Saturday 11th May, 2011
County Championship Shield - group stage
Cumbria 38 Leicestershire 17 (Half time: 23 - 7)
Kendal lads help to force a fine win
At Winter Park , Penrith, on Saturday, a fine Cumbria squad overcame a stubborn Leicestershire team, using their speedy backs to obliterate the opposition. With the experienced veterans of Billy Coxon and Richard Harryman dominating the mauls and scrums, and Reece Tomlinson and Gary Hodgson winning a plentiful supply of ball in the line outs, Cumbria settled down after a shaky first fifiteen minutes dominated by the Midlands boys.
Alistair Leddingham (Wigton) was actually first on the scoresheet with a long range penalty goal, favoured by the strong wind sweeping down the pitch, but Leicestershire swept back on the attack a few minutes later, and their captain & fly half, Lord Mark, cut through from a close in ruck, dashing under the posts to gain the first touchdown, and converting it himself.
This stunned the Cumbrians into action, charging back to the other half, and Alistair Leddingham gave an audaciious dummy from a set scrum, and dashed over from 30 metres to the delight of the home supporters. kicking the simple conversion himself.
Soon after, a long kick to the right corner gave Cumbria field position. they won possession and moved the ball to the left wing. When the referee awarded a penalty, Billy Coxon used his experience to take a quick tap and pass to his fellow prop. Richard headed for the tryline and popped up a return pass for Billy to score. Though Alistair missed the kick, Cumbria now had a 15-7 lead.
Cumbria knew they needed to use the elements in their favour, and continued to press. Six minutes before half time, Ben Walker (Kirkby Lonsdale) the feisty Cumbria scrum half, made a fine break round the blind side of a scrum from his own half. As the cover hounded him down, he made a perfect pass to his full back, Greg Smith (Wigton) who scored an excellent try in the right corner.
Just before the break, Leddingham kicked a forty metre penalty to increase Cumbria's lead to 23-7.
In the second half, not unexpectedly, Leicestershire counter attacked vigorously, using the elements in their favour. Lord Mark kicked a penalty, but Alistair returned the favour with a penalty of his own at the other end. Leicestershire then hammered on the home line, and great defence from Cumbria kept them out for a long period, but eventually the defence was broken, when the Liecestershire No.8, Ben Ashfield, popped up in midfield, one tackle was missed, and he was through to the tryline. Mark kicked the simple conversion, and Leicestershire were back in the game: 26-17.
But Cumbria were not to be thwarted - Paul Lancaster (Carlisle), made a fine break from his own line up the left wing. When he was hemmed in he kicked a low kick against the wind up the middle. His fellow club man, Alistair Leddingham was up in support, kicked the loose ball behind the retreating defence, chased like a hare down the middle, collected the bouncing ball, and chased over behind the posts, adding the conversion. This was a terrifc try from 80 metres out, and was the decisive try of the game.
The Midlanders were shell shocked, and the home pack took over once more. Gary Hodgson (Penrith) took a long line out up the right touch line, and the pack took over to drive for the line. They gradually inched their way towards the line, and eventually the smallest forward on the field, Tom Lindsay (Aspatria) dived over the line for a good forwards try. Rightly so, he was hugged by his team mates, for they knew there was no way back for the opposition, and a few minutes later, the whistle blew for "No Side".
It was a fine win by the best Cumbrian side to don their blue shirts for a long time, the best XV to turn out since the heroic battles of the late 90's, when Scotty & Mark Richardson were in their prime.
The small contingent from South Cumbria, young players such as Matty, Ben & Dan, who supported their mates raucously from the touchline, were already pestering for a coach to be organised for Twickenham, and I was telling them to calm down, there is another hurdle to be jumped before we can even think about that!
The next step we found out afterwards is the semi final of the Shield competition, to be held against Warwickshire next Saturday at Aspatria, kick off 3pm.
If this is won, then we really can start making plans for a trip to London!
As Billy Coxon said, as he limped off the field, it was great to play for a Cumbria side with real pace in midfield and on the wing.
Listening to Malcolm Brown, the experienced coach from Wigton, being interviewed on BBC Radio Cumbria afterwards, he said that he was proud to have a side from most parts of Cumbria, from Carlisle in the north, Whitehaven & Workington on the west, and Kendal & Kirkby Lonsdale in the south.
This was only the second competitive game the side had played, whereas the opposition were gleaned mostly from one club, Hinkley, who provided no fewer than 10 players. In fact, no fewer than seven Cumbrian clubs were represented in the squad.
All true Cumbrians and Westmerians should make a date to get to Aspatria next Saturday to give their support to the lads, it could be an interesting day...
15 Greg Smith (Wigton)
14 Andrew Miller (Aspatria)
13 Martin Armstrong (Workington)
12 Neil Warnock (Penrith)
11 Paul Lancaster (Carlisle)
10 Alistair Leddingham (Wigton)
9 Ben Walker (Kirkby Lonsdale)
1 Billy Coxon (Kendal)
2 Ian McDowell (Penrith)
3 Richard Harryman (Kendal)
4 Reece Tomlinson (Kendal)
5 Robert Marrs (Wigton)
6 Gary Hodgson (Penrith)
7 Tom Lindsay (Aspatria)
8 Ryan Johnson (Penrith)
16 James Thornton (Penrith)
17 Chris Tweddle (Workington)
18 John Story (Wigton)
19 Phil Dixon (Aspatria)
20 Fergus Leddingham (Wigton)
21 Mike Fearon (Workington)
22 Will Miller (Wigton)