By Bill Hooper TASC Press Officer at Twickenham Stadium
Lancashire again dashed Cornish hopes of Twickenham glory in a Bill Beaumont Cup Final where the game ebbed and flowed before a final surge from the cup holders secured a twenty-third county crown for the red rose in the Championship’s 125th year.
PHOTO – CORNWALL TEAM AT TWICKENHAM
In the player’s tunnel after the game Cornwall coach Graham Dawe was understandably disappointed that his side ended up second best on the day. He said. “I was pleased with the way we went about the game and get ourselves a two score lead, but we couldn’t hold onto it. We had done our homework on them but they played a simple and effective game very well.
“We looked to the bench quite early to try and give players a break conditions out there were very tough, last week at Hertford we didn’t use the bench but this week you want to give the players a run and see what they can offer this is very much a squad based team. We wanted to control the third quarter and then finish the game with our strongest formation as we anticipated a big finish from Lancashire.
“Lancashire’s game of coming around the corner and making yardage with their powerful players is hard to defend and very much energy draining but full-credit to our boys who stuck at it well.
PHOTO – LANCASHIRE TEAM AT TWICKENHAM
“After a defeat you are always disappointed and sometimes it works different ways. It will be interesting to see how the boys react they have come here twice in succession and lost on both occasions so we will see how many will look to come back on board next season following another tough league campaign.
“They are a good team and a great bunch of lads I expect they will get together and make the decision that they really want to give it another crack next season.”
Whereas twelve months ago Cornwall were forced to play catch up rugby for most of the game, this time Cornwall thanks to a superb first half performance saw a 26-10 lead established early during the second half crumble as Lancashire staged a remarkable comeback to score twenty-six unanswered points.
Cornwall spurned the chance of early points as full-back Kieron Lewitt pushed a penalty attempt wide on 4 minutes.
Lancashire’s skipper Chris Johnson – a thorn in Cornwall’s side last season and to be just as troublesome this time round – put his side on the scoreboard moments later as Cornwall conceded a penalty in their own twenty-two.
Lewitt made amends for his initial miss with Cornwall’s first points as the Cornish forwards earned a penalty from a scrum in front of the Lancashire posts.
Having again nudged his side ahead Johnson then added the extras to Lancashire’s opening try which came from a line out in the North East corner, lock Louis McGowan took the ball and then re-fed his hooker Mark Rylance who crashed over the line.
Cornwall’s scrum-half Greg Goodfellow was the usual spark getting Cornwall on the front foot and a trade-mark break from the flying Scot with support from fly-half Lewis Webb saw Cornwall earn a penalty with Lewitt reducing the deficit.
In mid-field centres Nielson Webber and Ryan Westren were industrious with Westren especially getting over the gain-line on occasions.
PHOTO – NOTMAN PULLED BACK !! PHOTO – DAN BARBARY
Goodfellow was at it again when he took a quick tap before his pass found winger Lewis Vinnicombe, the Truro flyer beat two players and then chipped the ball into Lancashire in-goal and won the race to the touchdown for a remarkable score which had the Cornish support on their feet. The officials were happy with the score and Lewitt added a good conversion from the touchline to put Cornwall 13-10 up.
PHOTO – VINNICOMBE GROUNDS THE BALL – PHOTO DAN BARBARY
Cornwall were well on top in the set-piece and when Lancashire’s veteran lock Paul Arnold was yellow carded for slapping Tom Rawlings across the face, Lewitt took full advantage adding another penalty score to Cornwall’s tally.
Tom Notman showed his pace and was close to a try before prop Jamal Ford-Robinson powered through some poor Lancashire defence to score Cornwall’s second try with Lewitt again on the money with the conversion and a 23-10 with 36 minutes played.
PHOTO – JAMAL FORD-ROBINSON CELEBRATES HIS TRY – PHOTO – DAN BARBARY
Webb put in a tremendous tackle to stop Johnson just prior to half-time.
Cornwall were obliged to make changes as the heat and intensity took it’s toil on the players with influential lock Damien Cook having to leave the field following a blow to the head.
Cornwall were the first to add points in the second half when Lewitt kicked a further penalty to put Cornwall more than two scores ahead at 26-10 and it seemed that Cornwall had built the foundations they needed to kick-on towards a fourth county crown, however Lancashire had other ideas and they dug deep into their resolve to claw their way little by little back into the game, Lancashire had heeded the lesson from last season when the Cornish pack almost snatched the game from them until a late score secured the win.
The Lancashire forwards kept the ball and began pounding the Cornish pack, Cornwall were forced into making energy sapping tackles to keep Lancashire at bay, Tony Whittle put in a big tackle to deny Lancashire on the Cornish line but the pressure was relentless with flanker Evian Stewart eventually grounding the ball over the line. Johnson’s conversion cut Cornwall’s lead to just nine points and they sniffed blood.
Lewitt missed with a crucial penalty opportunity which could have stemmed the Lancashire revival and then just two minutes later Johnson finished off a move from a catch and drive to bring Lancashire back to within four points.
Lancashire sensed the Cornish side was tiring retook the lead when No.8 Matt Lamprey crossed for Lancashire’s fourth try with Johnson adding the conversion for 29-26.
That score was a killer blow to Cornwall and the final nail in the coffin was knocked in when replacement hooker Tom Burtonwood scored try number five with just seven minutes remaining with Johnson again adding the extras to complete the scoring and securing Lancashire’s fifth title in six years and Cornwall’s fourth defeat to Lancashire in a county final.
Speaking after the game a visibly disappointed Cornwall captain Ben Hilton found it very hard to conceal his emotions. He said. “We are devastated to lose a game from a position that we had worked hard to build, Lancashire as we know are a good side we managed the end of the first half well and then Kieron kicked a penalty to nudge us sixteen points up but then we couldn’t get our hands on the ball and we had to soak up a tremendous amount of pressure to constantly defend like that in those conditions means that you will eventually make that crucial mistake and that is exactly what Lancashire hoped for.
“I want to apologise to all the supporters here and back home because I know how much Cornwall winning here at Twickenham means to them all and we the players feel that responsibility, we don’t come up here to pick up the silver medal. It was a great advert for county rugby and I hope the powers that be at Twickenham will sit up and take note that county rugby is not such a low level competition as some would have you believe.”
All I can say to Ben and all the Cornish players you have nothing to reproach yourselves for. We are proud of you all and for fifty minutes we dared believe that this might just be the day. One day it will be again!
CORNWALL 26 pts
Tries – Vinnicombe, Ford-Robinson, Conversions – Lewitt (2), Penalties – Lewitt (4)
LANCASHIRE 36 pts
Tries – Rylance, Stewart, Johnson, Lamprey, Burtonwood, Conversions – Johnson (4), Penalty – Johnson
Yellow Cards – Arnold (34), Fairbrother (77)
CORNWALL: Kieron Lewitt (Cornish All Blacks), Lewis Vinnicombe (Truro), Ryan Westren, Nielson Webber (both Cornish All Blacks), Tom Notman (Redruth), Lewis Webb (Cornish All Blacks), Greg Goodfellow (Redruth); Darren Jacques (Truro), Jamie Salter (Cornish All Blacks), Craig Williams (Reduth), Ben Hilton (Cornish All Blacks, Capt), Damien Cook, Chris Fuca (both Redruth), Tom Rawlings, Barrie-John Chapman (both Cornish All Blacks).
Replacements (all used): Richard Brown (Redruth), Jamal Ford-Robinson (Cambridge), Bryn Jenkins (Cornish All Blacks), Tony Whittle (Falmouth), Steve Johns (Birmingham & Solihull), Sam Parsons (Redruth), Matt Shepherd (St. Austell).
LANCASHIRE: Sean Taylor (Preston Grasshoppers), Warren Spragg, Chris Briers (both Fylde), Matt Riley (Sedgley Park), Oli Brennand), Chris Johnson (Captain), Ryan De La Harpe; Adam Lewis, Mark Rylance (all Fylde), Ben Black, Louis McGowan (both Sedgley Park), Gareth Gore (Fylde), Gareth Rawlings (Longton), Evan Stewart (Fylde), Matt Lamprey (Sedgley Park).
Replacements (all used): Simon Griffiths (Fylde), Peter Altham (Preston Grasshoppers), David Fairbrother (Fleetwood), Paul Arnold, Tom Burtonwood (both Fylde), Phil Baines (Preston Grasshoppers), Steve Collins (Sedgley Park).
Referee: Andrew Rawson (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Veryan Boscawen & Ian Pengelly
Crowd approx: 15,000
Cornwall-man-of-the-match: Greg Goodfellow, at the heart of Cornwall’s best moments while on the field a constant threat.