Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Graham Dawe guides Cornwall to first County Championship success for 16 years


GRAHAM DAWE guided Cornwall to only their fourth County Championship success – and first for 16 years – on Sunday when they beat Lancashire 18-13 at Twickenham.

The Duchy had been beaten in the last two finals by Lancashire but they dominated this year’s final to deservedly lift the Bill Beaumont Cup.

The last time Cornwall had won the trophy was in 1999, with their only other pre-First World War success coming in 1991 when Dawe was a player.

shepLaunceston scrum-half Matt Shepherd was the star of the show for them, scoring two tries and kicking five points, with young full-back Billy Searle adding their only other points with a second half penalty.

However, Searle was sin-binned in the 72nd minute and Lancashire scored a try to set up a few nervous moments for the Duchy.

But Cornwall, whose defence was outstanding, hung on for the win, much to the delight of their passionate supporters.

On a miserable day in west London, Shepherd missed a penalty in the first minute but he made it for it almost straight away by scoring a stunning individual try next to the posts, which he also converted.

But Lancashire, whose side was made up of players from high-flying National One side Fylde, cut the gap six minutes later with a penalty by Steve Collins.

Cornwall came close to scoring on 20 minutes after a good break by Nielson Webber. Lancashire stopped them illegally but Shepherd was unable to make them pay with the penalty.

The Duchy suffered a blow on 28 minutes when Ben Hilton was sin-binned and the Red Rose county kicked a penalty through Chris Johnson.

But four minutes before the break, Lancashire had Chris Briers sin-binned for an off-the-ball tackle on Searle and Shepherd kicked the resultant penalty to give Cornwall a 10-6 lead at the interval.

At the start of the second half, Johnson failed with a drop-goal for Lancashire before Shepherd scored his second try of the match after spotting a gap following a five-metre line-out.

Unfortunately, he could not add the conversion but his side led 15-6.

Cornwall, whose side was made up of players who all feature at level four or below, had another great chance on 58 minutes but were penalised right on the line.

Three minutes later the Black and Golds got a penalty which teenager Searle, who has been linked with a move to Albion, kicked to edge his side 12 points in front.

Record winners Lancashire dug deep and Searle was sin-binned for deliberately slowing the ball up.

From the resultant penalty, Lancashire pressed and eventually flanker Evan Stewart sneaked over. Johnson brilliantly converted to give his side hopes of snatching a late victory.

But Cornwall, led by former Albion and Devon skipper Kyle Marriott, would not be denied. The win meant Dawe has now won the County Championship as both a player and a coach with Devon and Cornwall.

Meanwhile, former Albion coach James Shanahan was unable to captain Eastern Counties to victory in the County Plate final. They were beaten 17-3 by Surrey.


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