- Surrey see off Sussex in Shield and face fellow winners Middlesex next
- Herts to kick off Bill Beaumont Cup campaign against North Midlands
Surrey and Middlesex kicked off the 2012 County Championship Shield with wins but it was a different story for Sussex, Essex and Hampshire as each began their pursuit of a showpiece final at Twickenham Stadium in May.
In the opening round of matches played on Saturday (April 28), the 2011 Shield finalists Surrey began with a 20-10 win over Sussex at Sutton & Epsom RFC.
A penalty try and a conversion and penalty by scrum half Steve Munford – one of 15 Dorking players in the Surrey matchday squad – gave the home side a 10-7 lead at half time after Sussex centre Ed Court (Brighton) scored a try converted by fly half Tom Stokes (unattached).
Stokes’s penalty levelled the scores in the second half before Effingham & Leatherhead flanker James Tubasei’s try and another conversion and penalty by Munford steered Surrey to victory.
Middlesex welcomed Hampshire to Staines and the home team captained by the host club’s fly half Andy Regan won 27-17 with five tries to three.
Middlesex started strongly with a series of forward drives taking them into their opponents’ half before releasing Brunel full back Sam Randall for a fine opening try.
Stout defence kept Hampshire at bay before Middlesex were able to break out and score a great try from flying Staines wing Jon Webber, soon followed by a try from tighthead prop Matt Freeman (Twickenham) converted by Brunel centre Josh Smith for 17-0.
A converted try for Hampshire jolted Middlesex into action shortly before half time and a sweeping move across the backs ended with Saracens Amateurs wing Dominic Smart rounding his opposite number to score in the corner.
Two Hampshire tries threatened to peg Middlesex back in the wind and rain but they sealed the win with a solo effort by Staines replacement back Charlie Burman, and will head next to Crowborough in Sussex this Saturday (May 5) in good heart.
Hampshire’s next match away to Surrey on Saturday (May 5) has been switched from London Irish Amateurs to Guildford RFC.
The Essex County side with David Creasey returning for a second stint as manager kicked off with a 40-8 loss away to Leicestershire at Market Harborough.
Westcliff wing Chris Dudman kicked an early penalty for Essex but two converted tries in four minutes from No.8 Ben Ashfield (Hinckley) and left wing James Padley (Oakham) helped Leicestershire, finalists two years ago, to a 26-3 interval lead.
Essex’s only score in the second period was an unconverted try by Brentwood lock Josh Woodcock.
The Essex team this year is draw from players at levels five, six and seven allowing players from different levels of the game to get together. Creasey said: "We do not have all the stars from the different clubs that have done well this year, but what we have got is a group of committed players, keen to raise the level of their game and represent the county.”
Division One of the Bill Beaumont Cup is the top tier of England’s County Championship in rugby union, and 2011 finalists Hertfordshire kick off 2012 this Saturday (May 5) against North Midlands at Old Albanians with Cornwall visiting Hertford a week later.
Eastern Counties and Kent each have a bye week before their fixtures get under way in Bill Beaumont Cup Division Two which has its final, the Plate, at the home ground of Kent’s pool winner.