Worcestershire & Herefordshire launched their defence of the Iskitz Three Counties Championship with a 22-18 victory over Shropshire at Worcester’s Weston’s Fields ground tonight.
An outstanding performance from their pack enabled the Two Counties to dominate the set pieces and nullify the threat of Shropshire’s backs who looked dangerous on the occasions they were supplied with quick ball.
The Two Counties also had to come from behind to take victory after Shropshire led 13-12 at half-time and extended their lead to 18-12 early in the second half.
W&H went in front when Evesham prop Tom Gazey burrowed over for the opening try after 15 minutes with Bredon Star centre Ross Atwood adding the conversion.
But poor discipline at the breakdown allowed Newport scrum-half Rhys Harrhy to reduce the deficit to a point with two penalties.
A try from Evesham centre Wilf Watson, who gathered a crossfield kick from his club-mate Mike Diston rewarded the Two Counties for a period of pressure but Shropshire were always dangerous in attack.
Newport number eight Joquin Jiminez went over from close range after a series of five metre scrums on the stroke of half-time and Harrhy added the extras to put Shropshire ahead.
W&H missed an opportunity to regain the lead when Diston was off target with a penalty early in the second half and it was Shropshire who went further ahead when Newport wing Nathan Smart raced over for an unconverted try.
But W&H’s pack asserted themselves in the final quarter and Shropshire found themselves under increasing pressure in defence.
A well-taken try from Old Halesonians full-back Andy Holloway was converted by Attwood to regain the lead and Attwood then added a penalty four minutes from time to leave Shropshire requiring a try to snatch victory.
They came close in the dying minutes when Smart tried to follow up a grabber kick but he knocked on as he attempted to gather.
W&H, who are seeking to complete a hat-trick of titles, face Greater Birmingham at Birmingham Exiles on February 21 in their final group match. Shropshire host Greater Birmingham at Telford Hornets on March 14.
The top two teams in the group will meet in the final at Ledbury on May 20.
The Iskitz Three Counties Championship is contested annually by the three Domestic Unions that comprise the North Midlands RFU and provides county representative rugby for players from outside the National Leagues.
Iskitz, the Malvern-based international sports kit suppliers, are generously sponsoring the Three Counties Championship for a fourth season.i
Worcestershire & Herefordshire
15 Andy Holloway (Old Halesonians); 14 Freddy Morgan (Kidderminster Carolians), 13 Wilf Watson (Evesham), 12Ross Attwood (Bredon Star),11 George Tildesley (Stourbridge Lions); 10 Mike Diston (Evesham), 9 Chris Pinner (Kidderminster Carolians); 1 Tom Gazey (Evesham), 2 Sam Jones (Old Halesonians), 3 Will Allman (Bromyard), 4 Tom King (Old Halesonians), 5 Brian Ranns (Pershore), 6 Russ Brown (Droitwich) 7 Josh Tomlinson (Bromsgrove), 8 Jay Martin (Bromsgrove – captain).
Replacements (from): James Shewell (Droitwich), Matt Young (Old Halesonians), Lewis Jordan (Hereford), Luke Yarranton (Hereford), Dan Humpston (Evesham), Dafydd Oliver (Pershore), Ash White (Pershore).
15 Scott Mackenzie (Newport); 14 Nathan Smart (Newport), 13 Luca Owen-Youens (Oswestry) , 12 Brett Dougty (Shrewsbury), 11 Dave Hartshorne (Newport); 10 Peter Thomas (Newport –captain), 9 Rhys Harrhy (Newport); 1 Connor Madden (Bridgnorth), 2 James Yeomans (Bridgnorth), 3 Stu Edwards (Bridgnorth), 4 Richard Hooper (Bridgnorth), 5 Sam Sergeant (Newport), 6 Liam Deery (Shrewsbury), 7 Laurence Few (Newport), 8 Joquin Jiminez (Newport).
Replacements (from): Sam Downing (Bridgnorth), Jim Alderson (Ludlow), Simon Evitts (Shrewsbury), George Gribble (Newport), Tom Riley (Gnosall), Sam Woodhall (Bridgnorth), Richard Biggin (Newport), Denham Samuel (Telford Hornets).