ENGLAND Counties suffered an agonising one point defeat for the second time in three weeks at Darlington Mowden Park’s Northern Echo Arena this evening.
Last month a late penalty dashed their hopes against France Federale in Nevers and this time it was a last-gasp penalty from David Joyce, the Ireland Club XV fly-half, that clinched the win and disappointed the majority of a 4,800 crowd.
England Counties outscored the visitors 3-1 on tries with an early penalty try followed by one from wing Jim Wigglesworth before the break and a well-worked third for Cinderford’s former Gloucester centre Jack Adams in the second half.
But the Counties were heavily punished by Scottish referee Graeme Wells at the breakdown and Joyce picked off the penalties, landing six in all.
Centre Mark Roche also scored an opportunist second half try for the Irish after England Counties turned over possession as they attempted to attack from their own half.
It all made for another frustrating evening for England Counties new head coach Steve Pope in his second match in charge.
“It was very frustrating. We probably didn’t get the rub of the green but we can’t afford to make the number of mistakes that we did in the second half,” said Pope.
“That was probably a little bit of our own doing. But credit to the Irish, they were never going to go away and the score see-sawed from one side to the other.
“The frustration is that the players have put so much in in a short space of time and they still haven’t got a result.
“But there is lots to work on building towards the summer tour. Hopefully we can keep that group of guys together as a building block for us to start developing.
“We were pleased with a lot of what we did. In the first half the set piece worked well for us, we got into some of the shape we wanted to play.
“We probably kicked the ball away a little bit too much. The endeavour is there and they tried to play which is what we are encouraging them to do as opposed to being too structured.”
England Counties appeared to have built the foundations for victory when they led 12-6 at half-time after Ireland were punished for kicking the ball out of a five metres scrum and Wigglesworth squeezed in at the corner for just before the break.
But Joyce kept Ireland in contention with two penalties in the first half and a third early in the second period before Roche’s try nudged them into the lead.
Adams put England Counties back in front when he rounded off a break by replacement Chris Briers with his first touch of the ball and Coventry centre Luke Myring added the conversion.
But Joyce struck twice more in a three minute period and he held his nerve to stroke over the injury-time winner after Myring had briefly nudged England Counties ahead with a 77th minute penalty.
“The venue was fantastic, the club have looked after us really well and hosted us formidably,” Pope said.
“It’s fantastic for clubs to get the opportunity to and look after us. It is a fantastic occasion and it’a really great venue for the players to come and play at.”
England Counties XV
15 Sean Taylor (Preston Grasshoppers)
14 Cameron Mitchell (Darlington Mowden Park)
13 Jack Adams (Cinderford)
12 Luke Myring (Coventry)
11 Jim Wigglesworth (Cambridge)
10 Chris Johnson (Fylde - captain)
9 Stefan Liebenberg (Old Albanians)
1 Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon)
2 Brett McNamee (Old Albanians
3 Mark George (Stourbridge)
4 Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon)
5 Ben Hilton (Launceston)
6 Tom Stradwick (Blackheath)
7 Ollie Cooper-Millar (Old Albanians)
8 Rob Baldwin (Wharfedale)
16 Johnny Matthews (Sedgley Park)
17 Jamal Ford-Robinson (Cambridge)
18 Adam Lewis (Fylde)
19 Pierce Phillips (Darlington Mowden Park)
20 Gavin Jones (Blaydon)
21 Richard Bolt (Exmouth)
22 Chris Briers (Fylde)
23 Ben Rath (Fylde)
Ireland Club XV
15 Danny Riordan (Old Belvedere)
14 Mick McGrath (Clontarf)
13 Stuart Morrow (Ballynahinch)
12 Mark Roche (Lansdowne)
11 Cian Aherne (Lansdowne)
10 David Joyce (Clontarf)
9 Gerry Hurley (Cork Constitution – captain)
1 Colm McMahon (St Mary’s College)
2 Tyrone Moran (Lansdowne)
3 Declan Lavery (Old Belvedere)
4 Dean Moore (Old Belvedere)
5 Fergal Walsh (Terenure)
6 Willie Earle (Lansdowne)
7 Charlie Butterworth (Lansdowne)
8 William Ryan (Cork Constitution)
Andrew O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution)
Ian Hirst (Clontarf)
Hugh McGrath (Young Munster)
Sean Walsh (Cashel)
James Ryan (Cork Constitution)
Neil Cronin (Garryowen)
Ritchie McMaster (Queens)
Barry Daly (UCD).
Referee; Graeme Wells (Scotland)
Mowden park continue their drive for promotion when they host Sedgley Park this Sat 1st March at the Arena:
Updated 10:56 - 24 Feb 2014 by Lewis Johnston
Mowden Park v Sedgley Park Details