Cornwall hold off Cheshire comeback to retain County Championship

Cornwall’s men’s rugby union team defeated Cheshire 37-24 at Twickenham to retain their County Championship crown on Saturday, writes Matt Friday.

Early converted tries from Will Trewin and Jack Oulton got the Black and Gold off to an excellent start in the final of what was the first Championship since 2019, before another effort from Oulton extended the reigning champions’ advantage before the break.

Cheshire, who were also on the wrong side of the previous final against Cornwall, hit back through a pair of Josiah Dickinson tries before Fraser Honey kicked two penalties for Cornwall either side of Joe Walsh’s try for the northern outfit.

Dickinson then completed his hat-trick to make the Cornish supporters inside Twickenham sweat, but another penalty from Honey calmed their fears, with Mike Austin’s stunning stoppage-time try confirming Cornwall’s seventh Bill Beaumont Cup triumph – their fourth in the last six editions.

It crowned a fantastic treble for Cornish rugby union, with the senior women’s team beating Notts, Lincs and Derbyshire to win the Gill Burns Women’s County Championship Division 3 title earlier in the day after the under-20s men’s side had won their county championship earlier in the season.

Will Trewin (Redruth) attacks down the wing with Matt Shepherd (St Austell) in support. Picture: Simon Bryant / Iktis Photo

The afternoon could hardly have got off to a better start for those of a Cornish persuasion, with Plymouth Albion wing Alex Ducker threading the ball through to Redruth man Trewin to race over in the corner inside the first minute, with Reds team-mate Honey adding the extras from the touchline.

Cornwall made the most of their bright start and doubled their lead in only the fifth minute. It was a move made in Redruth, with centre Jack Simmons bursting through the Cheshire defence before switching it inside for scrum-half Oulton to gleefully dive over under the posts. Honey did the simple job of adding the extra two and putting the Duchy 14 points to the good.

If the Black and Gold weren’t already in dreamland then they were just after the half-hour mark as Cornwall went over again. Camborne hooker Ben Priddy made a blindside run from a maul and offloaded to Oulton, who acrobatically dotted down in the left corner for his second of the day.

Another fine touchline conversion from Honey put the Duchy firmly in the driving seat at 21-0, but a spell in the sin bin for Trewin gave Cheshire something to cling to as half-time arrived, although the three-time winners, bidding for their first title since 1998, still had a mountain to climb after the turnaround.

Cheshire knew they had to come out swinging in the second half and got their rewards in the 45th minute when Dickinson took a quick tap penalty five yards from the line and burst through the Duchy defence, still a man light, to score, with Ezra Hinchcliffe adding the extras.

Jack Simmons (Redruth) jinks back inside. Picture: Simon Bryant / Iktis Photo

The momentum was now with Cheshire and they quickly got themselves back to within a score of Cornwall. Dickinson was responsible again with the number eight receiving a pass from Hinchcliffe ten yards from home, before shrugging off the challenges of three black and gold shirts and crashing over the line. Hinchcliffe was again on target with the kick to reduce Cornwall’s lead to seven.

Honey’s penalty gave the Black and Gold some more breathing space, but a yellow card for Simmons for a high tackle gave Cheshire renewed impetus, and they made the man advantage tell once again almost immediately as wing Walsh dotted down in the right corner. James Robins failed to add the extras, but Cheshire were now within five points of Cornwall for the first time since the opening minute.

Honey kicked another penalty to restore Cornwall’s advantage to eight, but with little over eight minutes left on the clock, Cheshire crashed over for the fourth time in an excellent second period. Cheshire finisher Adam Aigbokhae scampered through and marched to within a metre of the line before being held up, with the ball making its way back towards the left corner where Dickinson thundered over to complete his hat-trick.

Robins passed up the chance to take Cheshire to within a point as his kick sailed past the far post, and that miss, tricky as it was, would prove costly as Honey kicked a third penalty of the afternoon in the 77th minute to give Cornwall a six-point buffer.

Cornwall players celebrate the winning try. Picture: Simon Bryant / Iktis Photo

Cheshire huffed and puffed in their search for a late winner, but a knock-on 14 seconds from time was met with delight by the Duchy side, who knew victory was in sight. That was confirmed in stunning style moments later when Cinderford’s ex-Falmouth man Austin raced clear from the resulting scrum, sprinting some 75 yards and shrugging off several desperate Cheshire challenges before diving over to the delight of the Black and Gold inside Twickenham.

Honey made it a perfect four conversions out of four to cap off a fine afternoon for him and a memorable afternoon for Cornwall, who went on to lift the Bill Beaumont Cup in front of the delighted Trelawny’s Army for the fourth time in six years.

Match information

Cheshire: M Barlow, T Walsh, L Titherington, J Robbins, B Jones, E Hinchcliffe, J Murray; N Rushton, O Hearn, D Salisbury, M Gerrard, S Priestley-Nangle, H Crowe, C Ridgway, J Dickinson. Finishers: A Aigbokhae, R Higginson, O Longmore, S Tahraoui, J Tebbatt, B Jones, J Moorhouse.

Tries: Dickinson 3, Walsh. Cons: Hinchcliffe 2.

Cornwall: W Trewin, M Shepherd, J Simmons, D Tout, A Ducker, F Honey, J Oulton; T Phillips, B Priddy, J Tompsett, T Freeman, T Whittle, B Fox, S Stevens, K Marriott. Finishers: L Barnes, R Brown, C Williams, B Hilton, E Pascoe, M Austin, K Bradley.

Tries: Trewin, Oulton 2, Austin. Cons: Honey 3. Pens: Honey 3.

Yellow cards: Trewin, Simmons.

[Featured image: Simon Bryant / Iktisphoto]

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