By Bill Hooper, at the Recreation Ground, Redruth

Cornwall showed character and resilience to almost claw back an opening quarter disaster – which saw them leak three converted tries – before eventually going down to old foes Gloucestershire who will once again advance to Twickenham next Sunday to contest the final of the Bill Beaumont Cup against Lancashire in a repeat of last season’s final won by the men from the red rose county.

With the match seemingly lost so early on the main focus turned to damage limitation and with the news filtering through from Hertfordshire that Devon were on the wrong end of a heavy defeat Cornwall knew they had a chance to stave off relegation if they could narrow the margin of defeat.

In glorious conditions, but a bone hard pitch, Cornwall began brightly with an early penalty success from fly-half Ian Morgan after just 2 minutes. Play was held up for eight minutes when Gloucestershire flanker Jack Preece was stretchered off in a neck brace.

Upon resumption it was Gloucestershire who took charge with fly-half Tim Stevenson running the show. The Cinderford fly-half used the following wind to pin Cornwall back deep in their own 22 time and again. Cornwall didn’t help themselves with some less than average tackling allowing centre John Gadd to score after 14 minutes. Stevenson added the conversion as he did for his side’s next two scores. Gadd once again making the most of some poor tackling before full-back Martin Knight gathered his own chip ahead escaped the clutches of the Cornish defenders to go in unopposed at the posts. At 3-21 Cornwall had a mountain to climb and you wondered what the final score could be!

Morgan chipped away with a second penalty, but Gloucestershire hit-back with a fourth try following a great run from winger Chris Holder set up his fellow winger Nev Codlin in the Strawberry Lane corner. Stevenson missed the conversion but Cornwall were staring down the barrel at 6-26.

Cornwall were desperate for a score before half-time, it came thanks to some fine work from No. 8 Mark Bright – who gave another towering performance in adversity – the Redruth player breaking from the scrum and powering over near the posts. Josh Matavesi slotted the conversion to leave Cornwall trailing 13-26 at the break.

Cornwall needed an early score, but instead it was Gloucestershire who got it as Codlin collected his brace as he again profited from poor tacking to score in the Piggy Lane corner.

Spurred on by the news from Hertfordshire Cornwall suddenly came to life. Gloucestershire had a player sent to the bin as Holder was adjudged to have deliberately knocked-on. Bright grabbed his second try of the game, which Matavesi converted.
Cornwall looked full of running a fine move involving Pale Nonu, Owen Hambly and replacement Tom Notman set the alarm bells ringing in the Gloucestershire defence. Cornwall eventually found their way through again as Nonu finished off a fine move and with Paul Thirlby adding the conversion Cornwall were suddenly just four points adrift. That was as close as they were to get. Gloucestershire camped themselves deep into the Cornwall 22 in the final moments and were twice denied having driven over the Cornish line in Hell Fire corner.

With the news confirming Devon’s 53-21 loss against Hertfordshire Cornwall had done enough to save their skins for another season in the top tier of the Bill Beaumont Cup.

After the match Cornwall’s head coach “Benji” Thomas had mixed feelings about his side’s performance “We were awful in the first half” admitted bluntly Thomas. “It was the worst rugby I’ve seen a Cornwall team play for years. So many missed tackles, we never got the ball, couldn’t win any line-outs it was the worst I’ve seen from any Cornish team in a long time first half. We had a few strong words at half-time, and in the second half I thought they played really well, we could have won the game in the second half, another five minutes I think we could have done it.

“We played for territory, scored some nice tries, we made a lot of changes in the second half and everyone we put on the field really came up trumps.

Thomas was at a loss trying to put a finger on why Cornwall had stared so poorly. “I don’t know, we had a good pre-match sort-out you couldn’t put your finger on one reason why we started so badly, some of the tackles we missed were awful, you wouldn’t expect your U.13’s to miss tackles like that and they just exploited us completely. I thought their ten (Stevenson) ran the game really well for them, in the first-half his kicking to the corners took us apart and they had some good field positions from that to run the ball and score some tries.

“Second half I thought we played really, really well and deserved the points we put up and we could have snatched the game at the end.

One further piece of news is that Luke Collins, who this week signed to play for Redruth next season, has been selected for the England Counties side tour to Canada. The squad departs from London after the County Championship final next Sunday.

All the best in Canada Luke and fly the flag for Cornwall.

Cornwall 27 pts

Tries – Bright (2), Nonu, Conversions – Matavesi (2). P Thirlby, Penalties – Morgan (2)

Gloucestershire 31 pts

Tries – Gadd (2), Knight, Codlin (2), Conversions – Stevenson (3)

Yellow Card – Holder

Cornwall: J Matavesi (Exeter Chiefs), R Thirlby (Moseley), R Westren (Cornish All Blacks), P Nonu (Camborne), C Bonds (Redruth), I Morgan (St. Ives)., M Richards (Redruth, capt); D Jacques (Redruth), O Hambly (Redruth), A Morcom (Newquay Hornets), L Collins (Cornish Pirates), D Cook (Redruth), M Rawlings (Cornish All Blacks), T Rawlings (Cornish All Blacks), M Bright (Redruth)

Replacements (used): D Clackworthy (Hayle), B Hilton (Cornish All Blacks), J Lord (Cornish All Blacks), L Webb (Cornish All Blacks), P Thirlby (Redruth), T Notman (Camborne)

Replacement (not used): B Priddey (Redruth)

Gloucestershire: M Knight (Lydney), C Holder (Lydney), C Ashwin (Bristol), J Gadd (Bristol), N Codlin (Cinderford), T Stevenson (Cinderford), T Richardson (Stourbridge); T Brockett (Dings Crusaders), P Finkin (Newbury Blues, capt), C Meddick (Dings Crusaders), D Hodge (Newbury Blues), R Cadman (Hartpury Coll), D Williams (Gloucester), J Preece (Birmingham & Solihull), G Curry (Dings Crusaders)

Replacements (all used): D Trigg (Cinderford), O Stott (Dings Crusaders), S Plummer (Dings Crusaders), B Purbrook (Clifton), S Wilkes (Clifton), E King (Cinderford), M Brown (Cinderford)

Referee: Mr. L Apgeriant-Roberts (RFU)

Crowd: 753

Man-of-the-Match: Mark Bright (Cornwall)

Posted in Bill's Blog

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