Cornwall hope to overcome pressure to secure fifth successive final

CORNWALL will be hoping to secure a fifth consecutive trip to Twickenham on Saturday when they host Hertfordshire at Camborne in their final County Championship group game (3pm).

The Duchy, who have won back-to-back titles under Graham Dawe, sit top of Division One South having beaten Surrey and Devon away.

They know one more victory would guarantee them another day out at the home of English rugby, but Hertfordshire, coached by James Shanahan, also have hopes of reaching the final.

They too are unbeaten and sit second in the group.

Hertfordshire’s chances appeared to have suffered a major setback earlier in the week when they were docked four points for fielding an ineligible player in their opening game against Kent.

But they appealed that decision and as of Thursday night the RFU website was showing them having only had two points deducted, which leaves them just three behind the Duchy.

Cornwall coach Dawe said that whatever the outcome of their appeal it would not change the way his team were looking at the match.

“We are treating this game as a semi-final – a must-win game,” said the former England hooker.

Cornwall, who have had to totally rebuild their team this year after losing key players like Billy Searle, Christian Judge, Tom Cowan-Dickie, Rupert Freestone, Herbie Stupple Ben Hilton, Kyle Marriott, Greg Goodfellow and Nielson Webber, have yet to play at home this season.

A big crowd is predicted at Camborne on Saturday and Dawe knows that will bring massive pressure.

“There was so much expectation before the competition started, but there’s even more now,” said Dawe.

“However, we know Hertfordshire are really going to test our resolve.

“Any team playing away from home can create their own ambition among themselves.

“They do have a pretty competent game coupled with a strong set piece.

“Both teams are unbeaten and so it’s a great crescendo to the group rounds.”

Hertfordshire draw heavily on players from National One side Old Albanians and Bishop’s Stortford, who will be playing at level three next season after winning National Two South this year.

Cornwall’s squad this term, meanwhile, is built around level four and five players at Redruth and Camborne.

Plymouth Albion back Robin Wedlake is the only current level three player to have featured in all their group games, although Matt Shepherd did start last weekend’s match against Devon and will line-up against Hertfordshire on Saturday.

Cornwall have also used two level eight players in their group games – Penryn’s Grant Randlesome and George Jones. 

Randlesome will start at number eight on Saturday, with the Duchy switching around their squad following last week’s big win over Devon.  Former Albion flanker Sam Matavesi comes into the starting line-up after impressing as a replacement last weekend.

Cornwall: 15 Matt Shepherd (Plymouth Albion), 14 Lewis Vinnicombe (Redruth),  13 Robin Wedlake (Plymouth Albion), 12 Jake Murphy (capt, Barnstaple), 11 Tom Notman (Redruth), 10 Joe Elderkin (Redruth), 9 Jack Oulton (Redruth), 1 Tommy Phillips (Redruth), 2 Richard Brown (Redruth), 3 Craig Williams (Redruth), 4 Bryn Jenkins (Barnstaple), 5 Tony Whittle (Camborne), 6 Chris Fuca (Redruth), 7 Sam Matavesi (Camborne), 8 Grant Randlesome (Penryn). Reps:  16 Matt Ballard (Wadebridge Camels), 17 Barrie-John Chapman (Redruth), 18 Brad Howe (Redruth), 19 Andrius Zacharovas (Camborne), 20 George Jones (Penryn), 21 Seti Raumakita (Plymouth Albion), 22 David Mankee (Camborne).

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