- Twin Counties victorious on Twickenham debut
- Late penalty try no consolation for Leicestershire
Dorset & Wilts 36 Leicestershire 26
Photo: RFU Archive
Dorset & Wilts scored five tries to one to emerge deserved winners of the County Championship Shield in an entertaining final at Twickenham Stadium.
It was a unique achievement by the Twin Counties, who attained full county status from the RFU in 1949, as they were making their first senior appearance at the Home of England Rugby. Only Dorset & Wilts’ Under-21 and sevens sides had played at the ground before.
Leicestershire had the fillip of a penalty after only 24 seconds which was converted by fly half Mark Lord, and his Dorset & Wilts counterpart Adam Westall levelled the scores from 30 metres in the fourth minute.
Westall would go on to suffer six missed kicks from the tee, compared with only one by Lord, but it was Dorset & Wilts’ greater variety in attack and ability to move the weightier Leicestershire pack around the Twickenham pitch which counted most.
Both sides played with a positive attitude and the lead changed hands twice before half-time before Dorset & Wilts, who had defeated Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Sussex in pool play, and Oxfordshire in the semi finals, ran away with it in the second half.
The rolling substitutions on trial in this season’s County Championship were also much in evidence, with a pair of front-row changes on each side before the first half was out.
Centre Scott Chislett ran in Dorset & Wilts’ first try after 15 minutes, converted by Westall, following a break by Terry Gilmour and replacement Tom Mannion’s touchline juggle.
Lord kicked a pair of penalties either side of converting his own try for Leicestershire in the 30th minute when an attack up the left was held by Dorset & Wilts but recycled ball from a ruck allowed Lord to skip past prop Alan Manning’s inside shoulder.
Trailing 16-10, the Twin Counties burst into the second half with a try in 25 seconds by replacement prop Joseph Burns, his chasers having retrieved their side’s kick-off.
Westall converted and though he missed from 40 and 30 metres later in the half, Dorset & Wilts moved further ahead when flanker Sean Barwick was on the shoulder of Westall to finish an attack around the fringes, and Westall converted.
More space opened up on the left for Dorset & Wilts to give wing Michael Pope their fourth try with 56 minutes gone, Westall converting, and after a penalty by Lord to trim the Twin Counties’ lead to 15 points, Pope almost scored again with seven minutes remaining. He was held up a metre short but the second row Liam Gilbert, who had a fine all-round match, followed up to reach out and score at the left corner flag.
A penalty try at a 79th minute scrum, with Lord converting, gave Leicestershire the last word but the Shield - for players at clubs at National League Three level or below - belonged to Dorset & Wilts.
Frazer Wilford, the Bournemouth prop who captained Dorset & Wilts, said: “I suppose it’s every boy’s dream to walk up those steps at Twickenham and lift a trophy - a once in a lifetime experience.
“I think it’s just desserts for a lot of hard work over this season and previous years by Dorset & Wilts.
“And hopefully it will encourage greater participation and plenty more good rugby in the counties in future."
Dorset & Wilts vs Leicestershire teams
Dorset & Wilts: K Lynch (Bournemouth); S Lilley (Sherborne), T Gilmour (Salisbury), S Chislett (Bournemouth), M Pope (Bournemouth); A Westall (Swindon), H Bell (Oakmeadians); R West (Salisbury), F Wilford (Bournemouth, capt), A Manning (Bournemouth), M Pallas (Salisbury), L Gilbert (Chinnor), S Barwick (Salisbury), J Stephenson (Wimborne), J Sanders (Ellingham & Ringwood). Replacements: J Burns (Bournemouth), B Saville (Swindon), T Mannion (Swindon), M Richards (Oakmeadians), J Mitchell (Oakmeadians), D Bell (Salisbury), T Pottage (Salisbury).
Scorers: tries: Chislett, Burns, Barwick, Pope, Gilbert; cons: Westall 4; pen: Westall.
Leicestershire: AJ Smith (Hinckley); K McFedries (South Leicester), S Francis (Syston), W Keeling (Hinckley), S Greasley (Hinckley); M Lord (South Leicester), S Eke (Hinckley); P Eadie (Syston), L Coltman (Syston), K Finnerty (Syston), M Tuckey (Syston), S Bale (South Leicester), M March (South Leicester, capt), A Davey (Syston), B Ashfield (Hinckley). Replacements: S Badham (Melton Mowbray), M Bayley (South Leicester), B Marshall (Old Newtonians), C Bale (South Leicester), W Cartwright (South Leicester), I Smith (Syston), B Bonnin-Ward (Hinckley).
Scorers: tries: Lord, penalty try; cons: Lord 2; pens: Lord 4.
Referee: T Hall.