- 40 second-half points from hosts overwhelm Counties XV at Netherdale
- Counties six match unbeaten run comes to end at hands of Scots ahead of France clash next month
England Counties' opening game of the season ended in disappointment in the Scottish Borders, with a rampant home side scoring nine tries en-route to a 57-27 win.
Scores from Peter McCallum, Paddy Boyer, Fraser Thomson, Ross Curle Jack Turley, Cameron Ferguson and Michael Liness, added to by a brace from Jordan Edmonds, helped the Scottish side avenge the 37-3 defeat they suffered at Fylde last year.
Chris Davies’ fifth minute score had put England ahead early on and despite adding a penalty try and a third through Esher’s Spencer Sutherland at the death, they never matched the more cohesive home outfit.
It's a painful loss for England Counties XV with the final score 57-27 to Scotland Club XV pic.twitter.com/ubbzzfJlex— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 26, 2016
SCOTS START FAST
McCallum’s opener, in the very first minute, got Scotland off to the perfect start and though Davies’ close quarter effort soon nudged England ahead, the Scots struck for a second time with Paddy Boyer going over in the corner.
Eight points from the boot of Davies, the Fylde fly half, put the Counties in front but that was as good as it was to get. Home captain Ross Curle shimmied his way through the white shirted midfield, teeing up man-of-the-match Fraser Thomson to race in.
LAUGHLIN SEES YELLOW
That left the tie delicately poised at 17-13 going into the break but, crucially, the Counties were left with a man down following captain Keith Laughlin’s yellow card.
The imbalance was quickly balanced up almost immediately after the resumption of play as Scotland prop Nick Beavon saw yellow for halting Sam Stuart from taking a quick penalty – but that only spurred on Curle and his men.
Two strikes from Edmonson in the space of four minutes effectively ended the contest at 31-13 – the second a wonderful try, involving numerous quick offloads – and left the Counties facing up to a first defeat in over a year.
The robust, physical Seb Rodwell did his best to get them firing, though England’s night was soon to be summed up when Curle picked off a stray pass to scamper home from within his own half before Turley, Ferguson and Liness further added to the Counties problems as the game opened up.
BURCHAM PROVIDES LATE IMPETUS
Blackheath centre Markus Burcham was at the heart of two late tries for England. Ghosting past a couple of Scottish defenders, the replacement engineered a two versus one situation in collaboration with Spencer Sutherland, only for Fraser Thomson to deliberately knock the ball on. Referee Adam Jones had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try, before showing Thomson yellow.
Sutherland, in red-hot form for Esher in National Division One, didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity. Burcham again created it, barging through some tired tackles with Sutherland going over for a consolation score.
FRANCE TEST AWAITS
After the match, lead coach, James Shanahan spoke of his disappointment at how his side fell away in the second-half, highlighting the need for raised levels of physicality against France at Blackheath on Friday, 11 March.
“We were nowhere near where we needed to be, or are capable of, tonight,” said Shanahan.
“What was most frustrating for us as a coaching to team to see was our lack of appetite for the physical confrontation," added Shanahan. "They bossed us in that area of the game, and our lineout creaked – that gave them plenty of front-foot ball."
Shanahan said the team will be working on a few areas before facing France Federale on 11 March. “We will re-group and I have no doubt we’ll put in some real hard work in the lead up to that game and deliver a performance not only for us and those who come to watch, but the whole of the semi-professional and amateur game, who we represent.”