Cumbria succumb to better Rugby.
In a well contested match which had spectators nerves jangling right to the end, Cumbria eventually succumbed to a better performance from our senior XV in the Semi-final of the County Championship Shield competition. The match was played at Aspatria, more or less due west of Carlisle, and just about the most northern rugby club in England.
The team, and a few supporters, travelled on Friday night by train to Preston, Lancs. and stayed there overnight in the Ibis Hotel. After a good breakfast they then set off for the ground by coach and arrived on site at about 11.45 to prepare for the 2pm KO. Aspatria is a very well facilitated rugby club, with a fine clubhouse, a stand to shelter from the weather, and a full size, level pitch in excellent condition.
The party was made very welcome by the Aspatria club and the Cumbria RFU representatives. It is a great pity that in order to catch the next to last train back to London from Preston, we had to leave Aspatria at 16.45, immediately after the usual post match formalities. We left with hot Cumbrian pies and sandwiches to eat on the coach, along with a few beers!!. There was no time to have a propper meal at the Club, or to enjoy what I am sure wold have been some great Northern hospitality.
The weather conditions for the match were not the best. There was a howling gale across the pitch and towards one corner, and rain set in towards the end. It was also pretty cold. The spectators were very glad of the stand, which kept us sheltered from the elements, and there were lots of spectators in support of Cumbria, but only about 8 who had travelled up from the south.
The weather did not however spoil the quality of the rugby. The match was played in very good spirit, without any anger or misconduct, but both team fought hard and it was pretty physical.
Surrey started very well and within three minutes put a backs move together which saw a winger's try in the left corner. The wind made kicking very difficult and the conversion was missed. We looked sharper and the forwards clearly had the upper hand in all areas, so 10 minutes later we created another well worked try, this time on the other wing, and again the conversion failed. At 10-0 up, and clearly on top, it looked as though we might run in a cricket score. But Cumbria had other ideas. They woke up and began to compete very effectively, and after a series of bruising interchanges up front, they came away down their right hand side, and when the ball got to their right wing he rouned his man and showed us a clear pair of heels to score under the posts. The conersion was successful. 10-7.
We now had a match on our hands, and the Cumbria defence became much stronger and quicker to press, and as a result of this pressure, a not so good pass in our backs was intercepted and a clear run to the line gave them a second converted try. 14-10 to Cumbria. This is how the first half concluded.
The second half was tough rugby, with both sides defending massively. Both sets fo forwards set up vey successful rolling mauls, and from one of these, our boys moved the ball many yards to eventually go over for a well earned try, again unconverted. 14-15.
In return, Cumbria then also used forward power to get themselves within a few yards of our line, but despite a sustained attacking effort whioch seemd to last for ever, our defence was magnificent and they came away with nothing when we were awarded a relieving penalty.
Shorly after, as a result of another series of forward pick and drive, Cumbria got a kickable penalty which was duly converted. 17-15. Our response was intense, and was eventually rewarded with a try near to the posts and the kick this time was successful. 17-22.
From then both sides threw everything they had into attack and counter. The fast Cumbria right wing got loose again to touch down, only to be brought back because he had put a foot in touch about 5 yards out - phew!!
In the end it was 4 tries to 2 in our favour, and the local supporters were congratulatory and genuinely believed that the team that played the better rugby eventually came out on top. Who am I to disagree.
So now it's to the Final against Dorset & Wilts, which will be played at 11.00 on Sunday 29th May on the hallowed turf at Twickenham.