Match report from Cumbria v Dorset & Wilts

Dorset Wilts
Cumbria 23 v 13 Dorset & Wiltshire
A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson
In the Group stages Cumbria had beaten North Midlands, Oxfordshire and the combined three counties of Notts-Lincs-Derby, but there were only two combined counties in opposition for the final so, numerically, those odds were a little more in Cumbria’s favour.
In their qualifying group Cumbria had scored 97 points for with 56 against whilst Dorset & Wilts, a fit, fast and big side, had racked up 145 to 63. This statistic might have made them favourites on the day, however, the quality of the opposition in their group was an unknown.
Twickenham was resplendent in bright sunshine although a little blusterley as Dorset & Wilts in their green and white hooped shirts kicked off playing right to left in front of the West stand. This was the last time they touched the ball in the first five minutes as Cumbria caught the drop out and retaining possession through multiple phases involving forwards and backs took play deep into opposition territory.
The ball did eventually go Dorset & Wilts way but a message had been delivered, and received. Dorset & Wilts did eventually get over the half way line but the Cumbria defence was sound although number eight, Gary Hodgson, picked up a finger injury which couldn’t be righted on the pitch and he had to leave the field, Kirk Chettleburgh coming off the bench.
Cumbria retained the ascendency and took play back to the opposition twenty two. A slip pass was taken by the very impressive and robust number seven, Henry Wainwright, who was unstoppable bursting through the defence to score mid way between the posts and the right corner. Number twelve, Mark Ireland, was dead centre with the conversion and Cumbria had the lead at 7 – 0 with eleven minutes on the clock.
Ten minutes later the Dorset & Wilts pack, a little under pressure, were penalised for not driving straight at a scrum twenty eight metres out. Ireland again on target with the kick, his deadly accurate kicking off the tee was to be a feature of the game and Cumbria led 10 – 0 as the game moved into the second quarter.
Cumbria didn’t handle the restart efficiently and this gave Dorset & Wilts a good attacking opportunity inside the twenty two but in their eagerness they knocked on and this might have been an indication of the pressure they were under. Cumbria cleared to touch from the scrum then nicked the Dorset & Wilts lineout throw and the danger was cleared.
A Cumbria attack broke down, Dorset & Wilts hacked the loose ball down field and charged after it. Cumbria did get back to get hands on the ball but the opposition had the momentum and regaining possession they scored in the corner, the conversion was wide but Dorset & Wilts were on the board at 10 – 5.
This lifted them, for the first time in the game Cumbria were under pressure with a lot of defending to do and during this period number 14, Peter Weightman, was yellow carded for a high tackle. There was nothing deliberate or intentional about the tackle as the Dorset & Wilts ball carrier was going to ground and it was well outside the red zone, but it was an offence and Cumbria were down to fourteen men.
With a man advantage there was Dorset & Wilts pressure inside the Cumbria twenty two but they survived that period without conceding a point. Not only that but the Cumbria forwards ripped the ball out of opposition hands and fed Wainwright who resisted all attempts to tackle him and stormed the length of Twickenham into opposition territory. He was eventually put down but set the ball back, Dorset & Wilts were penalised when they put hands in the ruck and Ireland punished them with another perfect kick to extend Cumbria’s lead to 13 – 5 on the half hour.
In the ascendency Cumbria drove Dorset & Wilts off their put in at a defensive scrum and ran at the opposition line, tackles came in and the move broke down but the referee, Mr Andrew MacNeaney, brought play back for a Dorset & Wilts offside. Ireland again nailed the penalty to make the score at 16 – 5 to Cumbria, Dorset & Wilts did have a kick at goal when Cumbria  were penalised for not rolling away from a tackle but they missed it and that was the score at half time. A half which could be assessed at 60/40 to Cumbria and Dorset & Wilts had left five relatively easy points out there.
The Cumbrian second half restart was caught cleanly and Dorset & Wilts took it in but were turned over. Then in attack Cumbria fumbled the ball which was booted way downfield and into the twenty two and, reminiscent of the play in the first half, Cumbria did get back but Dorset & Wilts had the momentum and were able to score in the right corner. Another unconverted try which made it 16 – 10 after five minutes of the half and the game was on.
Cumbria needed a score to restore the two score margin and the chance came with a penalty from around thirty metres but, in his only blemish of the day, Ireland’s kick shaved the right hand post on the wrong side. And things got worse for Cumbria when the Dorset & Wilts kicker finally found some form and slotted a penalty to narrow the gap to 16 – 13 at the end of the third quarter, and the game was really on.
Dorset & Wilts then sent on the heavy brigade and in what was a much more even second half Cumbria had to deal with powerful and penetrating runs and were under the cosh with twenty minutes to play.
Cumbria rung their own changes when Ben Walker moved up from full back to scrum half, Dini Noyo, having a fine game, went to full back and Harry Huddleston came off the bench onto the right wing. A chance came when Walker chased a grubber kick into the try zone, he did ground it but it was over the dead ball line by a couple of millimetres.
It was a 50/50 game now as Cumbria hung on. Dorset & Wilts got a move going and looked likely to score but with the line beckoning they dropped the scoring pass. Cumbria then cleared the danger with ten minutes left on the clock which seemed, to Cumbrians, to be running very slowly.
It wasn’t all Dorset & Wilts though and the decisive moment came as Cumbria surged for the opposition line. The ball came to the now repaired number eight Hodgson and his moment of glory came when he blasted through the defence to score the winning try near the right corner flag. From wide out Ireland kicked the conversion and with four minutes to play Cumbria led 23 – 13 and Dorset and Wilts needed two scores.
They went for it but were repulsed at every turn, in possession Cumbria ran the clock down and with four minutes of extra time played the ref blew the whistle for ‘no side’, pointed at the centre spot and Cumbria were Champions with the score at 23 – 13.
This was a result and a performance which should live long in Cumbrian memories. Every man, starting XV and the substitute’s played their part, there was excellent open attacking play and defence when required from the backs but, in this view, it was the forwards who carried the day with smart work on the ground and in the ruck. Steals and turnovers thwarting and frustrating Dorset & Wilts on numerous occasions and providing the platform for success.
The Man of the Match could have gone to Henry Wainwright for his try and all round barnstorming performance or to Mark Ireland for the thirteen points he put on the board, but for his controlling influence the nod went to the Cumbrian number ten, Glen Weightman.
Congratulations and commiserations go to Dorset & Wiltshire who fought back strongly in the second half but it was a very proud Cumbrian Captain, Kenneth Houghton, who led his side up the famous steps to collect the Trophy and the celebrations began. Perhaps they’ll all want to do it again next year.
Starting XV (as per programme)
1   Dan Thompson (Kirkby Lonsdale)
2   Thomas Graham (Carlisle)
3   Dom Musetti (Kendal)
4   Benjamin Leacock (Wharfedale)
23 Mathew Atkinson (Aspatria)
6   Kenneth Houghton (Wharfedale ) Captain
7   Henry Wainwright (Carlisle)
8   Gary Hodgson (Aspatria)
9   James Telford (Carlisle)
10 Glen Weightman (Kendal)
11 Dinilesizwe Noyo (Kendal)
12 Mark Ireland (Sheffield Tigers)
13 Danny Barker (Kendal)
14 Peter Weightman (Rosslyn Park)
15 Ben Walker (Kirkby Lonsdale)
24  Jamie McKenzie (Keswick)
5   Ryan Lee (Penrith)
17  Adam Brough (Cockermouth)
22  Kirk Chettleburgh (Kendal)
21  Steven Nelson (Kendal)
18  James Thompson (Kirkby Lonsdale)
20  Harry Huddleston (Kirkby Lonsdale)