By Bill Hooper TASC Press Officer, photos by Simon Bryant Iktis photo
There are two pleasures at being in the player’s tunnel after the game: first of all to get their reaction, and secondly to get up close to the charming and beautiful singer Laura Wright.
However, back to the coaches and players. First up Ian Morgan and I asked him if he was a happy chap after that win: “Yeah you bet, it’s been a long journey but it has all paid off. The boys were fantastic today every single one of them.
Photo – Inspirational backs coach Ian Morgan
“The boys are battered and bruised out there. They left nothing out there. I don’t think Lancashire were any weaker than last year, we stepped it up this year. We were fitter, stronger and more organised and the boys just died for the shirt out there today.
“We knew they would come at us in the second half with a bench that could turn a game, but we knew we had to just stick at it and try to counteract their changes at the same time as ours. I think this year we might be told that we got the changes right!”
Morgan feels that they may have found a new flanker in Nielson Webber when he slotted into the back row whilst Ben Hilton was in the sin-bin. Laughing he said: “I think he’s found his natural position. He’s too big for a centre. He did really well coming into that position when we needed to balance the scrum.”
Morgan was full of praise for fly-half Matt Shepherd who scored both Cornwall’s tries: “He has had an outstanding campaign for us and I wish him all the best for the England Counties tour to Romania. Just hope nobody snaps him up as we shall want him for next season, especially not higher than National League 1!”
Morgan felt that a great weight of expectation had been lifted from their shoulders: “It’s a tremendous feeling to have finally won again the expectation has been massive and none more so after falling at the final hurdle the previous two years. This will be a huge boost to Cornish rugby.”
Morgan was full of praise for the youngsters who he said had shown no nerves performing out there: “These youngsters have been here and done it, Billy Searle, Robin Wedlake, Jon Dawe, Tommy Phillips, they are unfazed. Tremendous maturity from Billy to step up and take that penalty that put us 18-6 up. They are all great kids and it’s great for the future of Cornish rugby.”
I also got a few words from a very excited Robin Wedlake who was finding it hard to take it all in: “What can you say, it’s almost unreal. It’s been an amazing experience getting into the squad and then nailing down a place after the Tamar Cup. To run out here at Twickenham with all the noise and seeing family and friends in the stand was tremendous.
Photo – Robin Wedlake with Tony Whittle proudly shows off the Bill Beaumont Cup
“You try to shut it out and focus on the game but it’s difficult with all that’s going on all around.”
For Wedlake the win at Twickenham was culmination of a great season: “It’s been a real dream of a season having first broken into the team at Redruth, a side that I have watched as youngster and progressed through the junior ranks and then getting called into the side and then the County side. Having done it once we want to repeat it again next year.
“The preparation with Dawsey and Morgs has been first rate they are always there to help and guide you. We have our own programs to work to and that all helps put our game structures and plans together. It will be nice to get back to Redruth with all the experience I’ve learned and bring that to the club, it’s really boosted my confidence going forward.”
I managed to get a few words from Cornwall’s skipper Kyle Marriott: “I am really proud of the boys today and real performance for 80 minutes. We got on the front foot early on with Sheppy’s try and I think we showed real control during the game, and then to keep Lancashire out in the final five minutes having conceded that try showed our resolve. The strength of our campaign has been our defence and that was the difference today.
Photo – Proud captain Kyle Marriott brandishes the Cup
There was praise from the skipper for his scrum half Matt Shepherd: “Matt’s tries were crucial. The forwards worked hard to put us in the right positions on the field and Matt has been on song all campaign and he took his opportunities well.”
I asked Kyle what it was like to lift the Cup in front of the Cornish fans: “The noise was tremendous. Those Cornwall fans are really special. The boys felt it was their time today and we had confidence in our abilities. My job was try and keep a lid on things and be that calming influence.”
Ben Hilton had the biggest smile on his face as I asked him how it felt to have finally won the County Championship: “It’s been a long time coming. It feels good. I am still trying to take it all in. It’s a wonderful feeling for the players, crowd and all the supporters back home. It’s great for that core of players who have been involved for the last five years or so.”
Photo – Off to Romania, Cornwall’s three England Counties players Craig Williams, Ben Hilton and Matt Shepherd
Asked about his yellow card: “I thought I was legal, but we were on a team warning. Would they have scored a try? The jury’s out. It broke their rhythm and we held them out and they kicked the penalty.
“Their changes in the second half made a big impact but we coped well in that third quarter. Then we did well when they put the pressure on though it was disappointing to concede that try but we rode out their final storm.
“It was great to be congratulated by Bill Beaumont when we went up for the cup and to get respect from the Lancashire players who said we deserved it.
“It’s a special moment and will be right up there in my rugby timeline. I have always made myself available for Cornwall and I am proud to do so.”
On the England Counties tour to Romania: “It will be nice to go on tour with these lads and not be ribbed that we lost the final for once.”
Hilton was also full of praise for Cornwall Team Secretary Ewart White who is stepping down after 20 years in the post: “A great way for Ewart White to bow out today. I have known since I was a kid. He used to joke with me that one day I’d be a Cornwall captain and I thought he was winding me up but he was right. What a legend. This day will live long in his memory.”
Photo – Cornwall Team Sec. Ewart White with the Cup
Finally I caught up with the man of the moment Matt Shepherd. I asked him how it felt to have won at Twickenham. He said: “Well after two years of not playing very much in the squad it’s been a fantastic campaign. The atmosphere in the ground was tremendous as the crowd brought Cornwall to Twickenham.
“It’s always tough with the extra four weeks on the end of a long hard season, but it’s been a real pleasure but the boys and the background staff all came together and we were determined to go that extra mile this year.”
Shepherd then talked about his opening try: “Well I’d just missed with my first kick at goal. I didn’t really know what was happening but I saw this gap and thought I’d better go, but great work by the forwards who created the opportunity. Luckily for me the gap opened and I was able to beat the cover.
Photo- Matt Shepherd moments after scoring his second try
“It was the same with the second try. Great ball by Fucs from the lineout and again the gap was there so I went for it, but again it’s all down to the work of the team that creates the chance.”
A modest Shepherd felt that there was no man-of-the-match today but it had been a complete team performance: “We all did vital work at crucial times and it was a massive team performance and it was a hearts and mind performance. People put their bodies on the line today.
“There is no rest for me as I am packing my bags for Romania with England Counties. I am looking forward to the trip!”