Cornwall 41 Hertfordshire 29
Stefan Liebenberg’s hat-trick of tries was not enough to help Hertfordshire retain the Bill Beaumont Cup as they lost a pulsating encounter with Cornwall in their final pool match of the competition.
Having led at half-time by 17 points to 12 they fell 10 points behind after Cornwall dominated the early stages of the second half.
But with less than five minutes left they had reduced the deficit to five points and a draw or win – either of which would have taken them through to the final – looked possible.
However, a converted try on the stroke of full-time made the game safe for Cornwall.
Although Herts had been forced to make a number of changes for the match, the players who came into the side acquitted themselves well – none more so than Sam Winter, who scored a try with his first touch of the ball in county colours.
Herts ran the restart back to the half-way line but Cornwall won turnover ball, allowing flanker Sam Hocking to burst clear and sprint over for an unconverted try.
The hectic action continued and within minutes Herts made it 10-5 through a penalty.
Cornwall hit back with a converted try to take the lead, and Herts were reduced to 14 men soon afterwards for an infringement at a ruck.
Despite the setbacks it was Herts who scored next thanks to a quick tap-and-go by Liebenberg.
Cornwall opened the second half strongly, dominating the opening 15 minutes and scoring 15 points.
Herts rallied, though, and another Liebenberg tap-and-go resulted in his second converted try.
Within five minutes the hosts increased their lead via a converted penalty try, but Liebenberg broke round the back of the line-out soon afterwards and found enough space to reach the line.
In the last few minutes, Cornwall denied Hertfordshire the ball and in fact had the last word as Thirlby touched down from a ruck, converted his own try and the final whistle went