Phil Westren looks back at three classic Cornish encounters with Surrey from 1966-67

 County Championship semi-final 1967

Cornwall versus Surrey – A Look Back In Time!

For Cornish rugby followers of a certain vintage, this weekend’s match will kindle memories of three thrillingly tense matches played against Surrey 49 years ago.

Lineout action from the Athletic Ground, Richmond

Those were in the halcyon days of the County Championship, a competition which for many years was all-important, just one small step down from England trials.

In 1966-67 Cornwall played four early season friendly matches, including one at Penzance which was drawn 6-all against a strong Lancashire side. These games were vital preparation for what lay ahead, the real test known to be a Championship opener against Gloucestershire at Bristol in October. That match was won 9-3, and it was followed by a more comfortable 14-3 win against Somerset at Redruth. The final group match was against Devon at Camborne, which Cornwall won 9-0 thanks to three penalty goals kicked by Roger Hosen, who was England’s full-back that season. Two Pirates in the county’s side were centre Jimmy Glover and prop ‘Stack’ Stevens, and it was only the fourth time in all their history that Cornwall had won all of their group matches.

Roger Hosen – kicking for England

The quarter-final was against Oxfordshire at Redruth in January, Cornwall winning 16-6, with Penryn’s Graham Bate outstanding at full-back. Nobody knew it, but a story was about to unfold, the like of which the County Championship had never seen before.

A strong Surrey team were Cornwall’s opponents in the semi-final, but at least we were drawn at home on the first Saturday in February, for a match played at Redruth. The game ended in a 6-all draw.

Selection is often contentious, and there was certainly a level of controversy concerning the relative and impressive merits of both Graham Bate and Roger Hosen, the latter not selected against either Oxfordshire or Surrey.

Photo: Cornwall’s hooker Roger Harris

Roger was recalled for the replay, a sensational encounter played two weeks later at Richmond. 14-3 down, with twenty minutes to go all looked lost, but the Duchy’s finest refused to give in. With just seconds left hooker Roger Harris (Plymouth Albion) linked with fly-half Richard Sharp, who had Kenny Plummer (Penryn) in support. The swerving winger, elusive and deceptively strong, made it to the line, leaving Roger Hosen with as big a pressure kick as he ever attempted in his illustrious career. Yes, you know it went over, but what next? The answer, a second replay, back at Redruth on the 4th March.

Cornwall kept the same side: Roger Hosen, Kenny Plummer, Jimmy Glover, Tommy Palmer, Derek Prout, Richard Sharp, Ian Davey, Ron Glazsher, Gerry McKeown, Ray George, John Allen, Alan Greep, Rex Buckingham, Roger Harris and ‘Stack’ Stevens, but they disappointingly lost 14-3, there being no ‘Boys Own’ ending to a still remarkable, and wholly memorable eleven-match season.

Disappointing? Of course it was, but with a good crop of players to choose from it was no surprise that in 1968-69, the final would be reached – but that’s a story for another day!

Posted in Bill's Blog

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