Report by Bill Hooper at Twickenham Stadium, photos Simon Bryant Iktis photo
Cornwall were crowned County Champions for only the fourth time following a nail-biting finale that had Trelwany’s Army on the edge of their seats, nervously watching the clock.
For Cornwall it was their first win against Lancashire in a county final at the fifth attempt following their defeats in 1969,1992, 2013 and 2014.
When play was stopped with just 4 seconds to play and Lancashire having to play from their own half it began to dawn that the long wait might just be over.
Credit to the boys of the red rose who gave their all but when the ball was lost forward that signalled the scenes of wild joy both on and off the pitch as Cornwall celebrated a famous win.
Tears rolled down the cheeks of grown men, notably retiring Cornwall Team Secretary Ewart White who ended his tenure in his role with the win, his hard work over 20 years richly deserved.
A moment of satisfaction too for Cornwall’s head coach Graham Dawe, having won with Cornwall as a player in 1991, he was now steering the side to success in 2015.
True he had done the same with Devon, but this was the sweeter by far.
Photo – Matt Shepherd darts in for Cornwall’s opening try with Chris Fuca celebrating
Speaking post match in the Twickenham player’s tunnel he said: “It’s been a long time since our last win in 99 but I think today you saw the culmination of what we have been working for. We were under a bit pressure there near the end, we lost Billy (Searle) to a yellow card, it could of cost us, but the boys out there knuckled down and denied Lancashire with some great defence, but the lad again showed great maturity kicking that penalty that put us 18-6 up with about 16 minutes to go.
“I think Tony Whittle’s hit on their receiver from the kick-off really set the tone and then Matt Shepherd’s first try settled the team down. We were in control of the game from then on. I would have preferred if we could have got more than two scores ahead and to be fair we had opportunities, but didn’t take them, which made it tough for us going into the closing stages.”
Cornwall kicked off playing towards the SW corner of the ground and Whittle’s hit on the Lancashire receiver caused confusion that led to an immediate penalty opportunity for Matt Shepherd, but his effort sailed wide of the posts.
However, he was on hand moments later when from a ruck some 30 meters out he spotted a gap and darted towards the line, stepping two players before dotting down under the posts for a great try that got the crowd going and then adding the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Lancashire stormed back getting a penalty when prop Rupert Freestone was pinged for not releasing. Lancashire kicked for the corner and set up a maul. Cornwall were caught off-side in mid-field allowing fly-half Steve Collins a simple kick to reduce the arrears.
Photo – Cornish warriors skipper Kyle Marriott & lock Damien Cook
Nielson Webber put in a storming run taking Cornwall into the Lancashire half and when Searle was high tackled, Shepherd had another opportunity to nudge Cornwall further ahead but, again his kick sailed past the upright.
Craig Williams and Whittle went close before Lancashire got some territory forcing Cornwall to concede a penalty that saw lock Ben Hilton dispatched to the cooler for 10 minutes.
Cornwall brought on Damien Cook to bolster the second row whilst centre Webber packed down in the back row at scrum time.
Chris Johnson, on as a replacement for Collins, kicked the penalty for Lancashire to make it 7-6.
Searle was again the victim of a poor tackle which saw Lancashire’s centre Chris Briers see yellow just before the end of the first half, Shepherd took on the posts and this time his kicked sailed right between the sticks to leave Cornwall 10-6 up at the half-time break.
Both sides stayed out on the pitch during the interval.
Cornwall again started the half with a high tempo, forcing a penalty in the 22. Searle kicked to the corner as Cornwall looked to set up a maul; instead, Fuca flicked the ball to Shepherd who saw another gap and was through on the line to score his and Cornwall’s second try.
The conversion sailed wide again in the swirling wind.
Lancashire, as you would expect, looked for a way back but Cornwall held firm with some great tackling from winger Jon Dawe, centre Jake Murphy and hooker Jamie Salter.
Cornwall got another penalty with just 16 minutes to go to the right of the posts. Searle took charge had knocked the ball clean through the uprights for an 18-6 lead as Trelawny’s Army was in full cry!
Photo – Shepherd after scoring his second with BJ Chapman celebrating
Lancashire certainly still poised a big threat, especially though winger Anthony Bingham, whilst veteran lock Paul Arnold was going to enjoy himself in his last game for the red rose.
Oli Brennand, on as a replacement, showed his class as he almost jinked towards the try-line and then Shepherd turned saviour as he cleared up a Lancashire lineout 5 meters out from the Cornwall line.
Searle found himself in the sin bin having kicked the ball away by referee James Sullivan. Lancashire got some good field position and from the pick and go near the Cornish line skipper, Evan Stewart got the try and Johnson the conversion to make the score-line 18-13.
Photo – Graham Dawe, Kyle Marriott & Matt Shepherd with the Bill Beaumont Cup
The red rose launched a huge assault on the Cornwall line but again Shepherd ripped the ball out of a maul to clear the danger.
The final minutes were nerve jangling but as Lancashire knocked on and the clock had gone dead, the Cornish party at Twickenham began in all it’s black and gold splendour.
Cornwall 18 pts
Tries – Shepherd (2), Penalties – Shepherd, Searle, Conversion – Shepherd
Yellow Cards – Hilton (26), Searle (74)
Lancashire 13 pts
Try- Stewart, Penalties – Collins, Johnson, Conversion – Johnson
Yellow Card – Briers (36)
Cornwall: B Searle, J Dawe, J Murphy (all Cornish All Blacks), N Webber, R Wedlake (both Redruth), L Webb (Taunton), M Shepherd (Cornish All Blacks); R Freestone (Clifton), J Salter (Cornish All Blacks), C Williams (Redruth), T Whittle (Camborne), B Hilton (Cornish All Blacks), C Fuca (Redruth), G Jones (Penryn), K Marriott (Redruth, capt)
Replacements (used): C Judge (Cornish All Blacks), D Cook (Redruth), J Goldsworthy, D Mankee (both Camborne), S Parsons (Redruth), BJ Chapman (Cornish All Blacks)
Replacement (not used): T Phillips (Redruth)
Lancashire: W Spragg, J Dorrington, C Briers, S Rawlings (all Fylde), A Bingham (Rossendale), S Collins (Sedgley Park), R De La Harpe (Fylde); B Black (Sedgley Park), A Loney, A Lewis (both Fylde), J Nugent (Bergerac), G Rawlings, E Stewart (both Fylde, capt), S McGinnis (Loughborough Students), M Lamprey (Sedgley Park)
Replacements (all used): L McGowan (Caldy), P Altham (Preston Grasshoppers), P Mills (Preston Grasshoppers), P Arnold, C Johnson, O Brennand (all Fylde), N Crosley (Hartpury Coll)
Referee: James Sullivan (RFU)
Men-of-the-match 22 black and gold heroes who played their hearts out for Cornwall each and everyone one of them merited the award.