Staffs U20 miss out against defending champions in National U20 Shield Final
A LATE rally could not prevent Staffordshire slipping to a 30-12 defeat against defending champions Surrey in the final of the RFU National U20 Shield at EalingTrailfinders Sports Club.
Tries from Ryan Travers, Mikey McDonald and Ben Bowen and 15 points from the boot of Alex Seers ultimately saw a clinical Surrey home, and head coach Bob Dickinson applauded his team’s grit.
“I’m not pleased with the performance, but with the effort and hard work that we put in, I’m very much so,” said Dickinson.
“I think the pitch actually put a few of the boys off as they’re not used to playing on it. I think that was one of the reasons that perhaps we didn’t fly today.
“It’s been a bitsy year at times with players injured and away playing for their clubs. But they’re a nice bunch of guys and most of them have said they’d rather play for us as a county than their schools or clubs, so that ticks all the boxes.”
Seers spurned the opportunity to put Surrey ahead inside a minute as his penalty kick drifted wide, but it was all Staffordshire in the opening stages.
The Midlanders, making their first appearance in a national final for 45 years, demonstrated impressive ball retention, with captain Jack Fielding leading by example at hooker with a series of bullish carries.
Surrey held firm, though, and the reigning champions duly punished their opponents as Travers burrowed over from a driving maul, Seers adding the extras.
Staffordshire’s Tom Phillips and Jack Newton-Taylor then both received yellow cards, and Seers booted his side 16 points clear at the interval with three further penalties.
Staffordshire, with the wind at their backs in the second period, didn’t let their heads drop and they quickly fashioned a penalty shot for Phillips, but again the kick was off-target.
From the resultant drop-out, Surrey struck with a long-range try as lively fullback McDonald and wing James Hanson combined for a score in the corner. Seers’ superb touchline conversion bounced over via the crossbar.
Ali Wade saw yellow for Surrey, but scrum half Bowen brought the 14 men up to the 30-point mark when he darted over from close-range, Seers converting again.
Staffordshire mounted a late fight-back as Joe Nixon and replacement Eddie Nicholls went over in the space of a minute, with Fielding adding a conversion, but it was too little, too late for their side.
Staffordshire head coach Craig Wilson said: “I thought we created more opportunities than Surrey but, when we got into the red zone, we were forcing passes. They were more ruthless and took their opportunities and I think that quality was the difference.
“The difference in our playing level from the start of the year until now is huge. Hopefully this experience will help the lads carry on pushing themselves and maybe we’ll see a few more boys playing at a higher level.”
Surrey: Tries - Travers, McDonald, Bowen; Conversions - Seers (3); Penalties - Seers (3).
Staffordshire: Tries - Nixon, Nicholls; Conversion - Fielding.
15 Jack Newton-Taylor
14 Freddy Mau Veimosoi
13 Tom Phillips
12 Alex Nesbitt
11 Brad Sentence
10 Dom Ellerton
9 Sam Friend
1 Elliott Tomlinson
2 Jack Fielding
3 Danny Poole
4 Zach Chadwick
5 Matt Hubbard
6 Sam Longstaff
7 William Jay
8 Joe Nixon
16 Ryan Martin
17 Lewis Bloor
18 Lewis Sturgess
19 Eddie Nicholls
20 Laured Kalari
21 Alex Gibson
22 Iain West