Photos – by Simon Bryant Top Darren Jacques, middle skipper Ben Hilton, bottom Cornwall coach Dave “Benji” Thomas
By Bill Hooper from the pitch side at Twickenham
At the end of a fantastic game of rugby and following the players receiving their medals from Bill Beaumont, I managed to catch up with Cornwall’s head coach Dave “Benji” Thomas and some of the players for their take on the day.
Despite losing once again against a very good Lancashire side, Benji wanted to look at the positive moments from the day. “Yes I am gutted to have lost, but I am really gutted for all the fantastic support that Cornwall had here this afternoon. It was phenomenal to see the number of Cornish people in the stands and all the messages of support we had from all over Cornwall and all over the country from expatriate Cornish men and women wishing us the best of luck.”
“The boys gave it 120% but today it just wasn’t quite enough. The Lancashire boys play in higher leagues than most of our players and I think that showed in much of what happened today. We made a mistake and they capitalised and scored points either with the boot or tries. You can’t afford to make those mistakes and they immediately profit from it.”
“I thought our forwards played really well, we out-scrummaged them our mauls worked really well. Sam Hocking had a fantastic game for us as he has all the way through the campaign, but all the players have stepped up, I think we have again raised the bar of county rugby and it augers well for next season.
Despite the fact that the Cornwall scrum was in the ascendancy throughout “Benji” was perplexed by the referee’s interpretation especially during the first half. “We didn’t get any favours there despite being the dominate scrum, we could have had a number of penalties as we destroyed their scrum, instead he penalises us! Then in the second half he gave us the penalty-try!”
When reflecting on his time as county coach stretching on and off back to 1975. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it working with some exceptional players finishing off with the great squad of players we had here today.”
“However, I will be continuing working with the development of younger players, so hopefully I will unearth a few more gems for Cornwall yet!”
Cornwall’s skipper Ben Hilton couldn’t hide his disappointment having collected his runners-up medal from the RFU president’s box.
“I am very disappointed. A great occasion, a great performance to a degree. All for the bounce of the ball or an off-load we would have been right there. Right now the disappointment is very raw, I am running through in my mind all the decisions in the game and asking myself did we do the right thing. Naturally I am devastated for our marvellous supporters who have made a great effort to come here today to support us. If anyone needed a win it was us today without them we would never have got here.”
Hilton was also perplexed by some of the referee’s interpretations. “I kept asking him for his reasons, but all kept saying was that we were not doing things for him in the right way! I think it was very clear to the spectators what was going on. On another day we would have got those key scores.
Also Hilton agreed that Cornwall hadn’t helped themselves by allowing Lancashire to pick up scores as Cornwall had themselves scored points. “That was a big problem we got a little over zealous in our 22 making breaks and trying to finish off in first phase very risky in a final. The ball goes loose and we are in trouble.”
Did he hoped to return to Twickenham with Cornwall. “I hope so I will do everything I can to come back and win this.”
Redruth’s Darren Jacques was disappointed with the final result but full of praise for the fantastic Cornish support.
“We knew we were strong up front and they looked to match us, they tackled well and counter-rucked well but it seemed every time we made a mistake their backs capitalised on it. They had some very sharp operators in their back-line fair play to them.”
“It’s very disappointing, we wanted to do it for the fantastic support, all the boys did. The Cornish support has been terrific all the way through the championship.”
“I was disappointed with the way the ref penalised us in the scrums during the first half. He pinged me twice for scrummaging when we were the dominant scrum and turned the ball over on their put in! They take their prop off as they are struggling and then at the next scrum he gives us a penalty because they can’t take the pressure. I thought the referee did a good a job but at times they are baffling!
“I don’t want to take anything away from Lancashire because they did play some fine rugby.”
“That second half performance from us was based on our team spirit. I’ve never played in front of such a great crowd as today.”
“I am looking forward to going on tour to Belgium with England Counties. I’ve got into the side thanks to the performances of the Cornwall squad so I am very thankful to all the boys.” Darren will be joined on the tour by Cornwall skipper Ben Hilton and centre Nielson Webber.
“I do feel I still have some unfinished business after today’s result, but whether I can commit to a full county program after a long hard league season I am not sure, I have got a young family and need to spend time with them, but if Cornwall need a prop for a one off game I will not let Cornwall down.”