Surrey take County Championship Plate
May 29, 2005

Surrey married staunch defence with a real cutting edge to get the better of Somerset 29-18 in the inaugural County Championship Plate final at Twickenham today.

Though Somerset were in contention going into the closing stages of a keen tussle, Surrey always looked the more threatening and added the trophy to their promotion into the County Championship Shield competition next season.

Though the winners were never behind and scored four tries, they had to defend desperately at times and did well to restrict their opponents to a two-try tally which did not do justice to the amount of territorial pressure they generated.

Somerset's biggest problem was their inability to retain possession for any length of time and when they look back on the game they will lament a catalogue of turn-overs which prevented them from converting a lot of good approach work into points.

Surrey did especially well to survive a powerful opening onslaught, but they kept their line intact and went into a 10-0 lead with a try by centre Reg Hubbard and a penalty and conversion from full-back Neil Hallett.

Somerset hit back when wingman Paul Sprague latched onto kick through by Michael Lowis, the full-back, for a try, before Surrey underlined their potency in midfield with centre Simon Love scoring.

A penalty by fly-half Jason Dick kept Somerset in touch at 15-8 going into the second-half and after a good passage of play Somerset drew level when lock forward Andy Glen surged over for Dick to convert.

The score merely inject more determination into the Surrey side and they responded quickly when a lineout catch and drive ended in flanker Jay King bursting over for Hallett to convert.

Again Somerset got back into striking distance with a Dick penalty, but Surrey scored the decisive try after 74 minutes when a superbly-timed pass from fly-half Matt Dowse allowed replacement centre Arran Cowell to slice cleanly through midfield for a try that Hallett converted.

"This was a great day for county rugby in Surrey," said coach Hugh McHardy. "It's great just to be promoted, but to win the final at Twickenham is the icing on the cake for our county season.

"We were on the back foot initially, with Somerset's forwards giving us some trouble, but we turned it around and showed some tremendous determination. That has come from the excitement of knowing that we were going to play here. We've done that and won and these memories are going to last us forever."

"Full credit to Somerset, they were a tough side today," said Surrey skipper Steve Kearns. "We kept them out with some fantastic defence and then when we got our chances out wide, we cut them to shreds a couple of times."

Said Somerset coach Paul Westgate: "We are obviously disappointed because we had a lot of possession and advantage, especially in that first-half, but we didn't convert it into points.

"Surrey were very creative and we found it hard to break their defensive line. We couldn't contain their lively backs either. This, however, had been a great day and will be a stepping stone for us as we play in the County Shield next season."

Somerset: M Lowis (Clevedon); P Sprague (Weston-super-Mare) (M Griffiths, Bridgewater & Albion, 72), A Vailes (Clevedon) (D Keating, Yatton, 72), A Webber (Bridgewater & Albion) (T Thie, Rosslyn Park, 72), M Lacey (Launceston); J Dick (Taunton), M Ranson (Bridgewater & Albion); D Masters (Devizes), C Rowland (Worcester) (J Morgan, Clevedon, 49), W Stiling (Bridgewater & Albion) (A Chase, Weston-super-Mare, 72), M Bright (Bristol Harlequins) (W McMillan, Clevedon, 64), A Glen (Weston-super-Mare), J Shopland (Clevedon), M Denbee (Weston-super-Mare) (S Ranson, Bridgewater & Albion, 51), M Stiles (Newbury) capt. T: Sprague, Glen. C: Dick. P: Dick 2

Surrey: N Hallett (Esher); D Traynor (Esher), S Love (Esher) (A Cowell, Essher, 54), R Hubbard (Weybridge Vandals), P Curry (Rosslyn Park); M Dowse (Rosslyn Park), M Jackson (Rosslyn Park) (D Taylor, Esher, 54); C Daw (Rosslyn Park) (D Jones, Rosslyn Park, 13), S Kearns (Rosslyn Park) capt (T Doran, Esher, 64), M Anderson (Old Whitgiftians) (R Cable, Rosslyn Park, 47), A Roux (Dorking), J Berrigan (Esher) (S Smith, Rosslyn Park, 64), M Macaskill (Old Whitgiftians) (M Butterworth, Esher, 54), J King (St Mary's Coll), L Starling (London Welsh). T: Love, Hubbard, King, Cowell. C: Hallett 3. P: Hallett.

Referee: D Sainsbury (RFU)

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