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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Cumbria's Twickenham hopes dashed again by Surrey

Cumbria 20 Surrey 37: Cumbria’s bid for a Twickenham return after winning the County Championship Shield in 1997 faltered for the second year in a row at the semi-final stage and against Surrey.

Rugby union photo
Gary Hodgson looks to release the ball

The powerful southern county side deserved their victory at Aspatria’s Bower Park, although shortly after half-time it looked as though Cumbria could snatch the prize on offer.

Surrey had led 17-10 at the break but soon after the restart Gregg Smith put over his second penalty to reduce the deficit to four points and Cumbria seemed to have the momentum they needed.

But Surrey responded immediately with a quick penalty of their own and then ran in two tries to take the game away from their hosts.

Cumbria did have the consolation of a try of their own 10 minutes from time but a final penalty from the boot of Surrey’s Steve Munford sealed a return to Twickenham for the visitors.

Afterwards head coach Malcolm Brown said: “The management team is very proud of what the team has achieved this season and we want to move forward again next year.

“Surrey are clearly a good side and it was their response, after we kicked a penalty early in the second-half, which marked them out as quality opponents.

“But we can take a lot of heart from the performances this season. The players all bought into the vision we had for the team and I’m sure have enjoyed the experience.”

Surrey had opened the scoring with a penalty from Munford which just scraped over the bar. Munford, a lively performer for the visitors, is actually the world record holder for the fastest try in rugby union.

He was playing for Sutton and Epsom in April 2008 when he chased the ball from the kick-off, charged down the Richmond full back’s attempted clearance kick, gathered the ball and dived over the goalline for the try – all in 7.5 seconds according to his club’s estimate.

Cumbria’s response to going behind was in Munford time.

From the restart kick the ball was played back to full-back Tom Hunt and his clearance kick was charged down by Penrith winger Phil Fell who followed-up to make the touchdown. Smith’s conversion gave Cumbria a 7-3 lead.

But Surrey, who were strong and committed up-front where lock Matt Higgins was immense, started to enjoy good possession inside the Cumbria half and attacking excursions by the home side were few and far between.

Cumbria’s best work was done in defence but they couldn’t hold out indefinitely and when Surrey had moved the ball right and then back left Ryan Lucas was able to get over for their first try which Munford converted.

When Cumbria conceded a second try soon afterwards it started to look ominous. Again the opening was forged down their left and this time it was winger Mike Terelak, one of 11 Dorking players in the starting line-up, who made the touchdown. Munford added the conversion.

Cumbria seized a lifeline in the closing minutes of the half when Smith landed a well-struck penalty.

It needed a good, positive start from Cumbria after the break so when Smith booted his second penalty it really seemed as though it was game-on.

But Surrey rallied and after Munford had kicked a penalty to restore the seven-point lead they quickly put some daylight between themselves and their hosts.

However, there was some controversy over the initial try. Chris Lewis seemed to spill the ball as he dived for the line under the Cumbrian posts and certainly Mike Hawley seized on it before hammering a good clearing kick into touch.

But the referee allowed the score, saying that Lewis had control of the ball when he got it down before it went loose and Hawley cleared into touch. Munfortd’s conversion was accurate.

Then it was Lewis again, ducking under two tackles, who wriggled clear and went away to score his second with Munford again converting.

Credit to Cumbria, however, they came strongly in the closing stages and some good work by the forwards saw them maul their way over the Surrey line for Graeme Andrews to claim the try. Smith converted.

Surrey finished with a flourish and Cumbria’s Paul Lancaster did really well to make up ground and catch winger Stuart Phillips as he seemed to be on his way to a score in the corner. But the final word went to Munford who scored a late penalty.

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