- North Midlands advance towards Bill Beaumont Cup
- Brace from Plymouth Albion's Cameron Mitchell clinches victory
Photo: Ian Palfreyman
North Midlands took a lengthy stride towards securing their place in the County Championship Bill Beaumont Cup with a 47-37 win over Gloucestershire at Stourbridge.
North Midlands, who were promoted 12 months ago, conceded five tries in a chaotic first half but they played with greater discipline after the break, restricted Gloucestershire to two second half penalties and sealed victory with a second try from wing Cameron Mitchell (Plymouth Albion).
North Midlands face Cornwall, who gave South Group favourites Hertfordshire a tremendous fright, in their final group match at Camborne on May 19.
The first half at Stourbridge was notable for some superb attacking rugby from both sides which was marred by some slack work in defence.
Dudley Kingswinford centre Stefan Shillingford went over for the opener after his club mate Ed Parry gathered a loose ball and attacked from deep with Bromsgrove full back Caolan Ryan adding the conversion.
But the scores were levelled four times in a tit-for-tat scoring sequence with Moseley flanker Ben Pons, Bromsgrove blindside Phil Horton and Mitchell crossing for further tries for North Midlands who turned round 31-26 down.
Cinderford fly half Rory Teague extended Gloucestershire’s lead to 34-26 with a penalty early in the second half but Birmingham & Solihull wing Ollie Winter broke free to score North Midlands’ fifth try a minute later which Ryan improved to reduce the deficit to a point.
Ryan and Teague than traded penalties before Luctonians centre Will Richards set up Mitchell for the deciding try ten minutes from time.
North Midlands played composed rugby in the last ten minutes and Ryan rewarded their pressure with a penalty followed by a last minute drop goal.
Warwickshire beat Eastern Counties 39-34 in a thriller in the Second Division North group.
Eastern Counties led 17-3 after 16 minutes but Warwickshire, coached by Worcester Warriors and Ireland flanker Neil Best, turned things around and they led 24-17 by half time.
Two tries in a four minute period midway through the second half from full back Gareth Collins (Leicester Lions) and wing Stefan Cooksammy (Nuneaton) helped Warwickshire withstand Eastern Counties’ fightback.
Collins and Cooksammy also scored first-half tries along with Sutton Coldfield wing Rob Watts with Nuneaton fly half Huw Thomas pulling the strings.
Leicestershire romped into the semi-finals of the County Championship Shield by trouncing East Midlands 78-14 at Kettering to win Pool Two.
Leicestershire, who are celebrating their 125th anniversary, will now be at home to Oxfordshire in the semi-finals on May 19 at a venue to be decided.
Leicestershire scored 12 tries, three of them three of them from South Leicester wing Keiron Collins.
Wing James Padley (Oakham) and full back Kris McFeddries (South Leicester) scored two tries with hooker Luke Coltman (South Leicester), wing Evan Morgan (Hinckley), prop Dave Peck (Hinckley), scrum half Tom Lemon (Syston) and centre Ryan Oakes (Hinckley) scoring Leicestershire’s other tries. Mark Lord (South Leicester) converted seven of the tries and Oakes two.
East Midlands opened the scoring with a try from Kettering wing Paul Sumner and scored again through Bedford Athletic scrum half Tom Orton late in the first half. James Mortimer of Bedford Athletic converted both tries.
But Orton was sent off for punching early in the second half which left East Midlands to fight a losing battle with only 14 men.
Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire ended their campaign with a spirited effort in a 44-29 defeat by Pool One winners Cumbria at Mansfield.
NLD led 23-18 at half time and they were still in front at 26-25 after 59 minutes. But Cumbria made their size and experience count in the final quarter to muscle their way to victory.
Scrum half Adam Shaw and centre Alan Symcox, both of Mansfield, scored tries for an inexperienced NLD side that included six debutants.
Full back George Billam (Paviors) kicked five penalties and converted both tries in a 19 points haul.