Bill Beaumont County Championship Division 2 Final at Twickenham
by Richard V Isaacs

Hampshire’s dream of back-to-back County Championship titles were dashed as they fell to a 39-7 loss to a powerful Leicestershire side in a superb Final on a damp Twickenham Sunday evening.

Up against a side full of players with National League experience, Hampshire found life hard, especially up front and the Midlanders took full advantage, scoring four tries in a second-half showing that gave the scoreline an unfair reflection.

Leading just 8-0 at the break through tries from Callum Dacey after 10 minutes and a penalty through Rick Aley, Hampshire would have felt they were still in the contest on the greasy surface.

Alex Sutherland missed a long range penalty midway through the half to get Hampshire onto the board and Aley pulled one wide late on as the end concluded.

The pressure finally started to tell early in the second period as prop David Peck drove over for Leicestershire’s second try and, despite being dropped to 14-men when lock Martin Wolfenden was sent to the sinbin for a high tackle, the flow of play remained against Hampshire.

Sutherland cracked a penalty just wide before William Cave dived over for the Midlands side’s third try before Hampshire finally gave themselves a foothold into the game.

An impressive break from Freddie Gleadowe in the centre fed the on-rushing Pierre-Alex Clark, who marked his final Hampshire appearance with a try under the posts, which was improved by Sutherland’s conversion for 18-7 with 15 minutes to play.

Any hopes of a comeback were soon closed as Leicestershire scored three tries in the final 10 minutes, all of which were created by their total domination of the scrummage set-piece.

Man of the match Alex Salt piled over for the first of the trio before Calum Gunn weaved his way to the line and then grabbed a second with the final move of the match – Aley adding all three conversions to give Leicestershire the comfortable-looking final scoreline of 39-7.

So it just wasn’t to be for Hampshire on the day as they were outplayed by a side created mainly from three clubs – South Leicester, Leicester Lions and Hinckley.

Hampshire head coach Ian Chandler admitted they were beaten by the better side.  “They were a far stronger, well organised side than we were and well done to them on their win,” he said.

“They dominated the game in the forwards and made us take risks where we normally wouldn’t have done which didn’t come off and it played into their hands.

“But we can be rightly proud of what we have achieved,” Chandler added.  “We played three games at this level after promotion last year and were unbeaten in all of them.  The lads have stepped up to the mark and have done us proud.”

It was a thought echoed by skipper Wes Dugan.  “I am really proud of the lads.  We were just beaten by the better side today, especially in the pack.  We didn’t really have a set piece and struggled to get on the front foot.

“We knew we had the beating of them in the backs but, with the greasy ball not helping us to it spread as quickly as we normally would have liked to, their dominant pack gave them the edge.”

Despite the result, Hampshire can keep their heads high as this was their first defeat in Championship rugby in eight attempts over the course of two seasons.

And with a strong Under 20s side developing, there will be plenty of headaches for the coaches and management to consider ahead of next season’s Championship campaign.

“To get to Twickenham twice in two seasons is a superb achievement,” concluded Chandler.  “And that is down to the hard work the staff have put in to getting the players involved and committed to the cause.

“All of these lads want to be a part of what we are trying to achieve here.  We have turned things around from the way the County side used to be run and back-to-back Championship Finals shows how far we have come.

“We have a great Under 20s set-up and the players there are ready to step up into the senior XV before too long.

“There is no reason why we cannot make it a third trip to Twickenham next season and that will be our aim once again.  This was disappointing as we came to win the game but it wasn’t our day.”

 Jon Boden (Leicester Lions), Calum Gunn (South Leicester), William Cave (South Leicester), Tom Wheatcroft (Coventry), Callum Dacey (Hinckley), Rick Aley (Leicester Lions), Adam Shaw (South Leicester); Rhoderick McNaughton (South Leicester), Dale Ager (South Leicester), David Peck (Hinckley), Martin Wolfenden (South Leicester), Matthew Tuckey (Leicester Lions – capt), Nick Cairns (South Leicester), Ben Avent (Hinckley), Alex Salt (Hinckley).  Replacements: Wes Cope (South Leicester), Steve Harvey (Hinckley), Joseph Newton-Taylor (Leicester Lions), Matt Fearn (Hinckley), Jamie Skerritt (Syston), Kris McFedries (Leicester Lions), Luke Veebel (Leicester Lions).

Hampshire: Alex Sutherland (Bournemouth), Alex Everett-Bolter (Bournemouth), Freddie Gleadowe (Bournemouth), Wayne Dugan (Gosport & Fareham), Harry Carr (Havant), Pierre-Alex Clark (Tottonians), Wes Dugan (Gosport & Fareham – capt); Luke Marks (Havant), Tim Snowden (Gosport & Fareham), Ryan Wilkie (Portsmouth), Rob Rees (Winchester), Ross Parkins (Chinnor & Army), Joe Rees (Bournemouth), Kemp Price (University of West of England), Gavin Hart (Havant).  Replacements: Alex Hibdige (Andover), James Monck (Andover), Daniel Sargent (Worthing Raiders), Charlie Stonehill (Cardiff University), Liam Perkins (Worthing Raiders), Harry Dolbear (Tottonians), Matt Farnes (Portsmouth).


Neil Chivers (RFU)




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