Surrey 14pts v Cornwall 34 pts
As last year's National County Championship Winners Cornwall began their defence of the title, Trelawny's Army descended upon Richmond FC, with a large, loyal and vocal following!
Surrey surprised Cornwall by gaining an early advantage in the scrums where the front row of Karl Furey, Neil Sweeney and Captain Cameron Zeiss gave the much-feared visitors front row a torrid time, as the home side pack drove Cornwall back in the scrums. Despite this it was the visitors who took the lead, when after a series of drives deep into the Surrey 22, No 8 Barry John Chapman crashed over under the posts. Fly half David Mankee added the conversion to put Cornwall 7-0 ahead. The home side then took control and dominated most of the first half. In the tenth minute fly half Matt Noble, who was outstanding throughout, broke away and off loaded to lively wing Kariym Irving who touched down in the corner. Noble added the conversion to bring the scores level. Noble, then again, danced through the visitor's defence, but a lack of final support saw the chance go begging. Cornwall scrum half Jack Oulton and No 8 Chapman then both received yellow cards close together for technical offences. Surrey threw everything at the depleted Cornwall side and the back row of Tyler Bush, Harry Elbrow and Harry Rowland were particularly prominent. Eventually Surrey were rewarded with a penalty try after Cornwall were deemed to have deliberately dropped another scrum, as the home side piled on the pressure. Noble again added the conversion to put Surrey into the lead 14-7. Ill discipline by the home side then enabled Cornwall's Mankee to kick a penalty goal to bring the half time score to 14-10 in Surrey's favour.
The second half saw a complete transition in Cornwall's play as their coaching team led by former England hooker Graham Dawe demanded the visitors tighten up in the forwards and drive around the fringes at Surrey and thereby use fly half David Mankee to dictate the game with his penetrating kicks into the corners of the pitch and keep Cornwall on the ascendancy. Gamely as Surrey defended after 20 minutes of continual pressure during the second period, replacement hooker Matt Ballard burrowed over for a try to ease the champions ahead 15-14. Within minutes Cornwall's dangerous wing Robin Wedlake raced away for a try in the corner, after a superb long break by replacement Grant Randlesome to push Cornwall further ahead by 20-14. With Cornwall now on the rampage, two more late tries were added through Tim Notman and Matt Bowden and another conversion by Mankee brought a somewhat flattering final score line of 34-14 in favour of the clinical 2016 County Champions.
Surrey: 15 Ed Carney (Dorking), 14 Tom Richards, 13 Ben Kitching, 12 Brad Meeson (all London Irish Wild Geese), 11 Karyim Irving (Worthing), 10 Matt Noble (Dorking), 9 Tom Trotter (Cambridge); 1 Karl Furey, 2 Neil Sweeney, 3 Cameron Zeiss (all Esher), 4 Joseph Touma (London Irish Wild Geese), 5 Dylan Flashman (Wimbledon), 6 Tyler Bush (London Irish Wild Geese), 7 Harry Elbrow (Dorking), 8 Harry Rowland (London Irish Wild Geese) Replacements: 16 Charlie Connor (London Irish Wild Geese), 17 Kerry O'Sullivan (London Irish Wild Geese), 18 Charlie Burman (Esher), 19 Fin Osborne (Dorking), 20 Ted Lee (Barnes), 21 Jack Reville (Wimbledon), 22 Mikey McDonald (Amersham & Chiltern)