by Richard V Isaacs

Hampshire’s Under 20s came within just two minutes of pulling off a sensational comeback as they slipped to a pulsating 25-22 loss to much-fancied Cornwall in the Jason Leonard Under 20s County Championship match at St Austell on Sunday.

In front of a large, partisan Cornish crowd on a blisteringly cold afternoon, a penalty deep into injury time from fly-half Rueben Edwards ensured the home side took the win.

However, the visitors outscored their hosts four tries to three and took two bonus points from the game to give them a great chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals once again.

They could not have got off to a worse start though.

With barely a minute on the clock, Cornwall winger Jake Penprase scythed his way through the Hampshire defence to open the scoring and they continued to dominate the game.

Cornwall were all over the Hampshire scrum, pushing them around at will but they were unable to capitalise as Hampshire’s defence was standing firm.

And a tactical change to the front row started to give the visitors a standing in the contest, culminating in skipper Josh Moore peeling off the back and cutting his way through to the line to level the scores on 25 minutes.

Hampshire, shorn of the services of full-back Cameron McDonald, who failed a pre match fitness test, their two players from Exeter University and hat-trick hero from the Dorset & Wilts game Zac Clow, who was playing for London & South-East U18s, were holding their illustrious hosts.

That was until just before the break when captain Torin Clark squeezed his way over the line from close range to give his side a 12-5 interval lead.

In a duplicate of the first half, the Cornish were back on the scoreboard within 60 seconds of the restart when Edwards was on the end of a move from the kick-off and under the posts, converting his own score for 19-5.

This time, though, Hampshire hit back immediately when the excellent Russell Bennett picked up a Cornish kick up field, chipped ahead, raced through to collect himself and offloaded to the rushing Eddie Jenkinson to slice the arrears.

And when Havant’s Rob Cuffe found himself in space, following more outstanding handling by the Hampshire side, to go over for Hampshire’s third try, the Cornish lead had been cut to just two.

A penalty on the hour mark from Edwards put the home side 22-17 to the good but Hampshire, with ball in hand, were looking increasingly dangerous.

And when the returning fly-half Harry Johnston was on the end of another fine passing move to cross for Hampshire’s fourth and bonus point clinching try, it levelled the scores at 22-22 and set up the grandstand finish.

But, with just two minutes left, Cornwall were awarded a penalty and Edwards kicked the three points, much to their delight and relief.

Lead coach Rudi Kochanowski was delighted with his teams’ sterling efforts.  “Absolutely no complaints at all, we left everything out on the pitch and showed what we were made of,” he said.

“We are naturally disappointed to lose the game in the end and we had chances to win it, but we took them all the way and you could see what it meant to them at the final whistle.”

Hampshire now have a winner-takes-all final Pool match at Havant RFC on Sunday 18th March against Gloucestershire, who beat Dorset & Wilts 35-29 in the other game.

HAMPSHIRE team: Tom Jennings (University of Portsmouth), Alex Gooch (Chobham), Ed Jenkinson (University of Birmingham), Russell Bennett (London Irish Wild Geese), Jerome Rudder (Havant), Harry Johnston (Cardiff Met), Josh Prior (Wimborne); Mike Gorry (Oxford University), Stan North (Hartpury College), George Cotterell (Bracknell), Rob Cuffe (Havant), Toby Warburton (London Scottish), Matt Whitehead (Havant), Josh Moore (University of Swansea – capt), Pita Koroi (London Scottish). Replacements: Alex Hankins (University of Portsmouth), Adam Warner (London Irish Wild Geese), Will Owen (Havant), Shawahang Rai (Camberley), Ollie Cook (Winchester), Sam Bloomer (St Mary’s University), Cameron McGuigan (Havant).

DIVISION 1 POOL 4   P    W     L     GD    BP   Pts
Cornwall                      2     2      0      12      1       9
Hampshire                  2     1       1      14      2       7
Gloucestershire          2     1       1       -3      1       5
Dorset & Wilts            2      0       2    -23      2       2

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site

EU Cookie Directive Plugin Information