JASON LEONARD CUP NATIONAL UNDER 20’S COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
GLOUCESTERSHIRE U.20s 27 – 31 CORNWALL U.20s
By Bill Hooper at Shaftesbury Park
A late try from skipper Aaron Simmonds gave Cornwall Under 20s a deserved win against fancied Gloucestershire Under 20s.
Cornwall’s hearts were in their mouths as referee Julian Rainford at first appeared unsure of the grounding, happily for the Cornish lads his assistant saw the Simmonds score. The win sees Cornwall top their group to earn a home quarter-final in two weeks time against Hertfordshire.
Whether that game goes ahead remains to be seen, for now the Cornwall squad can reflect on a job well done.
Cornwall got off to a cracking start, pressing in the Gloucestershire twenty-two, lock Steele Barker charged down an attempted clearance, gathered the ball before passing inside to fellow lock Mawgan Osborne who scored. Simmonds added the first of his four conversions.
The Gloucestershire boys, rattled, then conceded a penalty in front of the posts that Simmonds calmly popped over to stretch the lead.
Eventually the home side settled with their fly-half Tom Price getting them on the board with a penalty.
A searing break from Charlie Levick set up Cornwall’s second try that led to the Osborne brother combining to send Toby over for another converted try.
Flanker Tom Spiers again caught the eye with his work at the breakdown turning ball over and dangerous with the ball in hand.
Gloucestershire were starting to get some momentum at scrum time, they pressurised the Cornwall line and from a 5-metre scrum their powerful No.8 Adam Hopkinson drove over for Price to convert.
Cornwall will be disappointed in the manner they saw their lead disappear, attacking in the opposing twenty-two, a stray pass was hacked on by Gloucestershire’s Tim Andrew, the wing showed his speed hacking on again to win the race to the line, Price’s conversion tying the scores at half-time.
Cornwall started to use their bench, Mishka Fibbens and Joe Best came on putting in some big drives.
Spiers’ good work was temporarily halted when he appeared to be harshly sin-binned. Price took the chance to put his side ahead from the kicking-tee for the first time.
Under the cosh Cornwall conceded another try from a close-range scrum with Hopkinson once again the scorer, Price’s conversion giving Gloucestershire a 27-17 advantage with the clocking ticking down.
Prop Eliot Salt, who had a fine game, took a heavy knock that stunned him for several minutes, it gave Cornwall the chance to refocus.
Cornwall had to throw the dice, they piled on the pressure, Spiers was held up over the line, suddenly the home side saw yellow.
Following several concerted drives near the Gloucestershire line Cornwall got their lifeline thanks to Cameron Taylor, Simmonds calmly slotted the extras to make it game on once more.
Back came the Cornish lads, patience being their watchword, the calmly went through the phases that led up to Simmonds try, a dramatic comeback!
It wasn’t over, Cornwall had to withstand a final Gloucestershire surge near their line, but when they knocked on Cornwall had their win.
After the final whistle Cornwall coach Richie Kevern was delighted with his side’s never say die attitude. “We showed some character out there today, to have made that good start and then find yourself ten points down nearing the end the lads could have cracked, but they showed a mature attitude, were patient and forced the errors from Gloucestershire, they earned that win the hard way.”
Cornwall U.20: Charlie Levick, Guy Brooks (both Penryn), Aaron Simmonds (Capt, Redruth), Ben Plummer, Max Bullen, James Tucker (all St. Austell), Ali Stacey (Redruth); Callum Looker (Cardiff Met), Mackenzie Oliver (Redruth), Eliot Salt (Cardiff Met), Steele Barker (Penryn), Mawgan Osborne, Toby Osborne (both Pirates Ams), Tom Spiers (Truro), Jack Wickham (Saltash).
Replacements: Cameron Taylor (St. Austell), Mishka Fibbens (Penryn), Devon Bennett-Murray (Saltash), Joe Best (St. Just), Liam Stoddern (Camborne), James Murray (Redruth), Harry Clemo (Camborne).
Cornwall scores: Tries. M Osborne, T Osborne, Taylor, Simmonds, Cons, Simmonds 4, Pen, Simmonds.