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Hamilton: We couldn't take chances

28 December 2003

Reaction from Jamie Hamilton (Nuneaton), James Moore (Sale Sharks), Lee Soper (Penzance-Newlyn) and Jan Bonney (Esher)
ENGLAND Counties captain Jamie Hamilton admitted his side paid the price for failing to take their chances in their 27-18 defeat against France Amateurs.
Penzance Newlyn lock Lee Soper and Sale Sharks full-back James Moore both touched down for England with Moore kicking a conversion and two penalties.
But other chances had gone begging long before Moore narrowly missed a chance to put England in front in the closing moments.
France replied with four tries of their own - winger Christophe Gasperi scoring a hat-trick - despite being outfought in the set-pieces by the lighter English pack.
And that left Nuneaton scrum half Hamilton - playing in the Premiership with Leicester last season - feeling doubly frustrated.
"I thought we let ourselves down because at times we didn't keep hold of the ball and build enough phases," said Hamilton.
"We blew a couple of chances, particularly at the end of the first half, and had a kick to win it.
"All credit to the French, they took their chances and I don't think we did. It was the icing on the cake when they sliced a kick and ended up scoring from it at the end.
"I was impressed with the standard of play of our boys and quite a few stood out.
"We only had three training sessions to prepare for the game and I was pretty impressed with the way we played after only a short time together.
"The forwards and the lineout went particularly well and the good thing was that we came back to within two points but the guys are very disappointed."
Cornwall lock Soper claimed his second try in England colours after touching down in the 45-23 defeat against Romania in June.
He and Doncaster lock Paul Clapham dominated the lineouts that were England's most effective attacking weapon as they tried to claw their way back into the game after going 15-6 down early in the second half.
And Soper insisted the second-tier England team was fast becoming an important focus in allowing players operating outside the top-flight to win representative honours.
The side was launched in 2002 with a victory over Chile in Santiago and this year the team beat Romania A before losing out to Romania in Bucharest and France Amateurs in Blagnac.
"A lot of players out there are starting to take this Counties team seriously," said Soper. "There are regular games now and the team is getting more fixtures.
"It's the next level up for people and if they want to make that step they've got to make themselves shine in the County Championship."
He added: "Today it was just the little mistakes that let us down and you have to give the French credit for scoring two counter-attacking tries and another from first phase.
"I enjoy playing for my country and I'm very proud to do so even though the result puts a bit of a dampener on it."
Moore graduated from the Counties team to Premiership side Sale Sharks following last summer's tour, on which he kicked 12 of 13 shots at goal and scored a try against the French.
He followed up in the rematch at Henley by finishing off a move started by Hamilton's dart down the blindside.
But he couldn't quite find the target with a long-range shot into the wind when England were 20-18 down going into the final minutes.
"There were a couple of missed opportunities and it didn't help that we'd only had a couple of training sessions," said Moore
"It was always going to be difficult to play an open game when we didn't know each others' strengths that well.
"But we still could have won it - it was just a couple of dropped balls and missed chances near the try-line that made the difference.
"I always knew it was going to be a difficult kick - it's just a pity it didn't go over.
"The Counties' experience has been a good one for me, though.
"You get to play with people who have more experience and you can learn a lot. On tour in the summer you got to know other players and pick up little things that help you play."
Esher's Jan Bonney paid tribute to the influence of Hamilton, a Premiership and European Cup winner in his Leicester days.
"It made a big difference having Jamie Hamilton involved. He brought a lot of experience to the side," said Bonney.
"It's difficult when you don't have much time together and get to put too many patterns together - and they scored a couple of early tries that had more to do with organization than anything else.
"The French deserved to win it but we came back well and could have won it right at the end."