- England Counties beat Scotland 45-28 in season-opener
- Birmingham Moseley RFC hosts England's first fixture of the season
England Counties avenged last year's defeat to Scotland Club XV with a 45-28 win at Birmingham Moseley RFC.
A second half surge from England secured the victory with the teams going into half-time level at 14-14.
England opened the scoring through hooker Matthew Miles, who broke away from the back of a rolling maul to cross the line but Scotland responded minutes later when inside centre George Taylor weaved his way through.
It was then the turn of his opposite number to find a gap as Steve Leonard ran in to score, before the final try of the first half went the way of Scotland wing Jordan Edmunds, who intercepted a loose pass and ran away from the covering defenders.
The second half started much more positively for the away side as they enjoyed most of the possession and worked their way up the pitch allowing Edmunds came off his wing to score once again.
However, this was to be the only time in the game that Scotland would lead, as England soon closed the gap through the boot of fly half Joe Tarrant.
It proved to be the turning point as immediately from the restart inside centre Leonard made a break and fed Leo Fielding who only had to run it in.
The floodgates then opened for England Counties, who scored three further tries, through Stokes, Fielding and Leonard. Scotland clubs were able to score once more, but John Cox’s try was nothing more than a consolation.
England's early intent
England showed their attacking ambition from early in the match, running the ball from deep with Ampthill fly-half Joe Tarrant pulling the strings.
After last year's 57-27 defeat, head coach James Shanahan said the squad had emphasised restoring pride.
“We didn’t talk about revenge, we just talked about the guys that played last year, about making sure they got their pride back.
"I think the amount of work we put in the first half, with the ball in hand, I think wore them down and therefore we had that ability in that second period to really kick on and get a comfortable win, which was a really hard win, but a comfortable win in the end.
“We talked about intent in the build-up and placed a really big emphasis on playing high tempo with ball in hand and just trying to wear teams down.”
The match was the first in the England Counties season with the side set to play Ireland Club XV on Friday, 17 March in Cork followed by a three-match tour in June.
England Counties is the flagship team of the community game in England and offers players from National League One and below the opportunity to represent their country.
England Counties: 1. Trevor Davison (Blaydon/Durham), 2. Matthew Miles (Old Albanians/Hertfordshire), 3. James Litchfield (Coventry/Warwickshire), 4. George Oram (Birmingham Moseley/Kent), 5. Nile Dacres (Plymouth/Devon), 6. Keith Laughlin (c) (Blaydon/Northumberland), 7. Jack Preece (Birmingham Moseley/Gloucestershire), 8. Tom Baldwin (Blackheath/Kent), 9. Peter White (Coventry/East Midlands), 10. Joe Tarrant (Ampthill/Eastern Counties), 11. James Stokes (Coventry/Eastern Counties), 12. Steve Leonard (Hartpury/Gloucestershire), 13. Markus Burcham (Blackheath/Kent), 14. Leo Fielding (Blackheath/Gloucestershire), 15. Mike Wilcox (Hartpury/Gloucestershire).
Replacements: 16. Andrew Brown (Coventry/Notts, Lincs & Derby), 17. Daniel Pullinger (Plymouth/Devon), 18. Ted Stagg (Caldy/Cheshire), 19. Chris Brightwell (Birmingham Moseley/North Midlands), 20. Harry Bate (Old Albanians/Hertfordshire), 21. Dave Brazier (Birmingham Moseley/North Midlands), 22. Sam Baker (Ampthill/East Midlands), 23. James Williams (Birmingham Moseley/Dorset & Wilts).
England: Tries – Miles, Leonard 2, Fielding 2, Stokes Cons Tarrant 4, Williams 2 Pens Tarrant
Scotland: Tries – Taylor, Edmunds 2, Cox Cons Laidlaw 4