County Cup Final. Dunstablians 17 - 3 Stockwood Park
Dunstablians were made to fight every inch of the way by a determined Stockwood outfit but eventually ground out a scrappy win to lift the Bedfordshire Cup.
Despite having beaten Stockwood twice in the league this season the hosts knew not to take anything for granted, especially in a cup encounter with previous form counting for little. With the weather set in conditions didn't bode well for a free-flowing game though the wind and rain did little to dampen the spirits of the large crowd. The first quarter belonged to Stockwood who took up residency in the host's half and only some resolute defence from an uncharacteristically subdued Dunstablians denied the visitors any chance of converting their territorial gains into something more substantial. Eventually Dunstablians were able to break out and started to launch their own attacks. Things did not go their way however - at best their forwards could only match the larger Stockwood pack in the tight and the breakdown was hotly contested all afternoon. Even without their usual forward's dominance Dunstablians still had a sturdy platform but a string of errors and penalties allowed Stockwood to repel them. The hosts came again and only a wet ball and some nervy hands prevented them crossing the whitewash and they had to be content with 3 points from the boot of Joe Murphy. 3-0 at half-time and both sides were still very much in the game.
Coming out on the second half Dunstablians knew that they could not allow Stockwood to notch the first points and build up a head of steam. However it was Stockwood who levelled the scores with a well-struck penalty and when, moments later, Murphy's penalty attempt was held up in the wind and dropped agonisingly short, the game still hung precariously in the balance.
Dunstablians have come a long way this season and this showed as they dug deep to up the pace and finally string some cohesive phases of play together. Grinding their way up the field they released centre Duncan Holmes to smash through a stretched defence and dot the ball down beneath the posts. Murphy added the extras to give the hosts a cushion, albeit a fragile one. Determined to close the game out they continued in the same fashion from the restart and this time it was skipper and scrum-half Stuart Hall who broke clear from a ruck and galloped home. Murphy's conversion sealed the win and though Stockwood came back hard they were unable to close the gap and the final whistle saw Dunstablians as worthy and relieved victors in a hard-fought, well-spirited and, despite the conditions, entertaining game.
After the disappointment of relegation last year Dunstablians, after a shaky start, have regrouped well this season, building up to finish a creditable fifth in the league and the county cup is a fitting reward for the hard work put in by the players and coaching staff.
Team: S.Calder, A.Ayres, S.George, R.Carry, S.Oliver, R.Bowles, S.Coogan, R.Thorne, S.Hall, J.Murphy, S.Warren, D.Holmes, G.Denning, J.Newton, K.Boland.
Replacements: J.Noel, T.Evans, S.Mangan, A.White, C.Haig, D.Mills, A.Nelson.
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