Bill Beaumont County Championship 2022
Division 2 Pool 1
Cumbria 24 Staffordshire 31
In a tight, competitive game, Staffs held their nerve and rode out a strong comeback from Cumbria to secure the 5 points away win to set themselves up for the home fixture against Warwickshire at Wolverhampton this Saturday.
The starting XV comprised 10 Burton players including full back Harry Titley, right-wing Will Derry, centre Alex Nesbitt, winning his 5th cap and half back pairing Chaz Bunting and Jamie Dutton.
Sam Clarke from Stoke at 12 and Henry Knox from Longton on the left wing completed an exciting back division.
Hooker James Davies from Burton was supported in the front row by Ben Smith from Burton and Jeri Oldfield from Derby. John Kirwan from Burton and Josh Bailey from Stoke were the locks.
Skipper Jack Neal winning his 14th cap at flanker was with No.8 George Boughey from Stoke and Cal Donnelly from Burton in the back row.
The 7-man bench comprised Tommie Collingwood, Ed Brown and Tristian De Jager, all from Burton with Mike Patten and Jamie Murray from Stoke. Trentham’s Joel Bezus and Newport’s Dan Griffin made up the squad.
After a smooth journey to Wigton and on a glorious afternoon with a well grassed pitch to play on, Staffs started strongly and were scoring their 1st try on 7 minutes when Jeri Oldfield crashed over after a series of rucks near the Cumbrian line following a lineout. The conversion missed but Staffs led early 0-5.
Cumbria’s pack shoved the visitors off their 1st scrum, and it looked like it was going to be a tough afternoon of scrummaging for the Staffs front row but they adapted well and slowly got to grips with holding their bigger opponents.
Staffs increased the lead on 21 minutes when Harry Titley went over in the corner after a flurry of rucks close to the line and quick hands released the fullback to score. Again, the conversion just missed but Staffs doubled their lead to 0-10.
Cumbria missed a penalty as they clawed their way back into the game, but Staffs strong defence kept the home side struggling for continuity and consistency before Staffs struck again for their 3rd try on 36 minutes following a solo effort from scrum half Chaz Bunting. He weaved his way past 3 defenders to score by the posts and then converted his own try to push Staffs out to a 0-17 lead with the 1st half coming to a close.
However, in the last few minutes of the half Cumbria struck back hard with 2 unconverted tries. The 1st on 39 minutes from their hard-working flanker after a series of carries near the Staffs line and then with the last play, the hooker was at the back of a strong maul to crash over. The 10-17 score line at the half was a boost to Cumbria after the solid start Staffs had made and the game was in the balance at the half.
The 2nd half opened with Cumbria gaining parity within 3 minutes of the restart with the right wing sprinting in after a fine move on the right. The difficult conversion was superbly converted, and it was all square at 17 all.
The momentum seemed to be with Cumbria but again strong defence from Staffs held the expected onslaught and it was Staffs that took the next opportunity when on 61 minutes Alex Nesbitt took a gamble and intercepted a long pass on his own 10 metre line. The big centre stretched out to defeat all comers for the line and he scored under the posts. Jamie Dutton converted and Staffs retook the lead at 17-24.
2 minutes later and it got better for Staffs when Sam Clarke was on the end of a nice passing movement from Staffs as they made a turnover and great support led to Clarke scoring close to the posts. Dutton converted and Staffs were up to 17-34.
However, Cumbria hit straight back and 3 minutes later were scoring their 4th try on the left when the winger Huddleston crashed over for his 2nd try. The conversion was good and at 24-31 with 14 minutes to go, it felt like there were more points to be won but it wasn’t to be for the home side as try as they might, the Staffs defence held and won crucial lineout ball on their own 5 metre line to clear. As the game closed out, Staffs had weathered the Cumbrian attack and saw out the game in the Cumbrian 22.
It had been a very competitive game with both sides taking time to getting their cohesiveness together. Staffs were there first but when Cumbria found theirs, it led to a great game and a tight finish.
Staffs can be well pleased with the performance and win and take that forward to the home game against Warwickshire on Saturday at Wolverhampton.
In the Pool’s other game East Midlands defeated Warwickshire 41-24 at Northampton Old Scouts.
Cumbria entertain East Midlands at Carlisle on Saturday.
The new coaching team at Staffs can be given a lot of credit for this team’s performance and hope to build on it in training this week at Stafford.
Please come and support the Staffs team at Wolverhampton if you can. It would be greatly appreciated.
Kick-off is at 3pm, entry is free.