THE Twin Counties missed out on making it two final victories in succession as Cumbria claimed a 23-13 victory in the Bill Beaumont County Championship Division Three final at Twickenham.

From the kick-off it was Cumbria that took the initiative and put the Twin Counties onto the back foot frantically defending their line and under almost constant pressure their defence buckled allowing Cumbria in for a 10th-minute try that was converted.

Four minutes later a Dorset and Wilts player strayed offside and they were punished for the transgression with a converted penalty kick to put Cumbria 10-0 up after only 16 minutes.

After a period of nip and tuck rugby where neither side gained the upper hand the ball was moved out wide to the Twin Counties’ wing Ross Williams who outpaced the Cumbria defence to touch down and open the Dorset and Wilts account with a try in the corner for 10-5.

With 27 minutes on the watch Dorset and Wilts were punished with another penalty then again with a third in the 37th minute as Cumbria established a 16-5 lead at the interval.

The second half started as the first finished with Dorset and Wilts inside their own half, but as the game progressed the white shirts began to gain the upper hand and retain possession of the ball.

In the 46th minute the ball ended up in the grasp of Fijian winger Laisiasa Vinakadina who drove over the line to ground the ball with almost half of the Cumbria backs in tow and put his team back within striking distance at 16-10.

Counties’ fly-half Sam Baker narrowed the leading margin to three points with a penalty and there was still ample time left to take the lead.

When Dorset and Wilts surged forwards there appeared to be a high tackle on one of their players that had their supporters imploring the referee to award a penalty well within Baker’s range, but their cries fell on deaf ears.

However, Cumbria are past masters at running down the clock and as Dorset and Wilts became more desperate driving repeatedly into the heart of the Cumbria defence a spilled pass allowed Cumbria to hack the ball downfield that resulted in a scrum 10 meters out from the Dorset and Wilts line.

Cumbria had the put in and their back row gathered up and drove over the Dorset and Wilts line to touch down with the try converted from the touchline for 23-13 with only three minutes remaining.

From the restart, the Counties hardly managed to get their hands on the ball and as the referee blew to end the contest the pain on the faces of the Dorset and Wilts players said it all.

After the game the Twin Counties’ RFU representative, Ron Jones, said: “All credit to Cumbria they were the better team on the day, but take nothing away from our lads they gave their all for Dorset and Wilts and if we had managed to hang on to the ball more often when we had possession then who knows.

“We definitely had an advantage out wide where both our wingers scored tries, but we just didn’t get the ball to them often enough.

“However we have a great bunch of lads and I am sure they will come good again, they have played at Twickenham which is the pinnacle of rugby for everyone who picks up a rugby ball.”

Assistant coach, Richard Elliott, added: “It was a sterling performance from the lads who on the day just came up short, we had a 20-minute purple patch in the second half when we honestly thought that we could get our heads in front and win the game, but it wasn’t to be.

“If we can keep this squad of players together then who knows what we can achieve.”


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