Crunch Shield match for Cumbria
Published at 19:38, Thursday, 15 May 2008
CUMBRIA face a crunch match with Durham tomorrow to stay in the County Shield Championship next season.
Both teams lost their second matches at the weekend to set up the relegation decider while Northumberland and North Midlands go head-to-head for the group title.
While Cumbria were going down 36-19 at Stourbridge against North Midlands, Durham were losing 39-17 to local rivals Northumberland.
But the Cumbrian performance was a spirited one in adversity and there were a number of positives for coaches Stuart Connell and Malcolm Brown to take from it.
Brown said: “We were literally throwing the team together on the coach to Stourbridge because of players having to drop out.
“Lee Askew was involved in a car accident on Saturday morning and Staffen Helies had to take his wife to York because of a family illness.
“We had been forced to move things around already with injuries from last week so I think it was a remarkable effort against a much more experienced North Midlands side.
“ They had a good number of players from National Two in their side so we were always going to be up against it.
“But I thought we played with a lot of passion and although essentially a backs-to-the-wall job it was encouraging given the circumstances.”
Kendal flanker Gary Holmes was asked to play in then centre while Dave Hanabury, a member of the Cumbria U20 side, was brought in on the wing among a series of late changes.
It looked ominous when North Midlands took an early lead with a converted try but Cumbria rallied well and after some strong work by the forwards Penrith’s Rob Dawson forced his way over under the posts. Chris Park levelled the scores with the conversion.
Cameron Mitchell - who finished with 16 points - put North Midlands ahead again with a penalty but the home side didn’t score again until virtually the last play of the half when they went in for a try which Mitchell converted.
Cumbria were under pressure for a fair bit in the second half and North Midlands scored two converted tries to stretch their lead to 31-7.
Holmes did well to get over for a Cumbrian try which Park converted and although North Midlands scored an unconverted try, the visitors produced the final score of the game.
It was a good one, too, as Lewis Boyd made a great counter-attacking run from full-back and after some excellent inter-play it was Carlisle’s Matt Charters who made the line.
Brown said: “It was always going to be tough against an experienced, strong side but if we produce something similar at Durham we should be able to get something.”
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk