- Berkshire have too many aces
- Cheshire resolve not quite enough
Photo: RFU by Capture the Event
Berkshire 30 Cheshire 17
Cheshire knew that they needed a major improvement on the semi-final performance to get the better of form side Berkshire in the final of the National Under 20 Championship at Twickenham and it proved a bridge too far.
Cheshire have been toppling big guns all season, including their marvellous fightback win against Kent to reach the final, but they found Berkshire too well balanced and were unable to stage another escape act.
They opened brightly enough when schoolboy full back Matt Geiger cut inside cleverly for a try after 14 minutes that centre Mike Barlow converted and for a spell Cheshire looked to have the edge in terms of dominance of the ball supply.
But Berkshire carried plenty of ammunition in all departments and after subjecting their opponents to a prolonged bombardment, scrum half James Brooks dummied and stretched over for a try that he converted to level matters at 7-7.
Hooker Ben Henderson was a powerful figure throughout and he underlined his physical presence when he charged through some fragile Cheshire defending for a try that Brooks converted. No 8 Samir Kharbouch then put his side in command when he drove over from another close-range scrum before Brooks added another penalty in first-half stoppage time for a 22-7 interval lead.
Photo: RFU by Capture the Event
Five minutes after the restart wingman Jak Rossiter extended Berkshire’s lead with his side’s fourth try, but undaunted, Cheshire hit back with tries by replacements Mike Finnemore and Ryan Higginson before a Brooks penalty settled Berkshire nerves.
In keeping with their earlier displays, Cheshire were resolute to the final whistle and came close to cutting the arrears on two or three occasions, but Berkshire were equally obdurate in defence and kept their line intact to take the title.
“I thought that at times were didn’t play sufficient territory,” said Berkshire coach Mike Tewksbury: “And at times, whilst we tackled well and stopped Cheshire getting beyond the gain line, we committed too many people to rucks.
“But when we got into the attacking zones we did look dangerous. We carried the ball very well and we did create chances. But all credit to Cheshire, they hung in there. When we’ve gone ahead in some games this year we’ve blown some sides away, good sides, whereas Cheshire stayed with us right to the end.”
“You’ve got to give credit to Berkshire. We knew they were going to come out and try and play some rugby and we knew that the hooker and the No 8 were key players.” said Cheshire coach Miles Heagerty. “In the middle of the game we allowed them to ride rough shod over us. That cost us.
“But when you get into scoring positions and you’re throwing loose passes and dropping kicks you know it’s not going to be your day.”
Berkshire Under 20s: Alfie Brierley, Jak Rossiter, Ali Johnston, David Massey, Isaac Kibirige, Joe Murphy, James Brooks, Connor Diplock, Ben Henderson, Oliver Ison, Nick Crandon, Colin Thomson, Tomas Owen, Matt Mills capt, Samir Kharbouch. Replacements: Rory Paxton, Grant Mehrjou, Olly Roberts, Ollie Poole, Jack Hill, Jack Harrison, Joe Leadley.
Cheshire Under 20s: Matt Geiger, Louis Taylor, Mike Barlow, Mike Kaciubskyj, Matt Van Sertima; Oliver McCall, Callum Yates, Mark Williams, Nathan Rushton, Tom Cocu, Ben Jones, Fraser Smale, Matty Dowler, Josh Longson, David Jones. Replacements: Ryan Higginson, Max Harvey, Tom Sanders, Mike Finnemore, James O’Rourke, Billy Woof, Josh Woods, Simon Currie, Owain Phillips.
Referee: Shane Lewis