Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Albion players score all Cornwall’s points as they claim back-to-back titles



PLYMOUTH Albion players scored all Cornwall’s points as they claimed back-to-back County Championship titles for the first time in their history on Sunday.

Billy Searle, Sam Matavesi, Herbie Stupple and Matt Shepherd crossed for tries, with Shepherd also kicking three conversions and three penalties.

They were joined in Cornwall’s 22-man matchday squad at Twickenham by fellow Albion players Rupert Freestone, Robin Wedlake, Jake Murphy, Christian Judge and Jon Dawe.

The Duchy were coached by former Plymouth boss Graham Dawe, who has now guided both Cornwall and Devon to consecutive crowns.

Cornwall, backed by an impressive and vocal following from the West Country, made a great start with a try after just 70 seconds by fly-half Searle following good link-up play with his Albion colleagues Shepherd and Murphy. Shepherd converted to make it 7-0.

The Duchy, playing in their fourth consecutive final, had settled really well and it was only a matter of time before the second try did arrive.

Cheshire were lucky they were not reduced to 14 players after twice illegally stopping Cornwall on the line after good drives.

However, after a third attempt, the Duchy did get over the line with flanker Matavesi the man getting the ball down for his fifth try of the campaign.

But Cheshire, whose last County Championship win came when they beat Cornwall in 1998, got back into the game when Lavin kicked a penalty.

And it got better for the North West side when they scored a try on 22 minutes when hooker Paul Millea picked up at the back of a ruck on the left and squeezed over the line down the blindside. Lavin converted to pull Cheshire within two points.

But Cornwall hit back straight away with Shepherd kicking another penalty.

The Duchy then nearly scored a third try but their attack was stopped illegally and Cheshire had lock Tom Sanders sin-binned and Shepherd kicked the resultant penalty to put his side 18-10 up.

Matavesi and Searle linked up to create a great chance for Cornwall on 36 minutes but Cheshire just got a hand to a pass out to the last man and the score remained 18-10 at the break.

Lavin reduced the deficit for Cheshire after the interval with a penalty for what the referee deemed a high tackle by Matavesi.

The Caldy fly-half had another chance to reduce the gap further three minutes later with a penalty after Cornwall were caught off when Robin Wedlake failed to take a high ball, but Lavin’s long-range kick bounced off the crossbar.

After that the Duchy played some territory rugby with Searle pinning Cheshire into their 22.

And that tactic worked as Cheshire were forced to give Cornwall a line-out 22 metres out and from it they pressed and eventually Stupple forced his way over for a try from close range, which Shepherd converted to make it 25-13.

Cornwall thought they had scored the try of the match on 61 minutes with Sam Parsons going over after great play by Wedlake, but the referee pulled play back for a forward pass by Matavesi 22 metres from his own line.

Shepherd edged Cornwall 15 points ahead with a penalty on 65 minutes after good play by Murphy.

Cornwall got another penalty on 69 minute and went for the corner. Cheshire pulled their drive down on the line and they went for the line-out again but could not make it tell.

Cheshire pressed late on but the Duchy players would not let them have a try. They produced some great last-gasp tackling to deny them on 76 minutes.

And, with the last play of the game, Shepherd capped a fine Cornwall display with a fourth try, which he also converted.



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