Cornwall got this seasons County Championship campaign off to a winning start. Overcoming an indifferent opening period, they managed to put in a good first quarter after the break to impose themselves on the game. Cambornes fly half Ian Morgan scored 13 of his side's 18 points with a try, two penalties, and a conversion. Liskeard & Looes back row player Sam Hocking capped a fine County Championship debut with Cornwalls other try of the afternoon.
It proved to be a disappointing day all round for Gloucestershire as their U.20s lost their semi-final at Harrogate against Yorkshire, 20-11.
Cornwall played with the elements first half. However, it was Gloucestershire who had a first chance of points, but fly half Craig Jones missed with his attempted penalty kick after 8 minutes. Ian Morgan took his chance after 12 minutes to put Cornwall into a 3 point lead. The lead was short lived as Cornwall conceded a sloppy try, allowing flanker Stean Williams to waltz through the Cornish defence following a burst through from scrum half Nathan Graham. Jones was again unsuccessful with his kick.
Play was to remain scrappy as both sides tried to bring rhythm to their game. Following a kick to the corner and a catch-and-drive, Cornish centre Paul Thirlby was held up over the line. That was the nearest Cornwall would get to a try during the first half.
After the half hour mark Cornwall suffered a blow when winger Lewis Vinnecombe went off injured, to be replaced by Blackheaths Chris Trace. Towards half time Cornwall almost conceded a try near their own line. However, Gloucestershire infringed and Cornwall cleared their lines. Trace had a good run near the end of the half. The luckless Jones again fluffed a penalty kick on the Cornish 22 to leave the Black & Golds trailing 5-3 at the break.
For the second half Gloucestershire brought young Rory Teague on at fly half, with Jones moving to full back in place of Phil Watters. No doubt the Cornish coaches had words with the Cornish side about their poor ball retention in contact during the first half, which saw them concede too many turnovers.
Cornwall regained the lead with a second Morgan penalty on 48 mins, a fine long-range kick into the wind. Cornwall had the bit between their teeth and tore back at Gloucestershire with Mike Heyns, Ricky Pellow, and Richard Carroll all involved. Cornwall, perhaps sensing the moment had come, piled on the pressure and were rewarded with another penalty, Morgans kick rebounded off the post, but a poor clearance saw the ball come to flanker Sam Hocking, who sold his opponent a perfect dummy to run in down the right flank. Morgans conversion made it 13-5 after 53 mins.
Teague immediately cut the deficit with a penalty for Gloucestershire.
Cornwall scored what proved to be the winning try after 61 mins, following a tremendous break by full back Andy Birkett, who sent Trace away down the right flank. Morgan took the scoring pass to score in the corner. Morgans attempted conversion again hit the woodwork.
Gloucestershire had a final say when Rory Teague split the Cornish defence to score and convert his own try on 73 mins. Cornwall hung on to their slender lead despite nearly 8 minutes of time added on.
So its all set up for a likely group decider next Saturday at the Plymouth Brickfields following Devons 25-6 win over Warwickshire in Barnstaple. However, as I am sure coaches Nigel Hambly and Chris Brown would agree, there is still much work to do before then.
Gloucestershire: 15. Phil Watters (Stourbridge), 14. Sylven Edwards (Dings Crusaders), 13. Will Sare (Stow-on-the-Wold), 12. Dean Noeahu (Spartans), 11. Andrew McRae (Lydney), 10. Craig Jones (Stourbridge), 9. Nathan Graham (Stow), 1. Paul Price (Lydney, capt), 2. Ben Lewis (Lydney), 3. Matt Long (Pertemps Bees), 4. Jimmy Roberts (Lydney), 5. Paul Keiley (Lydney), 6. Vince Murrell (Dings), 7. Stean Williams (Coventry), 8. Brett Scrivens (Lydney). Reps, 16. Rory Teague (Hartpury, Gloucester), 17. Chrios Holder (Moseley), 18. Leon Liggett (Coney Hill), 19. Paul Fincken (Dings), 20. Mark Irish (Hartpury, Bristol), 21. Jimmy Matthews (Stourbridge), 22. Dean Jenkins (Lydney).
Cornwall: 15. Andy Birkett (Launceston), 14.
Lewis Vinnecombe (Redruth), 13. Craig Bonds (Redruth, capt), 12. Paul Thirlby
(Redruth), 11. Nathan Pedley (Redruth), 10. Ian Morgan (Camborne), 9. Ricky
Pellow (Penzance & Newlyn); 1. Martin Rice (Plymouth Albion), 2. Mark
Harper (Redruth), 3. Sam Heard (Redruth), 4. Julian Wilce (Launceston), 5.
Richard Carroll (Redruth), 6. Sam Hocking (Liskeard & Looe), 7. Julian
Hosking (Redruth), 8. Mike Heyns (Launceston).
Reps: 16. Darren Jacques (Redruth), 17. Ben Priddey (Redruth), 18.Andy Skinner (St. Ives), 19. Ben Hilton (Mounts Bay), 20. James Mann (Penryn), 21. Mark Richards (Redruth), 22. Chris Trace (Blackheath).
Referee Mr. G. Copsey (RFU)
Devon are favourites to advance to the County Final at Twickenham on Sunday May 29th following their win over near neighbours and perennial rivals Cornwall.
Devon, who were able to call on players from National 1 clubs Plymouth Albion and Exeter Chiefs, had too much experience for a plucky Cornwall side. Cornwalls cause was not helped by their indiscipline, which saw them reduced to 14 or 13 men for long periods of the second half. This limited the side to hanging on rather than attacking Devon, which, to their credit, they achieved with some success.
In poor weather conditions, Cornwall began brightly with fly half Ian Morgan kicking penalties after 4 and 22 minutes to give Cornwall a 6-0 lead. Devon soon replied when Tongan centre Keni Fisilau went over in the right hand corner on 25 minutes to score Devons first try. Ed Barnes was unable to convert.
Morgan kicked a third penalty to stretch Cornwalls lead to 9-5 after 28 minutes. Devon where now beginning to exert pressure up front and it was no surprise when Devon scored a second try from a rolling maul which saw winger Luke Arscott driven over after 32 minutes. Barnes was once again unsuccessful with the conversion.
Morgan kicked a fourth penalty to regain the lead for Cornwall, but it was to prove short-lived as referee Mr. Kitt finally tired of the constant infringing and sent Cornish prop Sam Heard to the sin bin just before half time. Barnes finally kicked a goal to leave the hosts 13-12 up at the break.
Barnes kicked a second penalty just after half time to make the score 16-12, Cornwall were then reduced to 13 men as second row Richard Carroll was shown the yellow card. Devon tried to use their numerical advantage to grind Cornwall into the ground, but somehow Cornwall managed to hang on and deny Devon a score. Both sides used their bench to bring on fresh legs, but in Cornwalls case no sooner were Ryan Peacey and Ben Hilton on they both earned yellow cards and promptly trooped off again!
Devon effectively killed the game with a third try scored by centre Pat Sykes, which Barnes again failed to convert. Ricky Pellow and Rhodri MacAtee tried to inject life into Cornwall with a final flourish but with no reward.
Cornwall must hope that Gloucestershire can do them a favour and beat Devon, whilst they look to run in a hatful of tries against Warwickshire at Redruth to have any hope of reaching Twickenham to play the winners of next Saturdays Roses match between Lancashire and Yorkshire in the County Final.
Cornwall duly achieved the win by the required points margin, but Devons 25 10 win at Lydney rendered it academic as far as reaching the final was concerned. It is they who will contest next Sundays final against Lancashire at Twickenham.
Cornwall were forced to bring in Chris Trace for the injured Nathan Pedley and chose to start with Ricky Pellow at scrum half instead of Mark Richards. Warwickshire were forced to travel somewhat depleted for this fixture, as their skipper Glen Southwell and fellow Nuneaton players Stuart Gibson, Alex Williams, and Stuart Pearson were all unavailable.
Cornwall totally dominated the game from start to finish and it was fitting that Matt Jess should open the try feast after only 9 minutes. Jess also scored Cornwalls final try right at the end and in between had what appeared a perfectly good score chalked off by touch judge Steve Harland for a forward pass! Scrum half Ricky Pellow was at the centre of all the action as he orchestrated Cornish attacks almost at will. Chris Trace with two tries, Pellow, skipper Craig Bonds and the impressive Sam Hocking all scored tries before the break for Cornwall, with Chris Murphy scoring the solitary Warwickshire try. Cornwall turned around with a commanding half-time lead of 32-7.
Ian Morgan managed one conversion in difficult kicking conditions before leaving the field injured before half time to be replaced by Plymouth Albions Marek Churcher. Newbury and England Counties Malcolm Roberts assumed the kicking duties.
It was pretty much as you were for the second half as Cornwall continued to rattle up the points with further tries coming from flanker Julian Hosking, Churcher, Roberts, prop Darren Jacques' replacement lock Lee Soper, and finally Jess. Roberts kicked three conversions. Richard Carroll as always was in the thick of the action.
Cornwall brought on all their replacements before the end. Warwickshire managed to score a second try through Nick Thatcher, with their skipper Shaun Brady (Bedford Blues) putting in a strong performance, but at the end they were a well beaten side and knew that they were relegated to the Shield next season.
Scores: Cornwall: Tries (12) Jess (2), Trace (2), Pellow,
Bonds, Hocking, Hosking, Churcher, Roberts, Jacques, Soper . Cons Morgan,
Warwickshire: Tries Murphy, Thatcher. Con Watts.
Cornwall: A Birkett (Launceston), C Trace (Blackheath), C Bonds (Redruth, capt), M Roberts (Newbury), M Jess (Penzance), I Morgan (Camborne), R Pellow (Penzance), D Jacques (Redruth), D Risdon (Launceston), M Rice (Plymouth Albion), J Wilce (Launceston), R Carroll (Redruth), S Hocking (Liskeard-Looe), J Hosking (Redruth), M Heyns (Launceston). Replacements: M Churcher (Plymouth Albion), M Richards (Redruth), S Heard (Redruth), B Priddey (Redruth), L Soper (Launceston), D Cook (Redruth), J Mann (Penryn).