- Cornwall, Somerset & Dorset & Wilts vying for finals spots
- County championship action hots up in the South West
Photo: RFU Archive
Cornwall face a must win game in the Bill Beaumont Cup this weekend to ensure their survival in the top tier of the tournament as well as keep alive their hopes of booking a place in Twickenham’s May 26th Final.
Dave ‘Benji’ Thomas’ side take on North Midlands at Camborne RFC, kick off 3pm, on Saturday. After their first win over Gloucestershire in seven years two weeks ago, Cornwall failed to make the same impact against Hertfordshire last weekend, leaving Cornwall second in the table. A heart-stopping missed penalty kick, which brushed the posts, denied the county an invaluable victory and meant they went down 29-27.
Thomas, whose side also need Gloucestershire to do them a favour and beat Hertfordshire this weekend, said: “The permutations of this weekend’s games are huge. We know we need to win big, and get a bonus point, while Gloucestershire must win also to give us any chance of getting into the final. At the same time we also need to win as there is the threat of being relegated from this tournament if results don’t go our way. It is a concern, but that means we just have to concentrate on our game and getting it right.”
At least Thomas can go into Saturday’s match knowing his side will give it their all after a passionate outing against Hertfordshire.
He added: “The boys played out of their skins last weekend and were so unlucky not to win. I actually think we saw in that game some of the best county rugby we have played for years, so I know we won’t be lacking in spirit come Saturday. It just shows how competitive this tournament is this season, and that every point counts. We will have to make a small number of changes this weekend but we will be in a good position to put a strong side out against North Midlands and we will definitely be giving them a game and a half.”
Gloucestershire, meanwhile, will take on Hertfordshire on Saturday at Cinderford RFC knowing they too have to do it all to avoid relegation into Division 2 next season after defeats to North Midlands and Cornwall.
In the Bill Beaumont Cup Division 2 South league Somerset know they must beat Kent to book their place in next week’s final. After a 33-20 victory over Devon, both Kent and Somerset are in contention to make it through to the final round and take on the Division 2 North winner.
Mark Hawkes, Somerset’s manager, said: “This is obviously an important game for us and we know that we are going to up against a tough side. Kent have played in the top flight before so clearly they are a quality team. They also put 46 points on Devon which is no mean feat.
“This is going to be a difficult fixture but we have not got anything to lose. Our players are passionate to wear the Somerset jersey and they will put everything they have into winning this game.”
Dorset & Wilts, meanwhile, have booked their place in the semi-finals of the County Championship Shield and face Leicestershire at Vipers RFC on Saturday.
The Twin Counties are targeting a third successive crown this year, and despite a tough start to the tournament they are feeling confident of making a return to Twickenham.
After a 27-14 defeat to Oxfordshire in the tournament opener earlier this month, a strengthen Dorset & Wilts outfit bounced back in formidable style last weekend to power to a 67-22 victory over Berkshire.
Head Coach Don Parsons said: “We knew last weekend we had a tall order on our hands to keep our hopes alive of qualifying for the semi-finals. We needed to win by 21 points or more, and despite conceding a try in the opening stages of the game, we did that and I couldn’t have been more proud of the team. To win by that margin is a big ask for any team, whatever level you are playing at.
“The semi-finals are a big ask too, especially as we are away from home, but our aim is to win three titles and I firmly believe we are still capable of doing that. Experience of the ‘big matches’ will be important this weekend but at the same time we have once again discovered some young gems this season and they will have an important part to play. We should be at full strength this weekend and that is really encouraging.”