PLYMOUTH Albion centre Seti Raumakita scored a try with the last play of the game, that club colleague Matt Shepherd calmly converted, to secure Cornwall a 14-12 County Championship victory over Cheshire at Twickenham on Sunday evening.
Raumakita scored in the eighth minute of added on time to give Cornwall a third trophy win in five years under head coach Graham Dawe.
Cornwall’s hopes of bringing the Bill Beaumont Cup back over the Tamar looked to have been dashed when they had scrum-half Jack Oulton sent off in a controversial ending to the first half.
The Duchy had to play more than 40 minutes with 14 men and, although they led 7-0 at the break, Cheshire, not surprisingly with an extra man, dominated most the second period.
Cornwall’s defence was immense, but Cheshire finally went 12-7 in front in the final 10 minutes.
However, the Duchy, with four Plymouth players in their team, refused to give up and got into Cheshire’s 22 in the closing stages. They won penalty after penalty and Cheshire had two players sin-binned. Cornwall eventually went for a scrum and after eight resets Shepherd finally got the ball away to Raumakita, who avoided three tackles to score and send the Trelawny’s Army into raptures.
Shepherd had not had an attemp at goal all game, with fellow Albion player Fraser Honey taking the earlier kicks, but, despite the intense pressure, he calmly added the conversion to win the game for Cornwall.
Sunday’s match was a repeat of the 2016 final which Cornwall won 35-13. This year’s showpiece event was a completely different affair with both team’s defences in top form.
The Duchy showed some great defence in their own 22 before taking the lead in the 17th minute when Camborne’s in-form winger Alex Ducker scored a sensational try from 45 minutes.
Fly-half Honey slotted the conversion to make it 7-0 to Cornwall to the delight of their large following in the stands.
Honey could have increased Cornwall’s lead to 10-0 but he hit the post with a penalty attempt.
There was no further scoring until the second half, but the first period ended in bizarre circumstances. Both teams thought the referee had blown for half-time and went into the huddles and two Cornish players even went off the field to the dressing rooms, when the referee, having spoken to his assistant, called them all back and said the half had not finished. He then showed a red card to Oulton and restarted the game, even though Cornwall did not have all their players on the field.
Somehow Cornwall withstood Cheshire’s pressure in those additional minutes that had left everyone confused.
The Duchy were able to regroup when the break finally came, but Cheshire did close the gap to 7-5 seven minutes after the interval when fly-half Tom Morton scored from the base of a ruck. Crucially, his conversion from out wide was missed.
A thrilling final 10 minutes saw Cheshire take the lead for the first time in the game when Tom Sanders crashed over. Morton converted to give them a 12-7 lead and give his side hope of a first Division One final win since 1998.
However, a stunning final few minutes saw Cornwall really dig deep and Cheshire were reduced to 13 men. With the clock well into the red, Shepherd fed Royal Navy player Raumakita, who sidestepped his way over for the game’s decisive try, which Shepherd converted.
Cornwall: 15 Matt Shepherd (Plymouth Albion), 14 John Dawe (Plymouth Albion), 13 Jack Simmons (Redruth), Richie Keverne (Redruth), Alex Ducker (Camborne), 10 Frazer Honey (Plymouth Albion), 9 Jack Oulton (Redruth), 1 Dan Job (Lanner), 2 Rob Elloway (St Ives), 3 Jess Tompsett (Redruth), 4 Tony Whittle (Camborne), 5 Ben Hilton (capt, Barnstaple), 6 Edd Pascoe (Royal Navy), 7 Sam Stevens (Redruth), 8 Brad Howe (Redruth). Reps: 16 Matt Ballard (Wadebridge), 25 Craig Williams (Redruth), George Jones (Penryn), 19 Grant Randlesome (Penryn), 20 Taron Peacock (Camborne), 21 Dean Bonds (Redruth), 22 Seti Raumakita (Plymouth Albion/Royal Navy)