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Topic ClosedEngland Counties 2013

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walkingonwater View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jun 2013 at 14:09
Unedited version below:

Clean sweep for Counties in Belgium

A vibrant first-half showing from a confident England Counties helped them set-up a hugely impressive 57-5 win over Belgium on Sunday, ensuring a second successive unbeaten summer tour.

After comfortably seeing off Belgium ‘A’ in mid-week, head coach Jan Bonney had primed his side for sterner physical examination against a nation ranked 25th in the IRB rankings, and fresh from winning the Emirates Cup of Nations – beating UAE, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong en route – in December.

Six tries before the break from the visitors, however, put the game out of reach of the Belgians, before their powerful pack duly came to life in the second period.

Counties manager Mike Old was delighted with the showing from his side, praising his men’s ability to not only gel quickly as a unit, but also in how they dealt with a heavy-duty Belgium outfit.

Old said: “We’re really pleased with how the week’s gone, and the boys deserve enormous credit for not only buying into collective goals, but also putting in two very good performances at the end of a long domestic season.

“Tours like this are always geared towards the development and enjoyment of the players involved, and all 26 players have been a joy to work with.

“We knew that Belgium were going to want to take us on up front, having watched a lot of footage from games they have been involved in over the last few months, as well as from what we saw of their ‘A’ side on Wednesday evening.

“Their bigger boys certainly got stuck in as the game wore on, but we took them on up front, allowing us to create space for the guys out wide. The back-three then came into play, and I thought they were unplayable at times.

“It’s the end of another very successful trip, on and off the field, and we can already starting looking forward. The Belgians have been wonderful hosts and wherever we go in 12 months’ time will certainly have a lot to live up to.”

Ollie Thomas got the scoreboard moving with a straightforward penalty early on, before the Moseley and North Midlands man orchestrated the first two Counties tries.

His scything break set up Chris Harris for the opener, and it wasn’t long after that his neat switch with Fylde and Lancashire play-maker Chris Johnson put Sean Taylor away in the corner.

With replacement Belgium hooker Julien Massimi sent to the bin, the visitors relentlessly ploughed forward, registering a penalty try just before the hour mark to stretch the lead to 22-0, and pull out of sight.

Jim Wigglesworth’s run from 22 to 22 saw him put away Taylor away for a second, and the Cambridge and Yorkshire youngster, recently away with England Counties U20s in Georgia, was beginning to purr.

He unleashed Johnson to dot down for try number five, before his cute kick ahead saw Tom Stradwick outstrip the cover and send Counties into the break 43-0 to the good.

Belgium, backed by a strong crowd in sun-lit Tubize, went immediately in search of a response post-interval, and deservedly got their reward when flanker Neil Andrew crashed over from a couple of metres out.

It spurred the Black Devils into action and, bolstered by the introduction of seasoned internationals in Maxime Jadot and Cyril Nana, they stood up to the English up front, and enjoyed plenty of possession.

As the contest began to open up, space showed up for both sides, but it was the Counties who would have the final say; Wigglesworth notched ten minutes from time, deservedly capping an outstanding performance, with Caldy and Cheshire back-row Harry Broadbent registering on the stroke of the final whistle, after emerging from the back of a maul.

The final word went to Preston and Lancashire winger Sean Taylor, whose two tries saw him take his tour total to four.

“It’s been absolutely amazing to come out here and play for a national team, and I will certainly be doing everything I can to try and put myself in the frame for next year,” he said.

“The rugby we have played highlights the serious amount of quality in the National Leagues, and it’s been a learning curve for the younger guys, as well as a reward for the experienced campaigners.

“Belgium are a good team, with recent exposure at a high level, so we knew we’d be made to work hard. To score tries as a winger is always nice, but some of the boys have been incredible since we got together, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two go on to bigger things.

“From a personal point of view, the rugby has pushed my game on but the activities off the field have been just as special – no one’s ever asked for my signature after a game, so that’s something I will always remember!”

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