By NIGEL WALROND, for the Western Morning News at Bath Road, Bridgewater

IF Cornwall fans thought it was bad enough getting relegated from the top flight of county rugby last season, then matters got a whole lot worse on Saturday.

Joff Rowe and his team were hoping to win promotion from the County Shield at the first attempt and restore the Duchy to where their supporters believe they rightfully belong.

Instead, all Trelawny’s Army got for their journey to Bridgwater was humiliation as Cornwall crashed to possibly their biggest ever defeat.

On the basis of this performance, the Duchy seem more likely to suffer the ignominy of another relegation, than claim the promotion Somerset seem a good bet to land.

Many Cornwall supporters were very unhappy with what they saw at Bath Road, but while the margin of victory was unexpected, defeat was perhaps not, when you look at the two sides that took to the field.

Somerset were able to call on nine National League players, and had a further three on the bench, while Cornwall had only four in their whole squad of 22.

There were only three players from the county’s top three clubs – Cornish All Blacks (two players), Redruth (one) and Pirates (nil) – for whatever reason, and while Saturday was bitterly disappointing, one has to feel for Rowe, who can only work with what is available to him.

No matter how much the fans would love to bring back the good old days of Cornish county rugby, that seems a very long way off unless there is a dramatic change in the relationship between the clubs and the county.

After going through a pretty traumatic afternoon, Rowe said: “We weren’t good enough. They outgunned us in open play, in rucks and mauls and, in terms of physicality, we weren’t up to their level.

“I take full responsibility. Somerset were sharper, they were quicker in the back three, and they looked hungry. We have got no-one else to blame apart from ourselves.

“We need to have a bit of a wake-up call, but we will stick together and come back next week.”

He added: “I would love to be able to look at other opportunities within the county to see if I can bolster the side, but I don’t think that is an option for me.

“What Cornwall, the senior management and everyone else needs to realise is that Cornish rugby is great at the top, but it isn’t so great at the next level, and we are competing at the top when we are playing in the Shield.”

Despite Cornwall’s obvious shortcomings, Somerset were excellent after they survived an initial 10-minute onslaught from the visitors, which crucially failed to produce any points.

After that, the hosts took control, with their back row of former Pirates loan signing Chris Morgan, Weston’s Mike Denbee and Newbury’s Matt Styles outstanding, as was Clifton full-back Rob Voil, and it was pretty much one-way traffic.

Morgan scored the first try from a catch-and-drive penalty move, and three more followed before the interval.

Two stemmed from line-out throws by Cornwall hooker Darren Semmens deep inside Somerset territory that cleared his own jumpers, leading to moves which were both finished off by Voil, while another came from Duchy centre Ryan Westren’s under-hit chip over the defence falling gleefully into the hands of winger James Wheeler, who raced 50 metres to score.

Impressive fly-half Sam Osbourne, who finished with a 20-point haul, converted three to add to his early penalty, but Cornwall got their first points on the board in first-half injury time when a great surge to the line by scrum-half Brett Wakfer created the space for Westren to cross beside the posts and Jarvis – who had earlier missed two penalties – converted for a 29-7 interval deficit.

Any hopes of a Cornish comeback were killed off four minutes into the second half when Styles crossed for Somerset, with Osbourne converting, but Cornwall did keep the hosts out for the next 15 minutes, and even managed a try of their own when Rob Ley sent Jarvis in under the posts, with the conversion making it 36-14.

However, the less said about the final quarter, from a Cornwall point of view, the better, as tired legs and some lame tackling saw Somerset run in three tries in nine minutes through centre James Waterman and winger Paul Sprague (2), with Osbourne converting all of them and adding a penalty.

Next up for Cornwall? A trip to Chinnor on Saturday to face Oxfordshire, who walloped Surrey 43-14 in their opening game.
Scorers: Tries: Morgan, Voil (2), Wheeler, Styles, Waterman, Sprague (2); Cons: Osbourne (7); Pens: Osbourne (2).
Scorers: Tries: Westren, Jarvis; Cons: Jarvis 2.
Somerset: R Voil (Clifton), P Sprague (Weston-s-M), J Waterman (Minehead Babas), D Litt (Hornets), J Wheeler (Walcot), S Osbourne (Hornets), M Ranson (Bridgwater & A), A Raines (Clifton), G Cooper (Newbury), C Meddick (Dings), D Hodge (Bridgwater & A), O Hodge (Exeter), C Morgan (Newbury), M Denbee (Weston-s-M), M Styles (Newbury, capt).
Replacements: S Brown (Redruth) for Ranson 69 mins, C Derrick (Cinderford) for Raines 29, G Sparks (Weston-s-M) for Styles 64; S Pape (Cornish All Blacks) for D Hodge 62, A Russell (Weston-s-M) for O Hodge 62, J Saunders (Walcot) for Litt ht, J Gatford (Taunton) for Cooper 72.

Scorers: Tries: Morgan, Voil (2), Wheeler, Styles, Waterman, Sprague (2); Cons: Osbourne (7); Pens: Osbourne (2).

Cornwall: I Morgan (Penryn), R Ley (Camborne), M Sweeney, R Westren (both Cornish All Blacks), O Faulkner, L Jarvis (both Mount’s Bay), B Wakfer (Camborne), T Stevens (St Ives), D Semmens, D Clackworthy (both Mount’s Bay), A Harris (Newbury), B Hilton (Mount’s Bay, capt), L Stevens, I Boase (both St Ives), T Outram (Mount’s Bay).
Replacements: A Flide (Mount’s Bay) for Clackworthy 56, T Hurdwell (St Ives) for Semmens 64, J Wilce (Wadebridge) for Harris 62, G Corin (St Ives) for Hilton 64, M Woolcock (Camborne) for Outram 72, B Keary (Mount’s Bay) for Wakfer 62, S Peters (Redruth) for Faulkner 56.

Scorers: Tries: Westren, Jarvis; Cons: Jarvis 2.

Referee: Nigel Higginson (RFU).

Posted in Bill's Blog

  1. Bill says:

    The CRFU Committee have got to sort this out, they have got us into this mess. To see a Cornwall team defeated by such a large score is totally unacceptable. If they can’t or won’t then they should GO!

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