As a follow up to my article previewing the County Championship game yesterday between Eastern Counties and Yorkshire I thought I would record my thoughts on the day and what it means for the CB.
To say that I was sceptical of ECRU’s chances of winning any games in this season’s Championship would be an understatement. The CB had never played in the top flight before and to be in a pool of four with Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire had a series of embarrassing one-sided games written all over it.
However, no-one was more pleased than I at being so wrong when I saw the team led by Red Newberry play with such passion against Cheshire and to hear how competitive they had been in the second half against Lancashire. With the last game being the only one at home against a Yorkshire side that had also lost its two previous games I sensed that we may be in with a chance of what a month ago seemed like an improbable win.
The game was enthralling with the mighty Yorkshire pack causing the Counties’ forwards all sorts of problems in the set piece. I could be wrong but I am pretty sure that every scrum ended in a penalty to Yorkshire, plus two yellow cards against Counties and two penalty tries. Being down to 14 men for a quarter of the game makes the victory all the more remarkable.
The first 20 minutes was all Yorkshire using their forwards to rumble over for a try, but when Counties realised that their best option when they got possession was to spread the ball wide they discovered the formula for success. Three tries in five minutes, two of them breakaways, suddenly saw them take a 21-7 half time lead and there was belief that they could do it.
However, Yorkshire came back in the second half with three tries of their own, all scored while Counties were a man down, and now they were leading 21-26. A penalty for Counties narrowed the gap to two points and the Counties midfield started to exploit the tiring Yorkshire defence and another trio of tries saw them home despite a last minute penalty try for the visitors to make the final score 45-33.
It was a great performance from a squad that only had one player competing at National One level but it was great to see players from our four National League teams plus Cambridge University willing to support their county. I wish the same could be said for the spectator support which was disappointingly low despite lots of promotion of the game on social media. Many thanks to those that did come; I saw people from Cambridge, Shelford, Colchester, Sudbury, Southwold, Lowestoft & Yarmouth, Wymondham, Norwich Union, Norwich and Felixstowe (apologies if I have left any clubs out) but I don’t think that there were more than 200 watching.
Some years ago I suggested that a tagline for what Eastern Counties tries to do could be ‘More Rugby, Better Rugby’. I have already written about the fact that more games of rugby have been played this season compared to 2014/15 (click here for article) but I think it is fair to say that the standard of rugby in the area has improved. In the past two seasons we have seen the number of clubs promoted in the National and London leagues outweigh those that have been relegated so more players are involved in a higher standard of competition and this is now reflected in Eastern Counties, hardly a hotbed of rugby, playing in the County Championship top tier for a second successive season.
Next year we will face Cheshire and Lancashire at home with an away game against East Midlands and I am sure all the players are already looking forward to it. Let’s hope we can get more support too.
Pictures from the game