- An impressive second half gives England Counties victory
- "It was a fantastic environment to play in, amazing experience" – Bonney
England Counties’ battle against the Elgon Warriors is best described by the cliché a game of two halves after they turned a narrow first half lead of 6-5 into a 39-5 victory in Kampala, Uganda.
Despite England having the majority of possession for the first 40 minutes, the Warriors were physical at the breakdown and missed chances by the men in white meant they struggled to build phases and put points on the board.
A transformed side emerged after the break and five tries resulted from a strong performance by the forwards and fast, clinical play by the backs.
The boot of debutant Rory Teague kept England in the game up until the break. His first penalty, from just inside the Warriors’ half, was scored after eight minutes but it was the Africans who were first to cross the white wash when Benon Kiiza broke through the English defence.
Both sides continued to concede penalties which reflected the intensity of the occasion and disrupted the flow of play. Teague added England’s additional three points on the stroke of half time to take it to 6-5 but their lead was only the result of the Warriors’ sending two earlier penalties wide.
An improved structure and patient play soon brought results for England. Chris Briers cut a great angle off the shoulder of Billy Johnson to break the line and from the resultant play the ball went wide via Tom Wheatcroft for Phil Chesters to touch down in the corner.
Man of the match, Teague added the extras and then created Chesters’ second with a cross field kick which the wing gathered to again go over in the corner.
Billy Johnson scored his second try of the tour and added England’s third. Captain Rob Baldwin gained ground before good hands from Teague switched the ball back inside for the number six to cross the line.
Teague took the score to 25-5 and continued to control the game from fly half. Steve Hamilton and scrum half Harry Peck made several good breaks but it was the forwards who earned the penalty try after being camped within the five metre line.
With 70 minutes on the clock the Elgon Warriors had their first period of sustained second half possession but with two minutes remaining it was England who added the final points to the board. Jared Saunders drove over the line after a scrum in front of the posts and Will Burton added the extras.
Head Coach Jan Bonney said: “Credit must go to the Elgon Warriors for their committed performance. They are a tough side and really took the game to us. At the break we talked about keeping to our patterns of play and making some technical changes, for example we were taking the ball too high into contact and against a physical opposition we were then either then making mistakes or being turned over.
“It was a fantastic environment to play in, an amazing experience. The crowd were great and the players thoroughly enjoyed it. After the match all the kids came onto the pitch and were dancing around and taking photographs. It was a memorable day for everyone involved.”
The England Counties play the Elgon Warriors again on June 16 (1600 Kenyan time) in Nairobi.
Scorers: Teague 2P 3C, Johnson 1T, Chesters 2T, Pen T, Saunders 1T, Burton 1C
England Counties Team
15. Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing & Cheshire)
14. Chris Briers (Fylde & Lancashire)
13. Tom Wheatcroft (Ealing & Warwickshire)
12. Steve Hamilton (Unattached & Yorkshire)
11. Phil Chesters (Ealing & Devon)
10. Rory Teague (Cinderford & Gloucestershire)
9. Harry Peck (Tynedale & Northumberland)
1. James Cleverly (Blackheath & Kent)
2. Sam Wilkes (Cinderford & Gloucestershire)
3. Craig Voisey (Moseley & North Mids)
4. Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon & Durham)
5. Richard Boyle (Newcastle Falcons & Northumberland)
6. Billy Johnson (Old Albanian & Hertfordshire)
7. Ben Pons (Moseley & North Mids)
8. Rob Baldwin (Wharfedale & Yorkshire)
16. Joe Bonner (Blackheath & Kent)
17. Jared Saunders (Saracens & Hertfordshire)
18. Gareth Rawlings (Fylde & Lancashire)
19. Dave Marwick (Stockport & Cheshire)
20. Jack Smales (Nevers & Northumberland)
21. Will Burton (Luctonians & North Mids)
22.Toby Howley-Berridge (Unattached & Eastern Counties)