Dorset & Wilts RFU Press Officer.
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Bill Beaumont Senior Men’s County Championship Div 3 (Pool 2)
Berkshire 40 pts v Dorset & Wilts 38.
The Twin Counties will meet Essex at Richmond rugby club next Sunday in the competition final, but they left it late, very late in fact in the 14th minute of added on time to gain the try bonus point they required to secure their third county championship final.
With five changes in their pack and a couple more in the backs the Counties struggled to win any useable possession and when they did they quickly turned it over to Berkshire with all too often poor handling.
However, it was against the run of play when in the tenth minute North Dorset fly half Sam Baker landed a penalty to open the scoring.
Berkshire quickly rallied and from a ruck close to the Counties’ goal line the referee awarded the hosts a penalty try for Berkshire to take the lead.
Twenty minutes had elapsed when Berks. scrum half Miles Lloyd crossed the whitewash to score a try that was converted by centre Tom Humberston
Five minutes later hooker Ben Henderson touched down and with Humberston landing the conversion Berkshire led by 21 points to 3.
Right wing Josh Sunley latched on to a loose ball then out sprinted the chasing cover to score a try in the corner for Berkshire and with the score at Berks. 26 Dorset and Wilts three very few of the most optimistic Counties’ fans would give their charges any chance of making it into next week’s final.
With the break fast approaching and on a rare sortie into Berkshire territory Baker took a quick penalty and ran in to touch down for a try for the visitorsand then stroke over the conversion to throw his team a life line.
After the break the Combined Counties began to win some ball and from a drive close to the Berks. line Royal Wootton Bassett hooker Phil Bardwell drove over to down the ball for a try and with Baker landing the conversion Dorset and Wilts were back in the game.
With 65 minutes gone Berkshire full back Josh Bartlett touched down for a try then followed it up three minutes later with a second, the first converted by Humberston and the second by Jamar Richardson to make the score Berkshire 40 points Dorset and Wilts 17.
The visitors skipper Bardwell led from the front and on 40 minutes he crashed over to score a try converted by Baker, then with 45 minutes on the watch Royal Wootton Bassett lock Dave Hogg burst clear to score and Baker convert.
Now all Dorset and Wilts needed was one more try to grab a bonus point and in the 54th minute Baker somehow managed to break free and ground the ball between the Berkshire posts to win the loosing bonus point and secure his team appearance in next week’s final.
Baker added the extras to bring the proceedings to an end.
After the game one of the Twin Counties coaching staff Richard Elliott said: “The lads showed amazing character today to come back and score three tries in injury time when all looked lost, we picked up a few injuries as the players put their bodies on the line today so we must now look forwards to next weekend and hope the injuries are not to serious and hope we have a full squad of players to select the team from”.
If Dorset and Wilts are to lift the trophy for a third time they will have to improve as they were second best in most facets of the game, probably due to the number of changes to their squad from the side that turned out against Sussex two weeks ago. As for Berkshire they selected their team basically from two clubs, Readingensians and Newbury and that seemed to help, but in the end its Dorset and Wilts that progress into the final by the narrowest of margins at Richmond despite losing in this close encounter.