.
‘We started well in difficult conditions and against a very competent side, and our continuity and ball retention was great, but again we made mistakes and they capitalised on those and scored some good tries,’ said Rowe.
‘But I thought, when we scored the try just before half-time, we showed strength and power in our game not only to go up the middle, but to go wide.
‘Then we came out in the second half and scored, and then maintained possession, and at the very end we had opportunities to win.’
He added: ‘The players have come out today, and for me personally, the performance is a huge victory in itself, but we are disappointed at the result.
‘I don’t think we were much better than them, but our commitment was excellent and we showed great fight, and that is something we have instilled into the players in the last eight to nine weeks.’
There were plenty of fine performances all over the pitch for Cornwall, but Mount’s Bay centre Pale Nonu and the back row of Ian Boase, Tom Rawlings and Louis Stevens were particularly impressive.
Rowe said: ‘Hats off to Nonu, who came in to assist us when we were short of a player, while the back row was outstanding. The amount of work, effort and commitment they put in was a major contribution to our result today.’
Cornwall captain Ben Hilton was pleased with the result, but disappointed it was not a victory.
‘It was a better performance. It was a big step up for us, but the work is not done yet,’ he said.