- North Midlands suffer heavy defeat in Cornwall
- East Midlands edge out Eastern Counties in opener
North Midlands were given a harsh lesson on their return to the County Championship Bill Beaumont Cup First Division as they were beaten 65-22 by Cornwall, last season's runners-up, at Redruth.
North Midlands always knew that a visit to the Recreation Ground with its famous Hellfire Corner, would present a stern test following their promotion last season and so it proved.
Cornwall, coached by former England hooker Graham Dawe, put the visitors' pack under pressure and were awarded two penalty tries.
The hosts, with a strong contingent of Redruth and Launceston players, ran in 10 tries but North Midlands enjoyed their best period of the match either side of half-time when tries from Birmingham & Solihull wing Dai Evans and Stourbridge number eight Drew Harper reduced the gap to 16 points.
But Cornwall hit back with three tries in a devastating 12-minute period which decided the match before Stourbridge back row forward Niall Dacres scored a consolation try for North Midlands.
Bournville fly half Alex Warner kicked two conversions and a penalty for North Midlands, who were forced into a late reshuffle when Drew Cheshire, the free-scoring wing from Luctonians, was called into Gloucester's squad for their final Aviva Premiership match of the season at Worcester.
"We made lots of individual mistakes and our errors gifted Cornwall some soft tries," said North Midlands' new head coach Dan Protherough.
"We nibbled our way back into it just before half-time and when Drew Harper scored just after the break we had a sniff. But they scored three tries very quickly and that was it."
East Midlands edged out Eastern Counties 27-26 in their opening County Championship Bill Beaumont Cup Second Division match at Wellingborough.
East Midlands defeated Eastern Counties in their final match of last season and completed back-to-back wins by outscoring their visitors five tries to four.
Prop Tom Williams (Leicester Lions) and flanker Brett Daynes (Coventry) crossed for East Midlands’ first-half tries with full back De La Rey Veenendaal (Cambridge), replacement full back Ben Johnson (Bedford Athletic) and centre Jack Green (Cambridge) crossing after the break.
James Mortimer of Bedford Athletic landed only one conversion in windy conditions but Eastern Counties fly half Elliot Bale was also off-target with a conversion attempt late on.
East Midlands play their final group match against Durham at Darlington on May 24 where a win would secure promotion and a place in the County Championship Plate final.
In the County Championship Shield Warwickshire tightened their grip on Pool One by beating Essex 38-0 at Broadstreet.
Warwickshire were only 3-0 up at half-time but took control with five unanswered tries after the break.
Full back Andy Dockray (Nuneaton) scored two of the tries with Nuneaton’s British Police international lock Llyr Griffiths, scrum half Nick Thatcher (Broadstreet) and Simon Millard of Sutton Coldfield scoring the others. Nuneaton fly half Huw Thomas converted all five tries to add to his first-half penalty.
Warwickshire now make the short trip to Hinckley to face Leicestershire in the pool decider on May 17.
Leicestershire kept alive their semi-final hopes by beating Buckinghamshire 25-17 at Amersham & Chiltern RFC.
Leicestershire’s captain and hooker Luke Coltman (South Leicester) scored two close range tries with South Leicester scrum half Chris Gibbs and his clubmate, loose head Rhoddy McNaughton scoring the others. Mark Lord (South Leicester) slotted a first-half penalty and Dave Weston (South Leicester) converted McNaughton’s try.
Cumbria won Pool Two by beating Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire 40-7 at Sleaford follow their opening round win over Staffordshire.
NLD were trounced 80-0 by Cumbria last season but produced a much-improved performance and they were only 21-7 down ten minutes from time.
Mansfield lock Alan Symcox scored NLD’s try, which South Leicester fly half Danny Graney converted.
NLD complete their campaign against Staffordshire at Burton on May 17.