England Saxons claim Churchill Cup glory
June 18, 2011
England Saxons winger Miles Benjamin is congratulated on a try during their Churchill Cup Final clash with Canada at Sixways
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England Saxons clinched the final Churchill Cup title with a dominant 37-6 victory over Canada at Sixways.
Two tries from winger Miles Benjamin and further scores from fellow speedster Charlie Sharples, flanker James Gaskell and replacement flanker Jamie Gibson propelled the Saxons to their sixth Churchill Cup crown in the last ever staging of the development competition. And the Saxons never seriously found themselves threatened by a spirited - if limited - Canadian outfit who notched a drop goal through fly-half Ander Monro and a penalty from winger James Pritchard.
The Saxons wasted little time in running the ball but the well-organised Canucks answered every question that was asked of them in an early onslaught. The pressure continued to build and Clegg orchestrated a couple of openings but it was the Saxons' forward muscle that drew the first blood with a powerful drive drawing a penalty that gave the hosts the lead. But Canada struck back straight away with Monro slotting a drop goal after a moment of confusion in the Saxons' ranks at the re-start.
Saxons flanker James Gaskell ghosted over for a score a few moments later after a clever lineout move but his score was ruled out for obstruction by hooker David Paice. Canada's back division continued to go toe to toe with the expansive-minded Saxons but the home side would inevitably find a way through. Sharples cut a good line up the middle for fullback Mike Brown and Gaskell combined superbly down the shortside with the flanker showing a good turn of speed to cross in the corner for the first try of the game.
Clegg failed with the conversion but his miss was soon forgotten. Gaskell was again involved and it was his pressure in midfield that forced a crucial turnover with Benjamin pouncing on the loose ball before accelerating away for a try that was converted by Clegg. No.8 Aaron Carpenter led the Canada fight back and found support in scrum-half Sean White and it eventually took some desperate defence and some composure from Clegg to snuff out the danger. But there was some reward for their endeavour with a Pritchard penalty after Saxons lock Graham Kitchener was penalised at a lineout.
An unlucky bounce inside the Saxons' 22 and a tug from centre Henry Trinder denied Canada fullback Matt Evans a near-certain try a couple of minutes later but the visitors continued to press and were eventually rewarded with another penalty - but this time Pritchard's effort fell the wrong side of the upright. The Canucks continued to enjoy the majority of possession as the half wore on as the Saxons failed to maintain their high tempo but there would be no further scores before the break.
Both sides looked to steal the initiative in the early stages of the second half with a smart cross-kick from Clegg to Sharples the highlight. Canada's defence held firm with the Saxons guilty of over-complicating their approach but they did notch the first points of the half through another Clegg penalty.
Clegg's kicking from hand soon had Canada in trouble again with a wild pass from Canucks winger Ciaran Hearn almost gifting a try to Gaskell with Evans doing just enough to avert the danger in the shadow of his own posts. The ever-impressive Canada flanker Chauncey O'Toole was another to almost conjure something from nothing a couple of minutes later with a strong run down the line and it took a number of white shirts dragging him down inside the 22.
The Saxons weathered a brief storm before taking a firm grip on the contest with the try of the game. Another stable scrum laid the foundation but Clegg's vision and skill with the boot were once again the key with a perfectly-weighted chip ahead collected by Benjamin at pace who then slid over the line to score.
Clegg added the extras to take the Saxons out to a 19-point lead on the hour mark and Sharples put the result beyond doubt with his side's fourth try soon after - shrugging off the cover defence after errors had gifted him the opportunity.
But the Saxons were not finished with a host of replacements adding fresh impetus. Trinder provided the cutting edge on an elusive on a run up the middle and Gibson loomed up on his shoulder at the right time before powering away for a try that was converted by Clegg.
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