Cumbria book shield semi-final place

Date: Friday 16th May 2014

IT was “mission accomplished” for the Cumbria side as they returned from the long trip to Sleaford after defeating Notts. Lincs. and Derby in their final group game to earn a semi-final place in the RFU County Championship Shield.

NOTTS, LINCS & DERBY 7,

CUMBRIA 40

The scoreline looks emphatic but the outcome of the game was in the mix until well into the final quarter when the Cumbrians ran away with it.

There was a gale force wind blowing down the pitch and the visitors had first use of it. A Glen Weightman break carried on by Mike Hawley (Penrith) and Paul Lancaster took play to the NLD line and they went close to crossing before the home side were penalised and the penalty was kicked to the corner for an attacking lineout.

The Cumbrian lineout functioned well all afternoon, starting with this one, and they secured the ball, drove for the line and got over, but the ball was judged to have been held up. They won the five-metre scrum and this time the forwards were halted short of the line and the ball was spun to the backs. It was turned back inside to Matthew Atkinson on the charge; he broke the first line of defence and played the pass out of the tackle to hooker Tom Graham who dived over for the opening score.

Weightman judged the wind to perfection and slotted the conversion, meaning Cumbria were seven points to the good with only five minutes on the clock.

They soon doubled their lead. A wind assisted penalty was kicked to within 15 metres of the home line and again the lineout throw was won with ease. This time the forwards got the run on their opposite numbers and had the driven maul going forward at a rate of knots. Although the defenders did slow the progress, they could not stop the surge and it was Reece Thomlinson who came up with the try.

Weightman’s kick was again good and Cumbria looked on top of their game. However, the home side rallied and Cumbria’s discipline was called into question. A series of penalties saw NLD with a lineout on the visitors’ line and they returned the compliment as their forwards drove over for a converted try.

The home side then had their best period of the game, but Cumbria weathered the storm and went on to extend their lead when Thomlinson spun off the back of a maul on the blindside, but was held up, and blindside winger Lancaster, who was in support at pace, received a well placed pass out of the back of the big forward’s hand and danced down the touchline for his side’s third converted try.

NLD finished the half strongly as Cumbria were reduced to 14 men following a Hawley yellow card. The visitors were relieved their 14-point cushion was intact as they turned to face the wind, and their task was made harder when they lost Thomlinson to a yellow card and were reduced to 13 men.

The third quarter was where the game was won and lost. NLD got more desperate the longer the scoreline remained the same, and with quarter of an hour to go Cumbria sealed the result. Penrith’s Ryan Johnson charged through midfield, the ball went to Kurt Maudling who released Lancaster on the overlap. Faced with the full back, he skilfully chipped, the ball sat up beautifully, and he sped in.

That was the game over as a contest and Cumbria added two more tries as it drew to a close. To everyone’s surprise the referee awarded a penalty try when desperate home defenders collapsed a driving maul well short of the line, and the final nail in the NLD coffin came from an attacking five-metre lineout and again it was Thomlinson who came up with the score. Weightman missed his only kick of the match as he slipped before making contact with the ball, which was some achievement in difficult conditions.

Cumbria now move on to a semi-final, probably against Warwickshire, which will be played at Aspatria on 24th May. They will be hoping to repeat last season’s win and make the trip to Twickenham, and then perhaps go one better and win the competition.