England Counties rounded off their short tour to Belgium with a comfortable win over the national side, nicknamed the Black Devils, at the Stade Leburton in Tubize on Sunday.
Belgian rugby has made great progress over the last few seasons, they now compete in the top tier of the FIRA-AER European Nations cup against the likes of Georgia and Romania.
Having already won in mid-week against a Belgian President’s XV by 78-0 at the Kituro club ground in Brussels, Counties went into the “test match” as firm favourites.
Cornwall’s skipper and Cornish All Black Ben Hilton started the match in the second row, whilst Redruth prop Darren Jacques had to be content with starting from the bench having started the mid-week match.
Sadly, Cornish All Black Nielson Webber had to miss the match against Belgium having picked up an injury against the President’s XV.
Despite weathering an early spell of Belgian pressure, Counties soon took command with fly-half and former Cornish Pirate Ollie Thomas kicking a penalty after 10 minutes.
Counties then ran in two tries through full back Chris Harris, and winger Sean Taylor before Italian referee Guiseppe Vavarini awarded Counties a penalty-try as the Belgian scrum buckled with hooker Julien Massimi in the bin.
Just on the half hour mark Taylor bagged his second try and with three conversions from Thomas Counties had a commanding 29-0 lead.
Counties didn’t let up before the break with further touchdowns arriving via Chris Johnson and flanker Tom Stradwick with winger Jim Wigglesworth involved in both scores. Thomas added the extras to leave England Counties 43-0 up at the break.
The Black Devils, got some reward at the start of the second half as flanker and captain Andrew Neill scored an un-converted try.
However, it was to prove just a minor blip for the Counties as they continued to dominate though they didn’t trouble the scoreboard again until the final quarter by which time Redruth’s Darren Jacques was on the field in place of Robbie Kalbraier.
Wigglesworth finally got reward for his endeavours with a fine try and then with the last play of the game Caldy’s Harry Broadbent scored Counties final try. Thomas added both conversions for a final score of 57-5.
Counties Team Manager Michael Old said: “We’re really pleased with how the week has gone, the boys deserve enormous credit for not only buying into collective goals, but also for putting in two very good performances at the end of a long domestic season.
“We knew that Belgium were going to want to take us on up front but we managed to match their physicality and create space for the guys out wide who played some excellent rugby. The Belgians have been wonderful hosts and its been another very successful trip both on and off the field.”
The final word went to Preston and Lancashire winger Sean Taylor, whose two tries saw him take his tour total to four.
“It’s been absolutely amazing to come out here and play for a national team, and I will certainly be doing everything I can to try and put myself in the frame for next year,” he said.
“The rugby we have played highlights the serious amount of quality in the National Leagues, and it’s been a learning curve for the younger guys, as well as a reward for the experienced campaigners.
“Belgium are a good team, with recent exposure at a high level, so we knew we’d be made to work hard. To score tries as a winger is always nice, but some of the boys have been incredible since we got together, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two go on to bigger things.
“From a personal point of view, the rugby has pushed my game on but the activities off the field have been just as special – no one’s ever asked for my signature after a game, so that’s something I will always remember!”
Belgium 5 pts
Try – Neil
Yellow Card – Massimi (30)
England Counties 57 pts
Tries- Harris, Taylor (2), Johnson, Stradwick, Wigglesworth, Broadbent, Penalty – Thomas, Conversions – Thomas (7)
BELGIUM 15.Paul-Henri Nghangué (Gennevilliers FRA), 14.Eliott Van Trappen (Boitsfort), 13.Thibaut André (Soignies), 12.Guillaume Brebant (Boitsfort),11.Frédéric Rongé (Kituro), 10.Sébastien Guns (Boitsfort), 9.Simon Marote (ASUB), 1.Norman Wende (La Voulte FRA), 2.Rahaël Olive (Périgueux FRA), 3.Jérôme Wey (Châlon FRA), 4.Mathieu Verschelden (ASUB), 5.Pierre Hendrickx (Boitsfort), 6.Andrew Neil (Tournefeuille, Capt), 7.Julien Morelli (Bastia FRA), 8.Thomas De Molder (Lyon FRA),
Replacements : 16.Maxime Jadot (Pau FRA), 17.Nicolas Fernandez (ASUB), 18.Julien Massimi (Arras FRA ), 19.Cyrilla Nana (Anderlecht), 20.Mika De Molder (Boitsfort), 21.Denis Eppe (Boitsfort), 22.Kevin Williams (Kituro), 23.Antoine Duchenne (Boitsfort)
ENGLAND COUNTIES:15 Chris Harris (Tynedale & Northumberland) 14. Sean Taylor (Preston & Lancashire) 13. Chris Johnson (Fylde & Lancashire) 12. Rhys Owen (Loughborough & North Midlands) 11. Jim Wigglesworth (Cambridge & Yorkshire) 10. Ollie Thomas (Moseley & North Midlands) 9. Matt Heeks (Rosslyn Park & Eastern Counties); 1. Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon & Northumberland) 2. Matt Hall (Blaydon & Northumberland, CAPTAIN) 3. Mark George (Stourbridge & Gloucestershire) 4. Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon & Durham) 5. Ben Hilton (Launceston & Cornwall) 6. Tom Stradwick (Blackheath & Kent) 7. James Lindfield (Blackheath & Kent) 8. Adam Kettle (Doncaster & Cheshire)
Replacements:16. Darren Jacques (Redruth & Cornwall) 17. Mike Hill (Birmingham Bees and North Midlands) 18. Brett McNamee (Old Albanian & Hertfordshire) 19. Royce Cadman (Hull Ionians & Yorkshire) 20. Harry Broadbent (Caldy & Cheshire) 21. Chris Hallam (Doncaster & Yorkshire) 22. Heath Stevens (Plymouth & East Midlands) 23. Nevaro Codlin (Cinderford & Gloucestershire)
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (FIR)