Tenacious Cornwall battle to last gasp win



By Bill Hooper at the Recreation Ground, photos by Simon Bryant Iktisphoto

Cornwall staged a late comeback to snatch a win with the final play of the game thanks to a try from hooker Rupert Freestone following a powerful maul from the Cornish forwards roared on by the partisan Cornish crowd.

Photo: Cornwall’s head coach Graham Dawe with much to ponder prior to Herts

Head coach Graham Dawe was relieved his side had won, but they made hard work of it: “We made far too many errors for my liking, especially during the first half, but we went back to basics and in the end it was the scrum and the maul that got us through. I am not sure who stood the ball up, whether it was Ben Hilton or Damien Cook, but between them they did. It may not have been pretty but it did the job.”

Dawe was pleased with the impact of his bench: “Goodfellow backed himself for his try and that paid off. I thought Cook and Vinnicombe also showed their experience when they came on.”

On Goodfellow’s try, Dawe felt his replacement had taken the wrong option: “His decision to go from 75 metres out was flamboyant, it’s not a call I would of made, but once he’s made the call he had to score! It will give me and the selectors food for thought for next week. We shall see who gets the nod. Both Greg and Matt Shepherd are great scrum-halves. It’s good to have them both in the squad.”

Cornwall took an early lead with a couple of Matt Shepherd penalties but Gloucestershire had shown their willingness to run the ball, so it was no surprise that they stormed back with a fine try from Sam Hanks converted by Leo Fielding.

Photo: Matt Shepherd moved to full back when Goodfellow came on

Cornwall retook the lead with an unconverted try through flanker Sam Matavesi from a catch-and-drive, to lead 11-7 at half-time. The Fijian international, who always revels playing for Cornwall, went on to have an outstanding game for the Black and Gold.

Gloucestershire made a great start to the second half when Sam Baker scored their second try, with Fielding once again adding the extras before kicking a couple of penalties, and setting nerves jangling in the Cornish crowd.

Cornwall needed the next score and they got it, as Matavesi bagged his second try after great work from skipper Kyle Marriott. Shepherd added the extras to cut the deficit to just two points.

The coaches rang the changes for Cornwall, with both Greg Goodfellow and Lewis Vinnicombe arriving to sharpen up the attacking options, whilst Damien Cook came on in the pack looking to write another page in his family’s glorious participation in the county championship with Cornwall.

Roared on by the sizeable Cornish crowd, the introduction of Goodfellow galvanised Cornwall. The scrum-half made the first of his trademark breaks to set up great field position for Cornwall, from which Shepherd kicked a penalty.

Photo: Cornwall skipper Kyle Marriott and hooker Rupert Freestone

Then he made a break from his own twenty-two, trading passes with Vinnicombe to score Cornwall’s third, try to huge cheers from the clamouring fans. Shepherd just missed the conversion, which looked to be crucial as Gloucestershire worked a good field position, and from their own catch-and-drive the ball was moved to the narrow side for Chris Rovery to score in the corner. Fielding added the extras, and Gloucestershire were ahead with time almost up.

Cornwall threw the kitchen sink into one final effort: forwards and backs were all involved, but with a penalty coming Cornwall mauled for the line, with Freestone getting the vital bonus point try and Shepherd converting with the final kick of the game to send the fans into delirium!

Cornwall (Redruth unless stated): J Murphy (Plymouth Albion), J Dawe (Albion), S Parsons, N Webber, R Wedlake (Albion), L Webb (Taunton), M Shepherd; T Cowan-Dickie, R Freestone (Albion), C Williams, B Hilton (Cornish All Blacks), T Whittle (Camborne), K Marriott (capt), S Matavesi (Albion), H Stupple (Albion).

Replacements: L Vinnicombe for Dawe (49), D Cook (Camborne) for Hilton (49), G Goodfellow (Chinnor) for Webber (52), BJ Chapman (Taunton) for Whittle (75), R Brown for Cowan-Dickie (79), Hilton for Chapman (81)

Replacements (not used): C Fuca, R Mankee

Cornwall scores: Tries, Matavesi (2), Goodfellow, Freestone, Conversions, Shepherd (2), Penalties, Shepherd (3)

Gloucestershire (Cinderford unless stated): M Wilcox (capt), R Goatley (Newent), S Hanks, L Fielding (Blackheath), S Baker, L Hemming (Old Centralians), J Dean (Newent); S Fritchley (Old Centralians), S Wilkes (Stourbridge), J Spencer (Hartpury), P Buxton (un-attached), J Robson (Dursley), J Rovery (Lydney), M Brown, M Lane

Replacements: J Rafter (Hartpury) for Fritchley (30), T Jerrum (Lydney) for Buxton (30), D Broady for Brown (41), J Lloyd (Dings) for Spencer (52), Buxton for Jerrum (60), Fritchley for Rafter (59), Jerrum for Hanks (69), Rafter for Fritchley (69)

Replacements (not used): R Webb (Newent), J Carolan (Loughborough Uni)

Gloucestershire scores: Tries, Hanks, Baker, Rovery, Cons, Fielding (3).

Yellow Card: Robson (67)

Referee: Calum Howard (RFU)

Crowd: 1,850

Cornwall-man-of-the-match: Greg Goodfellow, scored a great try and sparked Cornwall into life; he was the catalyst of the great escape.

Posted in Bill's Blog

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