Photo: Cornwall celebrate their latest Cup win at Twickenham
Many of us have questioned the wisdom of those who occupy the ivory towers of the RFU at Twickenham over the years, often with good reason, so it will come as no surprise that those concerns are raised again as the ‘draw’ for next season’s Bill Beaumont Cup is released.
There were inklings at the end of the last campaign that changes were afoot!
Despite finish bottom of the pool, many of the Surrey lads believed they would not be relegated as changes were due. Devon too felt they would be involved in the top-tier despite missing out in their Division 2 battle with Kent.
Both camps were correct in their assumptions.
The Bill Beaumont Cup will see twelve sides challenging for the cup. This is a welcome step to see more counties involved. They will be split six each into North and South. However, rather than increase the number of games, the RFU have come up with a cunning plan! Let’s replicate the LV Cup, draw the sides into groups of three and then play their counterparts in either the North or the South, with the side with the best overall results from each geographical area advancing to the final.
Relegation will be decided over two seasons so that each county plays the same number of games at home and away.
As you can see from below Cornwall are drawn in a group with Gloucestershire and Kent but will play each of the counties drawn in the other southern group namely Surrey, Devon and Hertfordshire. It is feasible that a county having won all their games could be pipped by another county who win all their games with a better record without having a chance to play that county!
For Cornwall, seeking a third consecutive title, the road is not an easy one. They start with two away trips at Surrey on May 6 and then in Devon on May 13 before hosting Hertfordshire on May 20. The final will be on the 28th May at Twickenham.
The new format also causes disruption in the North with both Lancashire and Yorkshire drawn in the same pool, so no “Roses Match” in next season’s competition.
Cheshire, last season’s finalists, will have to face both the Roses counties plus East Midlands, with crucially two games at home and a trip to Yorkshire to overcome.
There must also be doubt about Cornwall’s traditional warm up game as it would seem unlikely that Cornwall would wish to play Devon prior to the Championship.
Photo: Tommy Phillips, TASC 2015 Under 20 Player of the Year, with CRFU Chairman Denis Preece
Cornwall Under 20s will begin their campaign with two home games against Berkshire and Gloucestershire before an away trip against Hampshire in their pool games for this season’s Under 20 County Championship.
Hampshire have replaced Devon, who were relegated to the Shield competition at the end of last season’s pool games.
Sunday Feb 4 CORNWALL V BERKSHIRE (HOME) venue TBC
Sunday Feb 25 CORNWALL V GLOUCESTERSHIRE (HOME) venue TBC
Sunday Mar 18 Hampshire v Cornwall (Away) venue TBC
If Cornwall finish in the top two places and qualify for the quarter-finals, that will be played on Sunday 1 April 2017. A first place in their pool will guarantee a home tie, finish runner-up and they will face a trip to a side in the other Southern pool from Essex, Surrey, Hertfordshire or Kent.
The semi-finals are scheduled for Sunday 15 April, with the Final at Twickenham on Sunday 6 May.
Cornish rugby fans turned out on the streets of Truro to cheer the Cornwall rugby team following their historic back-to-back win in the Bill Beaumont Cup against Cheshire 35-13 on Sunday.
The crowds may not have been the size of those in days gone by, but the warmth and feeling was just the same as people clamoured for a photograph with their heroes on Lemon Quay Plaza.
The evening kicked off with a reception for the team, coaches and officials at County Hall, with words of thanks from Cornwall Council’s Chairman Ann Kerridge in both English and Kernewek.
I spoke to a couple of the players, first of all Cornwall’s fly-half Billy Searle. I asked him for his thoughts a couple of days on from the win. He said: “To be honest it still hasn’t really sunk in. It was an awesome weekend coupled by an equally awesome performance on the pitch, and then a fantastic evening with all the fans at the Puriton Inn on the way home!”
Photo: Billy Searle takes on Cheshire
I asked him about the great start the side made on Sunday and of course his wonderful try: “It was a dream start for me and the team. To get that early score really set the platform for the day.
“We wanted to start big. Getting an early lead would lift our confidence levels and put pressure on Cheshire. We managed that and we built on those early scores.”
Billy felt the side coped well when Cheshire came back at them later on during that first period: “We had that cushion and defensively we were very sound dealing with their threats, then we were able to come again to score those two late tries to seal the win.”
Billy acknowledged that Herbie Stupple’s try was the crucial score: “Yes that was the crucial score. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves but I felt that was clincher, and then Matt Shepherd went in at the corner and rounded it off with a great conversion and that sparked off the celebrations.”
I asked Billy about his roofing exploits at the Puriton Inn, where he was caught on camera high up with Nielson Webber: “Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said laughing, “it was a good night and all in the spirit of the celebrations! It was nice to celebrate with the fans, they have put in the miles following us and being there as our 16th man. It’s not something that happens too often these days, but it sums up the special bond we have with our supporters.”
For Billy, a new chapter in his rugby career awaits when he joins Premiership side Bristol this summer: “It’s the next step in my career. I am really looking forward to pre-season and getting stuck-in. I can’t predict what will happen in the future. Hopefully I will get a chance and hopefully I can take it. I shall obviously miss being involved with Cornwall next year, whether I can play or not remains to be seen.”
I also spoke with Cornwall’s centre Jake Murphy and asked him if he had recovered from the weekend. “It’s still a little blurry to be honest,” he said with a huge grin. “Rugby-wise it was fantastic. Second time round, I think I felt the pressure more this time, the expectation was even higher than last year, but to go out there and put that performance on after we stuttered a little in our pool games, shows the quality of the squad we have. The pressure was on us, we brought in some quality players like Tom Cowan-Dickie and Sam Matavesi, and the public expectations went sky-high. That pressure did get to us in the pool games I am sure, but we saved the best for the final.”
Photo: Jake Murphy looks to get away
Jake also acknowledged that the side couldn’t have hoped for a better start: “We couldn’t have hoped more for that start, it was just what we wanted, Sheppy’s little run, which he’s being doing all season with Albion, and then Billy knows his way to the try-line for a fantastic try.”
Jake was also full of praise for the Cornish fans: “There aren’t enough superlatives to describe our great fans, they help us put that pride in the shirt, and without them the county game would struggle when you run out in front of the black and gold. You really want to fight for the shirt. They are crazy, but we love them for what they are. They played their part especially in that opening game at Redruth against Gloucestershire. Without them I am not sure we would have done it. It doesn’t go unnoticed. The boys mention the support a lot on the bus and when we meet up. Walking out at Twickenham to see the black and gold and hear them lifts you hugely!”
Asked about going for a hat-trick of wins, Jake smiled: “Well that has to be the next goal and I have no doubt that Graham Dawe’s thoughts have already turned to that prospect! I think for us it will be good to let it sink in and reflect. I don’t think the lads really appreciate yet just what they have achieved, back-to-back wins is a first for Cornwall. Competition for the squad is likely to be even fiercer next season, so we all be looking to play well for our clubs and hopefully get asked to join the squad in the New Year. I know I am up for it.”
I also managed to get a few words from Cornwall RFU President Ken Plummer, who was understandably proud as punch. He said: “It’s been fabulous to see everyone smiling and happy with Cornwall’s latest success and it’s the icing on the cake for what we have done over the past two years. This squad of players have been truly fantastic. They have put their all into this campaign and they have got their rewards. As a county we are absolutely delighted.”
Kenny spoke to World Rugby President Bill Beaumont on Sunday, and he told him that the Championship belonged to Cornwall as they were keeping the tournament going: “The RFU are always delighted when we get to the final and bring our support to Twickenham. There are a lot of counties who want to aspire to what we are doing and that can only be good for the Championship.”
Photo: CRFU President Ken Plummer
I asked him about the group this year and how hard it had been: “Difficult, difficult. Hertfordshire are no fools and they know how to win rugby games especially at home, so that was a crucial victory. Gloucestershire at Redruth, we were slow starters that day and we did stutter, no question, but we pulled it out of the bag and that showed the character of our lads. We saved the best until last, we played by far our best game. Our defence was awesome and our attack, well to win by 35-13 and score four tries was unbelievable. I believe this squad of players can go from strength to strength. All we need for them now is a Stadium for Cornwall, we need a top class facility for these boys to play in!”
Kenny feels passionately that the Stadium for Cornwall will benefit all levels of the game in Cornwall: “I think the long-term objective is for the Cornish Pirates to play in the Premiership, and for us to win a Championship playing in the best stadium in the West Country, and I hope that comes to fruition in the not too distant future.”
Photo: Graham Dawe with the Cup
At the end of the evening I caught Graham Dawe’s eye. I said to him: “Going for a hat-trick Graham?” With a glint in eye and a wry old smile he replied, “There’s going to be that expectation and the pressure that goes with it.” Somehow, I feel it’s a challenge that he relishes deep down!
Photos by Simon Bryant Iktis photo, words Bill Hooper
Cornwall deservedly retained the Bill Beaumont Cup, adding a fifth county title to their palmarès with a 35-13 win against Cheshire at Twickenham.
The black and golds scored four tries through Billy Searle, Sam Matavesi, Herbie Stupple and Matt Shepherd, with Shepherd kicking fifteen points (three conversions and three penalties) for a personal tally of twenty points, as he enjoyed another stellar day on the hallowed turf. All Cornwall’s points were scored by Plymouth Albion players, but the cream was defiantly on top by the end of this encounter!
For scrum-half Greg Goodfellow, Cornwall’s favourite Scotsman, it was the fitting finale to his Cornwall career he had wished for, following the disappointments of missing out last season
Head coach Graham Dawe was thrilled to have retained the Bill Beaumont Cup and make a little bit of Cornish sporting history. He said: “It’s a special day for Cornish rugby. We were calculated and organised today which I think was the difference between the two sides.
“To win this competition two years in a row is fantastic and our team showed how good they are this afternoon. We came up against a very tough Cheshire side. We were very impressed by the quality of their players.
“This means a lot to the many supporters who are here and to all involved in Cornish rugby.”
Photo: Billy Searle scores Cornwall’s opening try
Cornwall got off to a blistering start with Billy Searle, as his fellow Albion team-mates Jake Murphy and Shepherd combined to put the young Bristol bound fly-half away. Shepherd added the extras, and the first strains of ‘Olé, Olé, Olé, Cornwall!’ could be heard around the steeple terraces of English rugby’s HQ.
Cornwall kept the pressure on Cheshire, forcing a succession of kicks to the corner, from which the pressure told, with none other than Sam Matavesi powering over for an unconverted try: with barely ten minutes on the clock, the Falmouth Marine Band were in full cry!
Photo: Sam Matavesi on the charge
Cheshire needed a score and they got it on the 20 minute mark, as fly-half Jack Lavin slotted a penalty.
It was just the fillip Cheshire needed. They began to turn the screw kicking to the corner and being held up near the Cornish line. They were not to be denied, as hooker Paul Millea drove over with Lavin adding the extras, to trail by just two points.
Cornwall began to make use of the rolling subs on the half hour mark as Lewis Webb and Damien Cook replaced Goodfellow and Tony Whittle.
Shepherd steadied Cornish nerves with a couple of penalties as Cheshire lost a player to the sin-bin. Cornwall went close to another score before the break but turned around with a useful 18-10 lead.
Photo: Another consummate performance from Matt Shepherd, with 20 points
Cheshire began the second half strongly, with Lavin kicking a penalty, and being unlucky not to cut the gap to two points as a long-range effort clipped the bottom of the bar.
Cornwall then got the decisive third try. Strong running from winger Robin Wedlake saw the Albion speedster tackled close to the Cheshire line. Prop Christian Judge, making his first appearance for Cornwall this season off the bench, was halted before the ball came to No.8 Herbie Stupple, who scored with some force. Shepherd’s conversion stretched Cornwall’s lead to 25-13 as the singing intensified.
Photo: Robin Wedlake in full flight
Goodfellow returned to the fray as the clock ran down.
Sam Parsons thought he had scored, but was called back by referee Lehay for an earlier Cornish infringement. With the decibels rising, the icing on the Cornish ‘Heavy Cake’ was provided by Shepherd, who scored and converted Cornwall’s final try, to create a little bit of Cornish sporting history with the first ever back-to-back titles.
The final whistle brought great scenes of Cornish joy, with ‘Trelawny’ once again resounding around the home of English rugby!
Cornwall (Plymouth Albion unless stated): M Shepherd, L Vinnicombe (Redruth), J , Webber (Redruth), R Wedlake, B Searle, G Goodfellow (Chinnor); T Cowan-Dickie (Redruth), R Freestone, C Williams (Redruth), B Hilton (Cornish All Blacks), T Whittle (Camborne), K Marriott (Redruth, capt), S Matavesi, H Stupple.
Replacements: L Webb (Taunton) for Goodfellow 30, D Cook (Camborne) for Whittle 30, S Parsons (Redruth) for Webber 45, C Judge for Williams 45, R Brown (Redruth) for Cowan-Dickie 49, C Fuca (Redruth) for Stupple 52, J Dawe for Vinnicombe 72, Goodfellow for Webb 72, Stupple for Marriott 73, Hilton for Cook 74, Webber for Murphy 79.
Cheshire: C Venables (Macclesfield), J Leech (Sandbach), F Edward (Caldy), R Hayes (Chester), A Baker (Wirral), J Lavin (Caldy), J Murray (Wirral); G Woods (Chester), P Millea (Macclesfield), E Millar-Mills (Macclesfield), D Marwick (Macclesfield, capt), T Sanders (Caldy), N Davidson (Caldy), H Broadbent (Rosslyn Park), R Parkinson (Macclesfield).
Replacements (used): C Roddy (Stourbridge) for Broadbent 34, M Craven (Chester) for Roddy ht, N Rushton (Caldy) for Woods 51, B Jones (Caldy) for Murray 51, T Oakes (Sandbach) for Millea 66, N Pearson (Sheffield Tigers) for Parkinson 66.
Bill Hooper reports from Camborne, photos by Simon Bryant Iktisphoto
Cornwall completed their preparations for Twickenham with their final training session last night (Thursday 26th May) at Camborne RFC.
Prior to training, it was the usual pre-Twickenham media scrum with BBC Spotlight, Radio Cornwall, Pirate FM and the written press all seeking that quote from the coaches and players!
It was good to see Josh Matavesi, Joel Matavesi and Pale Nonu there helping Cornwall last night: the motto “One & All” was so true!
Photo: Dawe seeks to write a little bit of history with Cornwall
I managed to get a few words with Graham Dawe and asked him for his thoughts going into Sunday. He said: “Well I am really looking forward to it. Cornwall are probably going there as favourites but Cheshire are an unknown quantity. They appear to play an unorthodox, quick game of rugby and give it a fair old go, not too structured. I imagine they have got some good players, having won their three games in the Northern group.”
Having studied Cheshire on the DVD, I asked him if he was confident Cornwall had the game to undo their opponents: “Well, I am not sure,” he joked, “that’s down to our players. If Cornwall are going to win back-to-back titles they have to do it with this team, because it is a well-balanced, magical side. But who knows, it will come down to decisions from the referee, kicks at goal and maybe a couple of powerful mauls, it will come down to a moment when the game changes, just like last Saturday against Surrey: we spoilt their lineout 10 metres from our line and went up-field to score and then go on to win the game what appears comfortably, five tries to one, but it was anything but comfortable.
I asked Graham if he was happier that his side appeared to concede fewer penalties against Surrey than in the previous two games: “It was lower but it was still too high for my liking. I think we gave away two penalties in a row three times last Saturday. You never get any momentum that way. It’s still an imbalance which we are putting down to over-enthusiasm.
I asked him if he had any worries about the noon kick-off: “Well you can get some hot days at this time of the year, but the boys are used to this now. The main thing is to get up in the morning and get their mindset right.”
Would the noon kick-off effect the planning of the rolling-subs? “Not really, the replacements are gut feelings watching the game unfurl, if players look to be falling off the pace then they get pulled.”
Ian Morgan pretty much echoed what Graham said: “It’s going to be tough. We respect Cheshire. Any side that beats Lancashire and wins all three games are proven quality. We have just got to focus on ourselves and do things right.
Photo: Ian Morgan looking for a big performance
“We’ve seen the DVD of their win against Lancashire, but you can’t get too much from that due to the conditions the game was played in. We’ve got to be better than we have in the past three weeks, despite winning. We still are looking for that big performance. Hopefully, we will up our game. The support of Trelawny’s Army will play a big role.”
For Cornwall’s scrum-half Greg Goodfellow, Sunday will be his final game for Cornwall and Cornwall’s favourite Scotsman will want to finish his Cornwall career with a winner’s medal, having missed out last season: “It’s great to be going back there with Cornwall. It was my goal to get back there with Cornwall. Firstly I had to make the squad and get back in the team. I’ve done that. Now I have got to play my part within the squad to get that win. I’ve tasted defeat twice here. Last year I had to watch the boys celebrate their win which was tough to take, but we have got an opportunity to do something special here and retain the Cup. What better way to bow out?
Photo: Greg Goodfellow seeks that Chamionship win to cap County career
“My principal job is to link, but if the opportunity arises I will look for that gap and hopefully take it with the support flooding in behind, to get us on the front foot.”
Asked if he knew much about Cheshire he said: “A couple of my team mates from Chinnor played against Cheshire for Eastern Counties and they gave me a detailed account of their structure of play. They are a hard working team. I think the fact that we have been here before may well help us. Twickenham is a lot to take in on the day. We will have our hands full but we are ready for it.”
I had a quick word also with Sam Matavesi: “I am buzzing, really excited about going. Everyone is here early tonight. We can’t wait to get on with it.”
Photo: Matavesi, a long wait to get back with Cornwall
Sam was involved with Cornwall in 2013, playing the first two games against Gloucestershire and Kent before being involved with Fiji so he is keen to get back to Twickenham and taste the experience with Cornwall: “I’ve been waiting to get back with Cornwall so I could get to Twickenham with the boys. Being with Albion in the Championship prevented me from that so this is a big opportunity for me.”
Photo, by Simon Bryant: Camborne parade three of their new signings Leigh Hocking (middle), Brad Howe & Joel Matavesi
Despite his preoccupation with Cornwall’s County Championship campaign, Camborne’s new Director of Rugby Ian Morgan has wasted little time in adding to his squad for next season’s National League 3 SW campaign, reports Bill Hooper from the Recreation Ground.
The Cherry and Whites announced last Wednesday, 18th May, the arrival of five new signing for next season, although three are faces already familiar at the Recreation Ground.
Utility back Joel Matavesi returns to his former club after a season in West Wales with the Ospreys. Cornish Pirates Player Development Foundation player Tommy-Lee Southworth, capable of playing at either prop or hooker, returns for a second season at the Rec, whilst prop Leigh Hocking makes a welcome return to rugby following a serious injury that has kept him sidelined for the best part of eighteen months.
The two other players to put pen to paper are: former Cornish Pirates PDF player back rower Brad Howe, who has spent the past two seasons playing at Redruth, where he picked up the prestigious Roy Jennings Cup for the most improved player at the club’s end of season awards ceremony held recently; and winger Tu Roko Kurusasa, a player with a superb 7’s and Rugby League pedigree. Kurusasa has represented the Royal Navy in League playing against New Zealand, Australia, Estonia and the RAF. He’s also played in the successful Capio Eggs 7’s squad where he was coached by Morgan, playing alongside Camborne’s Richie Kevern and Taron Peacock.
The youngest of the three Matavesi brothers, Joel, feels that he is returning to Camborne at just the right time: “I think it’s an exciting time for the club that’s clearly going in the right direction and with the squad we are building I feel we could possibly push on again. There is a huge buzz at the club we are all looking forward to pre-season and getting into the side.”
For Brad Howe, the promise of playing in the back row at Camborne was the incentive he needed to sign for the Cherry and Whites: “When I spoke with Ian Morgan I was excited by the prospects at Camborne. Ian wants to use me in my preferred role in the back row and that’s where I really want to play. It was difficult to get into the Redruth back row with the high calibre of players they had there and I feel now that I really need to develop my game in that position to be able to improve as a player.”
Ian Morgan feels that his new signings will strengthen his options going into the new league campaign, which they will open at home against Cleve: “I think these are excellent signings that complement the squad already in place, three of the boys are Camborne lads so they will feel right at home.
“Tommy-Lee is a fine prospect he has the ability to play right across the front row and that is a key asset for us over a long hard season.
“Brad Howe is a player I’ve had my eye on for a while, he’s had limited opportunities at Redruth playing in the back row and he really wants to play there and I am looking forward to seeing him in action for us.
“Joel Matavesi will need no introduction. He knows the club through and through, he’s obtained good experience with the Ospreys and at Neath and that will hopefully rub off on the boys here.”
When asked about any further additions to the squad Morgan replied: “Potentially one more player, probably in the backs, I am happy with the squad I have here now. It’s a good young squad with a lot of talent and experience. It can be counter-productive to tinker too much with a squad.”
Games between Cornwall and Cheshire don’t come round that often: according to the records, this is only the sixth meeting between the two counties.
Cornwall lead 4-1, but that sole Cheshire win came in 1998 at the Tetley’s Bitter County Championship final on the 18th April, when the Northern side won 21-14.
Cornwall’s points that day were scored by Eddie Nancekivell , who came off the bench, with a try, and Danny Sloman’s three penalties.
Cornwall’s other wins were 20-3 in a friendly at Redruth in 1981, 20-0 at New Brighton in 1983 and 9-6 again at Redruth, the last two games were in the Thorn EMI County Championship group stages.
It was a bitterly disappointing finale in 1998 to Dean Shipton’s Cornwall campaign, and for Tony Cook who made his 102nd and final appearance for Cornwall that day. Defeat drove Shipton and the rest of the Cornish lads on to greater things the following season, when they made up for that defeat with a win against Gloucestershire in the final 24-15.
In the semi-final at Redruth, played on the 8th of May, Cornwall played their conquerors from the previous season in front of a packed Recreation Ground. Cornwall turned the tables, winning 35-16 and scoring five tries, with four scored by Penzance & Newlyn players Nat Saumi, Kevin Moseley, Jason Atkinson and Lee Mruk. Exeter’s Colin Laity scored the other try, with Redruth’s Steve Larkins adding a conversion and two penalties, whilst Saumi also added a conversion.
1998 Twickenham teams
Cornwall (Launceston unless stated): D Sloman, R Thirlby (Redruth), J Tucker, K Thomas (Truro), R Newton (Redruth), S Whitworth (Redruth), C Whitworth (Redruth); P Risdon, B Lucas, S Rush, G Hutchings, T Cook (Hayle), J Willcocks, M Addinall (Penryn), D Shipton (Capt).
Replacements: R Nancekivell, E Nancekivell, J Atkinson (St. Ives), L Murk (Penzance & Newlyn), R Tonkin, N Douch (Redruth).
Cornwall scores: Try E Nancekivell, Penalties, Sloman (3)
Cheshire: S Swindells (Manchester), M Blood (Manchester), C Ball (Widnes), R Hughes (New Brighton), M Hoskin (Manchester), A Guest (New Brighton), N Briers (London Irish); M Dorrington (New Brighton), L Hewson (Manchester), M Hill (Widnes), D Craddock (Manchester), M Kirke (Macclesfield), G Jones (New Brighton), K Brookman (New Brighton, Capt), S Beeley (Widnes).
Replacements: A Yates (Lymm), S Dorrington (New Brighton), T Wasdell (Chester), S Wright (New Brighton), M King (Widnes), I Kennedy (New Brighton).