St Austell 47 Berry Hill 17
ST AUSTELL maintained their pursuit of glory in the RFU Intermediate Cup running in five tries at Tregorrick Park to sweep aside the dogged resistance of a tough Berry Hill outfit.
This victory against the Forest of Dean Club saw them win the South West Counties Intermediate Cup final and in doing so ensures a home tie in the regional final against Dorset side Wimborne on February 23.
The winner of that game has just one more hurdle barring the way to a Twickenham final in early May.
But on a cold afternoon in mid-Cornwall and urged on by their passionate home support St Austell made light of the heavy pitch as backs and forwards linked well to score some superb tries. However, they didn't have things all their own way.
After a bright start from the home side and two early Matt Shepherd penalties, Berry Hill finally got their pick and drive game going forcing a stream of penalties and a yellow card for St Austell flanker Paul Winterbottom.
Camped on the Cornish line they finally drove over from a five-metre scrum with Sean McRoberts claiming the unconverted try.
A moment of brilliant simplicity on the half hour mark from a lineout handed St Austell their opening touchdown as centre James Earp hit the line at pace carving open the midfield to score.
Five minutes later another flowing move from the Cornish side saw Alex Welland's break well supported by Sam Tank and the full-back cantered in under the posts for the try.
Shepherd converted both tries to make it 20-5 at the interval and he added his third penalty just after the restart, but Berry Hill were far from finished.
Their pack battered its way up to the St Austell line again and refused to budge.
With defenders sucked into the break down they finally spun the ball wide and wing Kingsley Bower capitalised on a huge overlap to score in the corner.
Shepherd blasted over another penalty but Berry Hill quickly struck again. St Austell replacement Mark Vian also saw yellow as they frantically defended their line, and the visitors drove over from close range for McRoberts' second try.
Aaron Ryder's conversion cut the home lead to 26-17 and Tregorrick Park grew restless before St Austell delivered a dramatic hammer blow with three converted tries in the final ten minutes to end the contest.
Flanker Adam Kellow finished from 15 metres after quick phase-play and good recycling and wing Marcus McCoan's pace then rounded off Tank's break from halfway.
Then in added time, St Austell broke out from their own 22, with Tom Miles leading a spectacular charge and Shepherd bagging the try. He then converted with the final kick of a pulsating contest to take his own points tally to 27.
Director of Rugby Steve Murley was delighted with the efforts of his young side and said: "That was fantastic.
"You spend all week preparing for the game and when Saturday comes you hope the guys will go out and turn up, and today they did that. I really thought they were excellent.
"Berry Hill are a good side and when you play against good sides you have to do something special to win the game. The boys knew that and they came up trumps. I couldn't have asked for any more from them."
Man of the match Matt Shepherd added: "It was very high tempo and heated out there. Berry Hill kept coming at us and we had the two sin-bins but we got the win and that was all we wanted.
"We cut some holes in their defence and while the forwards may not like it I think if the backs had been given more ball then we would have scored more tries.
"But the forwards did well, matched them up front, and we took it to them."