Stephenson shows Dorset & Wilts the way

There was a glimpse of the future as Dorset & Wilts defeated Essex by 21 pts to 20.

The last Canford School pupil to turn out for the Twin Counties was Ben Gollings whose rugby career progressed to the dizzy heights of England international honours and the supporters at Chapel Gate could have witnessed another future England international in a green and white shirt.

Open side flanker James Stepenson just 17 years of age was drafted into a side cobbled together by manager Hamish Morton from players far and wide all with a Dorset and Wilts connection who, against all odds locked horns with a side of greater league pedigree and matched them and blow for blow and with a little more fortune could have emerged victors by a much greater points margin.

Early sorties from the visitors had the Twin Counties defence rocking on it’s heels, but against the run of play in the 13th minute Bournemouth fly half Jon Sanchez slotted a penalty goal.

The remainder of the half was nip and tuck with first the Counties on the offence and then their visitors.

With half time beckoning the Essex backs failed to pouch a high kick and Westcome Park full back Phil Chesters gathered up the loose bal and sprinted in to touch down beneath the posts and with Sanchez stroking over the conversion Dorset and Wilts took a 10 points to nil lead at the break.

Seven minutes into the second half, replacement full back Luke Greatrex of Barking pulled three points back for Essex with a penalty, then followed it up 10 minutes later with a second.

A loose pass in the middle of the Counties backs went straight to Southend wing Mark Billings who showed a clean pair of heels to the covering defenders to touch down for a try and with the Greatrex conversion the scores were tied at 13 points each.

Sanchez struck a third penalty for Dorset and Wilts. then Essex managed to move possession for Southend speed man, left wing Tyson Lewis to sprint in unopposed and ground the ball beneath the Counties posts.

Greatrex converted and with 75 minutes gone the visitors looked to have secured the result.

Going into overtime Dorset and Wilts surged forwards yet again and with the referee checking his time piece Cleeve winger Ben Loosemore crashed over the line to snatch a deserved victory for his county.

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