Bridgnorth withstood a ferocious second-half onslaught from Dudley Kingswinford to lift the North Midlands Cup for the first time with a 20-17 win in tonight’s final at Stourbridge.
It appeared that Bridgnorth were easing to a comfortable victory when they led 20-7 at half-time but DK were a transformed team in the second half and came within a penalty kick of snatching victory.
Had DK full-back Sam Vaughan landed a 74th minute penalty the scores would have been level and with the teams tied on number of tries scored and goals kicked, DK would have won their sixth county cup by virtue of scoring the first points of a fast and furious final.
But Vaughan’s kick drifted right of the target and DK were penalised three times for holding onto the ball in rucks in a frenetic finale which gave Bridgnorth the opportunity to run down the clock and celebrate victory.
Bridgnorth had won the North Midlands Shield and North Midlands Cup Plate in the past but they had never won the main county cup competition.
DK hit them hard early and the Midlands One West club took the lead after 14 minutes when hooker Matt Squire rounded off a sustained attack and Vaughan added the extras.
But Bridgnorth, a division higher in Midlands Premier, regrouped and soon levelled when lock Cal Madden drove over from close range and centre Llew Williams landed the conversion.
Williams rewarded Bridgnorth for further periods of pressure by tagging on two penalties which stretched the lead before full-back Afa Haisila rounded off a sweeping attack with a polished finish just before the break.
Williams maintained his 100 per cent kicking record by adding the extras but those spectators who thought that the match was over had reckoned without DK’s resilience.
Rather than return to the changing rooms at half-time DK director of rugby Neil Shillingford kept his players out on the pitch and they responded with a passionate display in the second 40 minutes which narrowly failed to bring them victory.
Vaughan reduced the deficit with a penalty after 49 minutes after Bridgnorth were caught off side and DK continued to frustrate Bridgnorth in defence and apply the pressure in attack.
Vaughan set up a thrilling finale when he used nimble footwork to dart over from close range from a quickly tapped penalty and he dotted down close enough to the posts to leave himself with a straightforward conversion.
But the penalty kick Vaughan had to level the scores and win the match was further out and it drifted right of the target, to Bridgnorth’s obvious relief.