England Deaf 18-25 Wales Deaf
- Battling England give Wales a fright
- England Deaf Director of Rugby Tony Stoyles praises England effort
England Deaf came agonisingly close to a first win over Wales in a compelling contest at Broadstreet RFC near Coventry this afternoon.
England had conceded 50 or more points in each of the previous two meetings between the sides but the growing strength of Deaf Rugby in this country was demonstrated by a vastly improved and competitive performance which rattled Wales.
In the end the accurate kicking of Celyn Ashton, the Wales full-back, proved decisive as he contributed 20 of his side's points including six penalties which punished England for their indiscipline.
But England, playing as part of the RFU's elite structure and in the same shrts worn by England's other representative sides, out-scored Wales two tries to one.
"It was a great effort and a great improvement from two years ago," said Tony Stoyles, the director of rugby of England Deaf.
"We have taken a massive step. We are attracting better quality players, we are getting better exposure from the RFU,the coaching regime has been regimented and strict and we have had regular training sessions. All that has paid off.
"Playing in the new kit was a big thing as well. The lads had their hearts in their mouths before kick-off.
"We gave them their first 12 points with silly penalties and we are gutted with the result. But we are really pleased with the effort of the lads.
"We really feel like a full unit now. We are marching along and look out, we will be back."
In the corresponding fixture two years ago England were trounced 66-7 but there was never any chance of a repeat as man-of-the-match Ian Collins (Sevenoaks) disrupted Wales at every opportunity and new cap Craig Orrick (West Park St Helens) made his physical presence felt in mid-field.
Collins was almost forced out of the game because of sickness but there were no signs that he was under-the-weather as he excelled in the loose.
Orrick struck a 22nd minute penalty after Ashton had kicked Wales into a 6-0 lead but the six points cushion was restored when Ashton again found the target.
But England signalled that Wales would have to work hard to retain the Broadstreet Cup when full-back Guy Lavery (Barnes) went over for the opening try from a flowing handling move after hooker Peter Altham (Wharfedale) had punched a hole in the visitors' defence.
Altham, normally a prop, also had an outstanding game in the loose but the experiment of letting him take the line-out throws was less successful.
Ashton and Orrick traded penalties either side of the break which saw the lead change hands three times before Wales scored the all important try.
Former Birmingham & Solihull and Dudley Kingswinford winger Nigel Francis, now with Bedwas, made the important break when he popped up in midfield and centre Gareth John arrived in support to score under the posts.
Ashton, who had earlier landed his sixth penalty, added the conversion but England finished strongly.
Altham scored a 76th minute try after England's dominant front row shunted Wales off their own ball in a scrum but Orrick was unable to add the conversion from far out on the left.
A final forward surge almost brought a third try but England were penalised for holding onto the ball and a relieved Wales were able to clear their lines.
England Deaf's next game is against Scotland at the GHA ground in Glasgow on March 13.
Extended highlights of today's game will be available to watch on the website of BBC's 'See Hear' magazine programme for the deaf and hard of hearing.
A feature on England Deaf rugby, including footage of today's game, will be shown on 'See Hear' on BBC2 at 1pm on March 3. This episode of See Hear can now be watched on BBC iPlayer. Danny Piesley, assistant producer of 'See Hear', is a former England Deaf international player.
England Deaf: 15 Guy Lavery (Barnes); 14 Martin Ryan (West Park St Helens), 13 Matthew Cook (Leicester Lions), 12 Craig Orrick (West Park St Helens), 11 Adam Faulkner (Newport); 10 Mark Lewis (Brighton - captain), 9 Lee Wollard (Sidcup); 1 Tim Aldridge (Twickenham), 2 Peter Altham (Wharfedale), 3 Nick Todd (Petersfield), 4 Kris Mannering (Richmond), 5 Danny McAllister (Luton), 6 Bob Turner (Old Leamingtonians), 7 Ian Collins (Sevenoaks), 8 Truter Bothma (Old Whitgiftian).
Replacements used: Len Fincham (South Leicester), Brett Pruce (Aylestone St James), Rob Hill (Chinnor), Leigh Bialik (Haywards Heath).
Scorers: Tries: Lavery, Altham. Con: Orrick Pen: Orrick 2