North Midlands staged a remarkable comeback to beat Somerset 40-36 at Bridgwater & Albion and book their place in the final of the County Championship Bill Beaumont Cup Division Two Plate final.
North Midlands were trailing 36-21 with only 15 minutes to go but they scored three tries in a memorable purple patch with Luctonians fly half Will Burton scoring the winner in the final play of the match.
Somerset also lost two players to the sin bin during that time with an off-the-ball challenge leading to the reversal of what looked like being the winning penalty allowing North Midlands to tap and run to set up Burton’s winner.
North Midlands will now meet Northumberland, who beat Eastern Counties in the Division Two North decider at Alnwick, in the final at Twickenham on May 26 (9.30am) before England play the Barbarians.
The match at Bridgwater & Albion was the Division Two South decider after both counties had beaten Devon in their opening match and a tense first half gave no indication of the drama that was to follow.
Moseley full back Caolan Ryan kicked three penalties for North Midlands but Somerset led 15-9 at the break through an Ali Taylor try, a penalty try and a conversion and penalty from Luke Couzens.
Luctonians wing Drew Cheshire gave North Midlands the lead, but only briefly, when he crossed early in the second half for his fourth try in two county matches.
Centre Taylor completed his hat-trick either side of a try from Moseley prop Stef Thorpe to steer Somerset into what looked like a commanding lead but North Midlands decided to keep the ball away from Somerset’s big pack in the final quarter and their running rugby brought rewards.
Replacement hooker Will Radburn (Birmingham & Solihull) began the fightback with an unconverted try and Moseley flanker Ben Pons then crossed for a try that Ryan improved.
Burton’s winner, after North Midlands attacked from deep and retained the ball under pressure, completed the comeback.
Warwickshire miss out on final spot
Warwickshire narrowly missed out on a place in the County Championship Shield final with a 13-11 defeat by Cumbria in their semi-final at Aspatria.
The kick off was delayed for 75 minutes to allow local farmers to pump water from the pitch after a day of torrential rain.
The pitch stood up better than expected and both sides produced a compelling contest in the conditions.
Broadstreet fly half Dan Richard kicked two penalties and Warwickshire nudged in front when centre Nick Thatcher (Broadstreet) crossed for their only try 15 minutes from time.
But Richards was off target with the conversion attempt and Ally Leddingham kicked Cumbria to victory with a penalty four minutes from time.
Cumbria will now meet Surrey, the defending champions, in the final at Twickenham on May 26 (5.15pm).