JASON LEONARD CUP
UNDER 20 COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI – FINAL
CORNWALL 9 – 8 CHESHIRE (HT 0-5)
By Bill Hooper, at the Recreation Ground, Camborne
A cool head from Cornwall’s fly-half James Tucker kicked Cornwall into their first final at this level since 2002.
Cornwall trailed for almost the entire game until Tucker’s third penalty sailed through the posts on 76 minutes as Cheshire paid a heavy price for their indiscipline, which saw them briefly playing with just thirteen men.
Cornwall believed in their game and stuck rigorously to it in a battle between two evenly matched sides.
The game was played in a strong wind with blustery showers. Cornwall kicked off playing up the slope first half and promptly camped themselves in the Cheshire twenty-two for the best part of the first quarter.
The Cornish forwards got very close to an opening try but the Cheshire defence was good. Typically Cheshire scored with their first meaningful excursion into the Cornish twenty-two, good hands from prop Jake Percival put his skipper Harry Blackwell in for a try on 18 minutes.
Both sides went at each other like hammer and tong with tackles flying in. For Cornwall the centre partnership of Declan Matthews and Jake Penprase looked lively, whilst winger Shae Cornish put in some strong runs.
In the forwards Jack Hodge, Rikki Bentham, skipper Torin Clarke, Will Gibson and big Ollie Andrews got through a lot of work, whilst locks Dan Goldsmith and Dan Reed won plenty of good line out ball.
Cheshire had a shot at goal approaching half-time but full back Dave Morley’s effort stayed wide at it remained 5-0 to Cheshire at the break.
Cheshire made a good start to the second half with hooker Simon Ridgeway putting in a storming run up to the Cornwall twenty-two.
Tucker missed with three touch kicks as the clock ticked by and Cornwall failed to make inroads.
After good play from Andrews and Matthews Cornwall were awarded a penalty that Tucker kicked on 58 minutes, but that was immediately cancelled out as the black and golds conceded a penalty from the re-start that fly-half Josh Morris just put enough on to land the kick.
Cheshire then suffered the first of their yellow cards that led to Tucker kicking his second penalty on 64 minutes.
Excitement rose in the crowd as they got behind the Cornish side trying to lift them for a final effort, from a penalty kicked to twenty-two by full back Ethan Tyler, Cornwall drove forward earning another penalty and Cheshire a second yellow card. Up stepped Tucker to plant the ball between the sticks as cool as a cucumber.
The crowd went berserk and cheered the boys on, Cornwall saw out the rest of the game and when the ball went dead the referee blew the final whistle to queue scenes of great excitement.
After the game Cornwall’s skipper Torin Clarke spoke of his delight in getting to Twickenham. “I am so proud of the boys they put in a huge effort today and we’ve got our reward.
“We started well and put in a huge effort early on, we wanted to impose our game on them, so it was very frustrating to come away with nothing after so much effort, but in the second half we were patient and took the chances when they came.
“We will re-group now and plan for Twickenham and go up there and give it our best shot.”
Cornwall will meet old foes Yorkshire in the final on May 6th, they overcame Hertfordshire 77-24 at Doncaster.
Cornwall U.20: E Tyler (Penryn), S Cornish (Penzance & Newlyn Colts), Jake Penprase (Bath Uni), D Matthews (Camborne), D Hubble (Falmouth), J Tucker (Redruth), N Nash (Brixham); R Bentham, H Lightfoot (both Launceston), J Hodge (Redruth), D Goldsmith (Launceston),D Reed (Wadebridge Camels), T Clarke (Launceston, Capt), W Gibson (Penryn & Cardiff Met), O Andrews (Falmouth)
Replacements: Q Cross (Wadebridge Camels), C Jenkins (Launceston), L Barnes (Camborne), A Brassington (Redruth), R Edwards (Launceston), C Boyce (St. Austell), T Osborne (Swansea Uni).
Cornwall scores: Pens Tucker (3)
Cheshire U.20: D Morley (Chester Uni), H Blackwell (Macclesfield, Capt), L Titherington (Birkenhead Park), J Marston (Chester Uni), H Richardson (Stoke), J Morris (Chester), J Smethurst (Caldy); J Percival (Morley), S Ridgeway (Macclesfield), M Hand (Lymm), T Phillips (Macclesfield), P Weller (Caldy), S Nield (Alt Kersal), L Eldridge (Chester), D Frey (Manchester Met).
Replacements: W Hirstwood (Stockport), J Evans (Wilmslow), L Cox (Trafford MV), H Lewis (Manchester), M Peakman (Macclesfield), R Canhom (Trafford MV), W Titherington (Birkenhead Park).
Cheshire scores: Try, Blackwell, Pen, Morris
Referee: I Kiy (Dorset & Wilts RRS)