Rugby

Cornwall miss out on County Championship hat-trick after Lancashire’s second half comeback

CORNWALL were unable to claim a hat-trick of County Championship titles on Sunday, losing 19-8 at Twickenham to old rivals Lancashire.

The 2015 and 2016 winners, coached by Graham Dawe, had the better of the first half and deservedly led 8-0 at the break, but the second period belonged to Lancashire, who claimed a record 24th crown.

Cornwall, with Albion’s Matt Shepherd, Robin Wedlake, Seti Raumakita and Dan Collier, in their squad, started well and took the lead in the 13th minute with a try by Penryn forward George Jones from a maul.

Cheered on by a large following from the West Country, the Duchy continued to press.

Lancashire, with nine players from National One side Fylde in their squad, were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes on 30 minutes when Tom Ailes was sin-binned.

Cornwall thought they had immediately scored a second try when Penryn number eight Grant Randlesome went over but it was denied for off-side.

Shepherd, who along with Wedlake will fly to Spain with the England Counties squad on Monday, kicked a penalty a minute later to increase their lead before Cornwall had to show good defence to keep Lancashire out before the break.

Lancashire’s experienced fly-half Chris Johnson hit the post with a long-range penalty and on the stroke of the break the northern side turned down a kick in front of the posts to go for a try, but Cornwall turned them over.

The second half, though, belonged to Lancashire, who got their big ball carriers running and denied Cornwall any possession.

However, the Duchy did waste a good chance at the start of the second period with a pass to Wedlake out wide on the left going forward.

And once Lancashire got their first try their energy levels seemed to increase massively, whereas Cornwall, with only four level three players in their squad, appeared to tire.

That first Lancashire try came from impressive winger Anthony Bingham, who showed great pace to score in the left corner. Johnson added the conversion to leave them a point behind.

A second try followed quickly with hooker Tom Burtonwood crossing in the other corner to make it 12-8.

Cornwall, who had been so impressive the week before against Hertfordshire at Camborne, just could not get their hands on the ball and their hopes of victory to a major set-back when Scott Armstrong scored a third try for the Red Rose county, which Johnson converted, to put them two scores up.

Johnson missed with a penalty on 72 minutes.

Cornwall, captained by former Albion centre Jake Murphy, tried their hardest to get back in the game, but could not manage it.

Lancashire had previously denied Dawe a hat-trick of consecutive titles when he was coach of Devon. They also beat Cornwall in the 2013 and 2014 finals.

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