North Midlands Under-20s put up spirited resistance before they were edged out 47-26 by Cheshire in their opening warm-up match for this season’s National Under-20 Championship at Newport today.
Despite the lack of a training session before the match, North Midlands stuck to their task well and were only seven points adrift before Cheshire made their forward superiority count to pull clear late in the second half.
Cheshire used their driving maul to devastating effect, a tactic that North Midlands struggled to counter and which led to them going 12-0 down early on.
But Harper Adams University number eight Tom Mortimer began the North Midlands fight-back when he picked up from the base of a scrum and raced over from 10 metres with fly-half Sam Hollingsworth (Birmingham Moseley) adding the conversion.
Two more tries from driving mauls put Cheshire 26-7 up at half-time but North Midlands recovered well with centre Will Debenham (Harper Adams University) crossing after neat interplay following an interception close to their line.
Hollingsworth again converted and North Midlands reduced the deficit to just seven points when Whitchurch centre Dan Pemberton went over from a short-side attack for an unconverted try.
Cheshire responded with another driving maul but that score was swiftly cancelled out by a try from replacement fly-half Lewis Dorey (Nottingham Trent University), who weaved his way through the defence and then banged over the conversion.
Having got themselves within touching distance again, North Midlands were unable to close the gap further and two converted tries sealed the win for an impressive and well-organised Cheshire.
North Midlands will play a second warm-up match against Staffordshire on January 14 with Lichfield the likely venue.