A BRAVE second half fightback was not enough to stop Bridgnorth slipping to a 31-18 defeat to Maidstone in the final of the RFU Intermediate Cup at Twickenham.
The Shropshire side have cruised to the Midlands Two West (North) title this season with a 100% record, but found the Kent outfit too hot to handle.
Maidstone, themselves unbeaten in winning London Two South East, were 24-0 up inside the first half hour to put one hand on the trophy.
Dale Smallman, Bridgnorth’s director of rugby, said: “Maidstone are a great side and they set themselves up for the victory with their first half performance. But what a performance by Bridgnorth in the second half, we asked them to stand up and do the club proud and they certainly did that.”
Maidstone started at a frenetic pace, and opened the Shropshire side up inside the first two minutes.
Jamie Perigo made the decisive break before feeding Olly Newton to cross the line and score behind the posts. Ben Pitkin kicked the conversion. (0-7)
And, as the clock ticked over the 10-minute mark, Pitkin extended that lead with a well-struck penalty from the right touchline after Bridgnorth had been penalised for holding on.
The Kent club continued to pound at Bridgnorth’s defence, and their persistence was rewarded on 20 minutes as Alex Eastwood went over in the right corner. The difficult conversion proved no problem for Pitkin.
Maidstone’s afternoon got even better on 28 minutes as Josh Pankhurst broke the line on the 10-metre line, skipped a challenge and out-paced Bridgnorth’s Will Biddell to score. Pitkin again converted to make the lead even more comfortable.
Bridgnorth finally had the chance to get some points on the board when a Maidstone player was penalised for not releasing the ball, and Biddell took the chance with a well-struck penalty.
Biddell then chipped a bit more off the deficit with another penalty on the stroke of half-time after Maidstone ventured offside.
But if that gave Maidstone any doubts, they eased those with a fourth try 10 minutes into the second half. It came from Eddie Cranston, who burst through to score near the posts and leave Pitkin with a simple conversion.
The second half was certainly not as one-sided as the first though, and the Bridgnorth fans in the crowd made their voices heard as their side pressed for a try of their own.
Heavy pressure saw Calum Madden held up close to the corner flag, but the impressive Maidstone defence stood firm.
The Shropshire outfit finally got the try they craved on 67 minutes though, as a terrific driving maul pushed Maidstone deep behind their own line and captain Dan Griffiths managed to ground the ball. Biddell, however, could not add the conversion.
He was on the scoresheet just minutes later though, adding his side’s second try with a powerful burst after another strong driving maul. He then added the conversion as well to reduce the deficit still further.