RUGBY: Lions man scores try at Twickenham - 30/5/06

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IT was a memorable day for Peterborough Lions player Joe van den Berg yesterday as he played at Twickenham, scored a try and finished on the winning side.

IT was a memorable day for Peterborough Lions player Joe van den Berg yesterday as he played at Twickenham, scored a try and finished on the winning side.The strong-running centre was a member of the Notts, Lincs & Derby team that carried off the County Championship Plate by defeating Oxfordshire 21-17 after a game in which their greater continuity and forward strength proved decisive.

Both sides struggled to find any real fluency and defences were largely in control, but the Three Counties invariably made ground through the driving maul and forced Oxfordshire onto the back-foot for long periods.

That they were still in the game at the final whistle reflected their tenacity, but while they matched the winners on try count, the kicking of Notts, Lincs & Derby full-back Tim Robinson proved crucial.

He landed three first-half penalties to give his side a 9-3 interval lead, fly-half Jamie Cathcart pegging back a penalty for Oxfordshire.

The Three Counties eventually collected the opening try when sustained approach work ended in van den Berg crossing in the corner after 46 minutes, but Oxfordshire responded with a try of their own after 57 minutes when excellent work by wingman Andy Noyce paved the way for full-back Kenny Bingham to cross for a try that Cathcart goaled.

Notts, Lincs & Derby hit back smartly when another driving maul from a lineout ended in prop Paul Sewell peeling off the side for an easy try, Robinson's conversion giving his side a 21-10 cushion.

Oxfordshire refused to accept their fate and set up a tense conclusion when the speedy Bingham broke cleanly and his inside pass enabled wingman Martin Nutt to slide over, Cathcart's conversion bringing his side into striking distance.

However, the Three Counties negotiated the closing stages confidently and they avoided any alarms in preserving their four-point lead to the close.

"I'm absolutely delighted," said Notts, Lincs & Derby coach Simon Green. "The lads have worked hard in what has been a tough end to the season, with a difficult route to the final.

"It's always difficult playing a side with a lot of players from one club, whereas we are a county team drawing players from several different clubs, but we stood up to the challenge.

"We made our tackles and took the ball through several phases. I thought Joe Duffey and Neil Fowkes were impressive up front and Tim Robinson kicked really well."

Said Oxfordshire coach John Brodley: "I'm obviously disappointed. I thought we had a chance to win the game, but Notts, Lincs & Derby were stronger up front which meant that our kicking game needed to be spot on. It wasn't. In the end the four-point margin showed just how well we defended."

Former Peterborough player Nathan Eggleshaw was also in the victorious Notts, Lincs and Derby squad. He came on as a second-half substitute.

TEAMS

Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire: Tim Robinson (Scunthorpe); Rowan Nirmalendran (Nottingham); Jono Wilson (Nottingham), Joe van den Berg (Peterborough Lions) (Nat Jones, Mansfield, 74), Adam Draper (Lincoln) (Chris Dermody, Paviours, 69), Tom Foster (Scunthorpe), Rich O'Hanlon (Nottingham) (Paul Townsley, Ilkeston, 74); Neil Fowkes (Nottingham) (Chris Starling, Nottingham, 49), Joe Duffey (Nottingham), Paul Sewell (Scunthorpe), Chris Fores (Nottingham) (Ben Fawcett, Scunthorpe, 66), Mark Siddins (Nottingham University), Phil Sidebottom (Scunthorpe) capt, Ben Holmes (Mansfield) (Rob Ward, Scunthorpe, 30/40) (Nathan Eggleshaw, Paviours, 74), Tom George (Nottingham University).

Oxfordshire: Kenny Bingham (Newbury); Martin Nutt (Newbury) (Ben Hewitt, Chinnor, 83), Alex Wallace (Reading), Andrew Henley (Oxford Harlequins), Andy Noyce (Oxford Harlequins) (Jamie Hiscock, Chinnor, 64); James Cathcart (Reading), Anthony Cope (Oxford Harlequins) (Owen Gustaffason, Oxford Harlequins, 76); Simon Matthews (Chinnor) (S Chadbone, 48), J P Illerman (Chinnor), Bob Harris (Chinnor) (Tom Whelan, Chinnor, 64), Matt Hutchings (Chinnor), Craig Burrows (Chinnor) capt, Andy Millburn (Chinnor) (Ed Rixon, Chinnor, 48), Jon Brooks (Chinnor) (Paddy Soper, Oxford Harlequins, 48), Raakai Maxwell (Chinnor).

Referee: A Hartwell (RFU).