James Tucker touches down for a vital try (photo courtesy of Simon Bryant – Iktis Photo)
JASON LEONARD UNDER 20 COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIPS – QUARTERFINAL
CORNWALL 18 – 8 KENT
By Bill Hooper at Tregorrick Park
In difficult conditions Cornwall wore down a spirited Kent side to earn a semi-final spot in this season’s Jason Leonard Cup.
Despite a few changes to the side from the previous week due to injuries and unavailability the Cornish lads put up a solid performance, notably when having to defend constantly putting their bodies on the line.
With driving rain coming in just before kick-off Cornwall played with the wind first half.
Despite good early territory Cornwall were a little too eager at times falling foul of referee Zerran Bell’s whistle.
Kent got into the game and surprised Cornwall with a well-worked opening try scored by their wing Jordan Thomas with a blindside move. Despite a good attempt by fly-half Sam Evans the try remained unconverted.
There were a couple of good runs from Cornwall’s fly-half James Tucker but sadly the support was a little slow arriving at times.
Flankers Will Gibson and Tian Clark combined well and looked threatening as did skipper Torin Clarke who led by example throughout.
Cornwall made a couple of changes after 24 minutes with both Jack Hodge at prop and Noah Nash scrum-half coming on.
Hodge’s presence was soon felt as he got stuck in at scrum time.
Cornwall earned a penalty, which Tucker kicked to the corner from the catch and drive Cornwall drove for the Kent line after a couple of phases Hodge barged over for an unconverted try.
Cornwall struck twice just before half-time. Tucker kicked a penalty from in front of the posts to put the black and golds into the lead for the first time in the game. Tucker then converted his own try that came about after a powerful break from tight-head prop Ollie Andrews from just inside the Kent half, the Falmouth player almost made the line himself but was hauled down under the posts just short, the ball was moved wide for Tucker to dot down for a 15-5 half-time lead.
In the worsening conditions Cornwall’s backs found it increasingly difficult as the pitch cut up, centres Connor Gilbert and Jake Penprase worked hard to create an opening but the Kent defence was tight.
The line out proved to be a lottery for both sides. Kent cut the deficit early in the second half when Evans kicked a penalty but that was as good as it was to get for the visitors.
Cornwall’s only points of the half came from a Tucker penalty after 61 minutes following a powerful Cornish scrum that shoved the Kent pack backwards at a rate of knots leaving their giant replacement prop Thomas Little, who’d proved a handful, crumpled on the ground.
Kent tried to salvage a score but the clock was against them and the Cornish were in no mood to yield.
The final whistle saw the Cornish lads leaping in the air and the Tregorrick crowd cheering them to the rafters.
After the game Cornwall coach Josh Lord was delighted with his side’s performance. He said. “I am really delighted they all put in a fantastic performance today. We ground out a victory in difficult conditions.
Lord also had huge praise for the players that had come in today. “Every player who took the field was fantastic today. The squad works, trains and plays together and that ethos showed today.
There are always things to work on and Lord thought that his side had been a little to eager at times. “Especially during the first half we tried to force it a little too early when we need more control. We had a chat at half-time and I feel the boys controlled the game far better in the second forty.
Josh was also pleased with the way his side defended when called to do so. “Defences win games and we tackled our hearts out and didn’t give them the time or space to play. The boys have got a huge passion and desire to go as far as they can in the tournament.
Josh, Matt Shepherd and the lads can now look forward to a home semi-final on -Sunday 15th April against Cheshire who beat North Midlands 17-12 at Dudley Kingswinford. The other semi-final sees Hertfordshire play Yorkshire.
Cornwall: E Tyler (Penryn), S Cornish (Penzance & Newlyn Colts), C Gilbert (Redruth), J Penprase (Bath Uni), D Hubble (Falmouth), J Tucker (Redruth), C Boyce (St. Austell); R Bentham (Launceston), H Lightfoot (Launceston), O Andrews (Falmouth), D Goldsworthy (Launceston), B Rowley (Lainceston), T Clark (Camborne), W Gibson (Cardiff Met), T Clarke (Launceston, Capt)
Replacements: Q Cross (Wadebridge Camels), C Jenkins (Launceston), J Hodge (Redruth), A Brassington (Redruth), S Firth (Falmouth), N Nash (Brixham), J Carr (St. Austell).
Cornwall scores: Tries, Hodge, Tucker, Con, Tucker, Pens, Tucker (2)
Kent: T Lennard (Cranbrook), A Orris (Medway), H Roberts (O. Elthamians, Capt), T Adamson (O Elthamians), J Thomas (O Elthamians), S Evans (Blackheath), W Luxford (O Elthmians); B Bratton (Tonbridge Juddian), T Petty (O Elthamians), T Simmons (Westcombe Park), C Dee (O Elthamians), A Keheli (Blackheath), L Remington (Ashford), K Clarke (Ashford), J Stubbington (Medway)
Replacements: J Simmons (Westcombe Park), T Little (Canterbury), K Wright (Thanet Wanderers), M Beard (Medway), L Hollidge (Medway), S Elllison (Sidcup), T Agu-Benson (Cranbrook)
Kent scores: Try Thomas, Pen, Evans
Referee: Z Bell (Devon RRS)
Cornwall u20s 18 – 8 Kent u20’s
Chris Jones Reports
Cornwall progressed into the semi-finals of Jason Leonard cup after grinding out a hard-fought win over Kent.
Conditions were not ideal with heavy rain and blustering winds contributing to a lot of handling errors throughout the match.
Jack Hodge returned to the Cornwall squad after a long period out with a broken shoulder and made his mark after scoring the first try of the match.
Coach Matt Shepherd said after the game: “I’m immensely proud of what the boys have achieved and getting to the semi-final of the Jason Leonard Cup is incredible.”
Kent took the early ascendency and were the better team early on and could have scored within six minutes if the ball had not have eluded the hands of a Kent forward which resulted in a knock on near the line.
But only moments later and Kent did have their lead after a superb blind side move off the back of a scrum deep in the Cornwall 22 resulted in winger Jordan Thomas crashing over to score the game’s first try. Fly-half Sam Evans could not convert meaning the score read 5-0.
After Cornwall had gone behind, it seemed that this was the wake-up call they needed and took firm control from there on in.
James Tucker had a chance after Ethan Tyler’s great run and so did Jake Penprase, however it was a forward who scored first for Cornwall after a series of rucks over in the left corner when prop Jack Hodges heaved himself over the line to level the scores at 5-5 in the 33rd minute. Tucker had missed the following conversion.
Tucker made amends for his errors a couple of minutes before the break and coolly converted a penalty in front of the posts putting the Black and Golds in the lead for the first time of the match at 8-5.
Cornwall were even further ahead seconds before the break at 15-5 after a superb breakaway from Ollie Andrews left the Kent defence scrambling. The young prop was stopped just before the line but the run had created space wide-right which Cornwall exploited after a simple passing move and Tucker dived over the line before converting well to add the extra points.
Kent added to their points tally in the 42nd minute when they were awarded a penalty which Evans converted after he judged the wind direction and speed well to bring the scores closer at 15-8.
Cornwall were not phased and finished well. They finished the scoring in the 60th minute after a solid scrum led to a penalty which Tucker showed the same class he had all day to convert and add the three points, which meant at fulltime the score read 18-8.
1. R. Bentham
2. H. Lightfoot
3. O. Andrews
4. D. Goldsmith
5. B. Rowley
6. T. Clark
7. W. Gibson
8. T. Clarke ©
9. C. Boyce