Herts in narrow loss to league leaders Cornwall

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Hertfordshire sit third in the Bill Beaumount Division One South division after a narrow 23-15 defeat to table-topping Cornwall at Silver Leys on Saturday.

Hertfordshire were by no means outclassed and if they had taken their opportunities could have forced a victory. However, despite having much the best of the scrums where the forced Cornwall to concede numerous penalties, the line out did not work well and too much ball was kicked away to the opposition.

The opening minutes of the game appeared more like aerial ping pong than rugby as both sides appeared intent on kicking possession away to their opposition.

However when play settled down it was Cornwall who took the first positive initiative. Within 10 minutes they set up a line out 10 metres out and from the catch and drive flanker Sam Matavesi (Plymouth Albion) touched down. A few minutes later following a mid field penalty concession by Herts, Cornwall again drove over from a line out. This time No 8 Herbie Stupple (Plymouth Albion) was credited with the try and Matt Shepherd (Plymouth Albion) added the conversion.

Hertfordshire fought back into the game, disrupting the Cornish scrum and then winning a couple of penalties to take play to the Cornish line. At the lineout Cornwall tapped back loosely and hooker, Brett McNamee (Hertford) pounced on the ball to score in the corner.

This boosted the home side’s confidence no end and they had much the better of the rest of the half. More home pressure resulted in an easy penalty for Josh Sharp (Loughborough Students). Then centre Jonny Neville (Bishop’s Stortford) was held up over the line following a couple of effective probing runs by scrum half Tom Banks (Bishop’s Stortford).

Herts continued to press, forcing Cornwall to concede couple of free kicks and finally scrum pressure resulted in a penalty try on the stroke of half time. Sharp added the two points to put his side ahead by 15 points to 12 at the break.

Very early after the restart Cornwall equalled the score with a 45 metre penalty by Shepherd. Herts then put the visitor’s line under severe pressure, winning three penalties at scrums. However each time they either elected for a line out or another scrum but unfortunately they came away empty handed. As soon as Cornwall broke the siege and got into the home half they won a penalty and the Shepherd kick gave them the lead.

Herts then put the pressure on once again but a combination of good Cornish defence and the weakness of the Herts line out resulted in no more points. Instead when Cornwall got down to the Herts line they were clinical with the catch and drive, resulting in another Matavesi try. With 15 minutes left Herts had to score twice, but try as they might no score came.

Hertfordshire now go to Clifton to face Gloucestershire next Saturday, but unless Cornwall fails to beat Surrey it will only be a battle with Gloucestershire for second place.

Scorers: Hertfordshire: Try – McNamee 25m, penalty try 39m; Conversion – Sharp 39m; Penalty – Sharp 30m

Cornwall: Matavesi 10m, 65m, Stupple 16m,; Conversion – Shepherd 16m; Penalties – Shepherd 43m, 54m

Hertfordshire: Pier Dotta (Bishop’s Stortford); Jimmy Rea (Bishop’s Stortford, Sam Winter (Bishop’s Stortford), Johnnie Neville (Bishop’s Stortford), George Elliott (Ampthill); Josh Sharp (Loughborough Students), Tom Banks (Bishop’s Stortford); Ralph Adams-Hale (Ampthill), Brett McNamee (Hertford), Sean Edwards (Bishop’s Stortford), Rob Conquest (Darlington Mowden Park), Matt Tomlinson (Bishop’s Stortford), Anthony Maka (Letchworth), Stephen Ball (Bishop’s Stortford) (Capt), Dave Archer (Hertford)

Replacements (all used): Will Roberts (Bishop’s Stortford), Rory Young (Bishop’s Stortford), Andy Berry (Chinnor), Matthew Steele (Barnes), Michael Sargent (Hertford), Dan Watt (Loughborough Students), Michael Gallagher (Bishop’s Stortford)