02/02/14 by Paul Bolton
North Midlands Under-20s suffered a spectacular second half collapse and were beaten 31-24 by Eastern Counties in their opening National Under-20 Championship match at Dudley Kingswinford today.
North Midlands appeared to be coasting to victory when they went 24-0 up five minutes into the second half but then appeared to switch off and Eastern Counties hit them with 26 unanswered points in a 17 minute period.
North Midlands missed a chance to regain the lead when replacement fly-half Tom Biggs (Worcester Wanderers) was off target with a penalty attempt and Eastern Counties clinched victory when North Midlands failed to control the ball at a scrum and lock Joe Brock (Diss) touched down.
In the proverbial game of two halves, North Midlands eased into a 21-0 lead with centre Jake Landon (Worcester Wanderers) crossing for the opening try after a period of sustained pressure.
North Midlands were then awarded a penalty try as Eastern Counties interfered with the ball as number eight Connor Nicholls (Worcester Wanderers) was about to touch down.
Fly-half Ed Spalding scored the third in first half injury time after North Midlands moved the ball wide from a line-out and the Worcester University player added his third conversion.
Biggs’s penalty early in the second half stretched the lead but momentum shifted with two tries in as many minutes from Eastern Counties.
Replacement hooker Sam Maile (Bury St Edmunds) galloped away for a breakaway try which fly-half Charlie Pask (Bury St Edmunds) improved.
North Midlands were caught napping again from the re-start when centre Tom Jackson (Holt) finished off a bold counter-attack.
Pask again added the conversion and the lead was reduced to five points when right wing Austin Beckett (Northampton Saints Academy) provided an excellent finish to a sustained attack.
Beckett’s elder brother, scrum-half Fraser (Sudbury) darted over from a five metres scrum to level the scores and Pask added the conversion which gave Eastern Counties the lead for the first time.
Eastern Counties ended the match with 13 men after number eight William Dodds (West Norfolk) and loosehead prop Simon Uzokwe (Ipswich) were sin-binned in quick succession but North Midlands could not make their numerical advantage count