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Hampshire win County Championship Shield

Last Updated: May 30, 2016 07:24pm
St. Margarets and North Twickenham, Richmond upon Thames London Boro
By The RFU
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Hampshire secured their first ever victory at Twickenham following a five-try 33-11 triumph over Staffordshire in the Country Championship Shield final.
Hants have dominated the competition this season but they started slowly at a place where they had never previously won.

Their last Shield title came when the match was played in Aldershot but, after a nervous opening, Hants managed to find their feet as tries from Pierre-Alex Clark and Wayne Dugan gave them a 12-point buffer at the break.

Staffordshire hit back through Dan Clarke’s touchdown and a penalty apiece by Charlie Maskrey and Grant Hallam, but Hampshire’s extra quality shone through when Wes Dugan, Joel Knight and Gavin Hart crossed the whitewash in the third quarter.

It was Staffs who controlled the opening exchanges but they failed to produce anything tangible on the scoreboard, despite having three shots at goal in the first 20 minutes.

Hallam and Maskrey both had long range efforts which missed the target and that profligacy was to prove costly.

Craig Wilson’s men continued to dominate possession but a stray pass was intercepted by Clark and the fly-half had the pace to go all the way.

That score evidently lifted Hampshire as a second touchdown was soon forthcoming. Unlike the previous effort, which had a hint of fortune about it, this try was excellently constructed.

Instigated by Wes Dugan, who dummied through a hole and sped away from the would-be tacklers, the scrum-half found his brother out wide and the winger did the rest, stepping inside one defender and handing off another.

Alex Sutherland brilliantly converted from the touchline and Ian Chandler’s team had a 12-0 lead at the interval.

Wilson needed a response from his charges in the second period and he received it as their well drilled pack charged their way to the line.

Clarke was the beneficiary of the drive as they got themselves back into the contest. Hants were now under pressure and conceding needless penalties, infringements Maskrey and Hallam were more than willing to punish having found their range in the second half.

It was suddenly a one-point game and Staffordshire’s spirits were raised by their stirring response, but those hopes were dashed by two tries in five minutes.

Once again, it was the backline that made the difference as Dugan sniped his way through a hole to score before Knight followed suit, taking advantage of Clark’s midfield break.

The centre’s touchdown sealed the victory but Hampshire wanted to finish with a flourish and Hart powered over in what proved to be the final move of the match.

STAFFS’ ERRANT PLACE-KICKING 

While their first three kicks were difficult, there was no doubting that Staffordshire’s failure to take those penalty opportunities played a part in what was to transpire.

Perhaps frustrated by not getting on the scoreboard when their play deserved it, a loose pass was intercepted by Clark and their chances of claiming the trophy went.

HAMPSHIRE’S BRILLIANT BACKS

Staffs were patient in their build-up and the forwards were tireless, but it was Hampshire who had the quality on the outside.

Two breakaway tries in the first half, with the second from Wayne Dugan particularly well worked, displayed that extra bit of pace behind the scrum. Wayne’s brother, Wes, also touched down before Knight sealed the victory after another superb attack.

"It's been a brilliant day," said Hampshire team manager Simon Burns. "I think the difference between the sides today was our patience. We were under real pressure at times but we stayed calm and then we were clinical when we needed to be.

"To do the double this season is fantastic for Hampshire rugby and all the players in this County. It can now act as an incentive to future players."

 

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