By Bill Hooper, at the Recreation Ground Camborne
Cornwall did their best to try and give themselves a chance of going to Twickenham next Sunday, but the narrow loss of Hertfordshire 27-25 at Gloucestershire saw the home-counties side through to their second successive final against title holders Lancashire who accounted for Cheshire at Broughton Park 36-29.
There was disappointment once more for centre Ryan Westren, whose groin injury flared up preventing him from playing. Steve Johns moved from the wing with Tom Notman coming off the bench and Aron Struminski a star from this season’s U.20 campaign coming on to the bench.
Cornwall’s head coach Dave “Benji” Thomas was pleased with the win, but still felt aggrieved with last week’s rub of the green at Hertford. He said. “They came out of the blocks all firing, they had a solid pack and some pacey backs and it took us a little while to get to grips with them. We got the early try, but we were in their twenty-two a number of times during the first half and didn’t come away with points, which were really quite crucial, I felt the boys were a little over anxious in their execution”.
“At half-time we had a good chat, we told them they needed to keep the ball and play to the patterns we had been playing in our previous games, we did that and in the end we scored some good tries. Our forwards were immense especially the driving mauls and in the loose getting possession”.
“I know we lost that game last week by two points, but today was a fitting end for an exceptional group of players who have shown great spirit and commitment from day one when we assembled at Kingsley Village to map out our plan for the season. Hopefully we can keep this group together and kick on again next season and get to Twickenham”.
Cornwall elected to play up the slope first half and were rewarded with an early try after just 7 minutes scored by hooker Jamie Salter following some good work by the Cornish forwards.
Brett Rule added the first of his three conversions and Cornwall looked well set to dominate proceedings.
However, the visitors had other ideas and came back into the game well, scoring a well-worked try by Rhys Crane (Nottingham) on his county debut.
Goal kicker for the visitors Jimmy Oliver had an off-day with the boot missing the conversion and penalty shortly afterwards.
Cornwall really should have the most of their possession during the first half but saw some guilt-edge chances missed to go further ahead. Johns was held up over the line, whilst No.8 Sam Hocking crucially lost the ball near the whitewash.
Cornwall had the better of it with centre Lewis Paterson once more catching the eye along with the forwards notably prop Darren Jacques who carried well and was immense at scrum time, flanker Mike Rawlings always in the thick of the action and skipper Ben Hilton leading by example.
There was no further scoring during the first half so Cornwall turned around 7-5 to the good.
Cornwall needed an early try at the start of the second half and it come following several phases from Johns who angled his run to make the line.
Rule having missed the conversion made amends shortly after with a penalty to nudge Cornwall 15-5 ahead.
As the half wore on Cornwall needed tries. North Midlands were reduced to fourteen men as flanker Daniel Smith took a yellow card for offside. Rule kicked the penalty towards the clubhouse corner, Cornwall drove from the lineout with Hilton getting the black and gold’s third try.
Rule kicked the conversion, but with time fast running out Cornwall needed a fourth try to stand any chance of overhauling Hertfordshire.
Well into time added on Cornwall got the fourth try again from a forward drive with flanker Tom Rawlings getting the score, Rule added the extras but at the final whistle the news filtered through that Hertfordshire despite losing had done enough.
North Midlands defeat sees them relegated after just one season in the top division to be replaced by Kent who beat Somerset 32-28.
Cornwall 29 pts
Tries – Salter, Johns, Hilton, Tom Rawlings Penalty – Rule, Conversions – Rule (3)
North Midlands 5 pts
Try – Crane
Yellow Card – Smith (80)
Cornwall (Cornish All Blacks unless otherwise): B Rule (Redruth), R Bright, S Johns (Plymouth Albion), L Paterson, T Notman (Redruth), J Murphy, D Pascoe (Penryn & Royal Navy); D Jacques (Redruth), J Salter, C Williams (Redruth), B Hilton (Capt), B Jenkins (Cambridge), M Rawlings, T Rawlings, S Hocking (Plymouth Albion).
Replacements all used: R Brown (Redruth), P Joyce (Redruth), C Fuca (Redruth), T Duncan (Redruth), G Goodfellow (Redruth), S Parsons (Redruth), A Struminski .
North Midlands: M Farrington (Dudley Kingswinford); R Crane (Nottingham), W Richards (Luctonians), F Pierpont (Birmingham & Solihull), C Mitchell (Plymouth Albion); J Oliver (Camp Hill), D Brazier (Moseley); C Voisey (Moseley), D Osleton (Rugby Lions), S Thorpe (Dudley Kingswinford), E Parry (Dudley Kingswinford capt), M Lee (Old Saltleians), D Smith (Luctonians), N Roy-Smith (Luctonians), R Hill (Camp Hill).
Replacements used: C Lea (Birmingham Civil Service), I Darkintis (Birmingham & Solihull), T Breakwell (Old Halesonians), T Hughes (Malvern), S Leach (Camp Hill), I Mustow (Malvern). Not used: D Protherough (unattatched).
Referee: Shane Lewis (RFU)
Cornwall Star man: Darren Jacques put in some big drives and as always solid at scrum time.