Stade Pré-Fleuri Nevers
England Counties travelled to Nevers in the centre of France with six new caps in their starting line-up among them former Cornish Pirate scrum-half Richard Bolt now at Exmouth whilst on the bench Jamal Ford-Robinson, who played junior rugby at both Penryn and Redruth was another debutant.
Cornwall’s skipper Launceston’s Ben Hilton started the game in the second row alongside Blaydon’s Chris Wearmouth.
Pic – Jamal Ford-Robinson and Cornwall’s captain Ben Hilton in the changing room in Nevers.
Speaking after the game Hilton said. ” I am really proud to have represented England Counties, it was a massively competitive game, though very enjoyable. There was a good crowd and a great atmosphere, we feel we were unlucky not to get the win.
“The French team were very direct and very physical, but I felt we eventually dealt with it and got parity, we lacked a bit of killer-instinct, if we could have put away one or two chances we could have taken the game away from them, but they kept with us.”
The Stade Pre-Fleuri, was anything but a flowering field as it’s name suggests, as a heavy pitch following days of heavy rain greeted both sides at kick-off.
The match ball was parachuted in by parachutists dressed in the local club colours, raising the temperature prior to the match.
France Fédérale got the initial breakthrough following good work from lock Antony Potente with an un-converted try scored by local centre Jordi Rouge profiting from a pass from full-back Remi Lamarque after 15 minutes, which raised the rafters.
Rouge surges to the line to score opening try.
England Counties got back into it with a penalty from skipper Chris Johnson when France Fédérale were penalised by referee Graeme Wells for not rolling away.
Rouge then found himself in the bin allowing counties to take an advantage, a long pass out to the wing found Cambridge full back Tim Wigglesworth, he cut inside, twice beating players to run diagonally towards the try-line finally beating the despairing last-ditched tackle of Lemarque to score under the sticks, Johnson’s conversion putting Counties 10-5 up at the break.
In the second half France Fédérale again scored an early try from a ruck near the Counties line a good drive from Montauban replacement prop Nicolas Agnesi saw the ball moved to blindside with fly-half Julien Lavie (Langon) slipping the scoring pass to Céret winger Thomas Anies to score in the corner a second un-converted try to tie the scores.
Counties were penalised at a scrum on their twenty-two for not pushing straight. Winger Lucas Levy who assumed kicking duties for the luckless Lavie stepped up to put his side ahead once more from the kicking tee.
There was some strong running from replacement back Kiba Richards, which helped put England Counties into some good field positions.
England Counties then got a penalty, which they kicked to the French twenty-two and set up a pick and go from the lineout. The ball was moved left along the line with Johnson barging over for a good try with two defenders hanging off him.
However, his conversion of his own try was spectacularly charged down by the quick thinking Levy, in what was to prove to be the pivotal moment of the game, leaving the game delicately poised at 15-13 to the Counties with time fast running out.
With time almost up on the clock the French forwards drove into the Counties twenty-two off a lineout. Counties were pinged by the referee for collapsing the maul in front of their posts gifting Levy the chance to win the game; needless to say he didn’t miss.
France Fédérale : Rémi Lamarque (Lormont), Lucas Levy (Aix-en-Provence), Jordi Rouge (Nevers), Thomas Anies (Céret), Stéphane Bonvalot (Nevers), Julien Lavie (Langon), Paul Dubert (Tyrosse) ; Renaud Paloméra (Gruissan), Romain Lauga (Montauban), Arnaud Etchegaray (Blagnac), Benoit Sénac (La Seyne), Anthony Potente (Lavaur), Guillaume Gélédan (Bagnères de Bigorre), Damien Costanzo (Périgueux), Julien Capdeillayre (La Seyne) (capt).
Replacements (used) : Nicolas Agnesi (Montauban), Fabien Dupuy (Argelès Gazost), Kevin Kahn (Tyrosse), Louis Bezert (Romans), Jean-Baptiste Lafitte (Cognac), Pierre Lafite (Périgueux).
Replacements (not used) : Jean-François Cruzalebes (Oloron), Adrien Attia (Tyrosse)
Scores – Tries – Rouge, Anies, Penalties – Levy (2)
Yellow Cards – Rouge, Lamarque
England Counties: Jim Wigglesworth (Cambridge); Chris Briers (Fylde), Jack Adams (Cinderford), Luke Myring (Coventry), Cameron Mitchell (Darlington Mowden Park); Chris Johnson (Fylde – captain), Richard Bolt (Exmouth); Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon), Brett McNamee (Old Albanians), Matt Shields (Tynedale), Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon), Ben Hilton (Launceston), Tom Stradwick (Blackheath), Rob Stapley (Henley Hawks), Gavin Jones (Blaydon).
Replacements (used): Johnny Matthews (Sedgley Park), Jamal Ford-Robinson (Cambridge), Mark McCraith (Bishop’s Stortford), Matt Heeks (Rosslyn Park), Kiba Richards (Worthing), Sean Taylor (Preston Grasshoppers).
Replacements (not used): Bertie Haskins (Blackheath), Pierce Phillips (Darlington Mowden Park)
Scores – Tries – Wigglesworth, Johnson, Conversion – Johnson, Penalty- Johnson
Referee: Graeme Wells (SRU)