Rugby Union: Chapman leads the army on a boot march

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The Independent Online
Hampshire. .9

Cornwall. .12

ON THE MARCH, yes, which accounted for the 2,000 or so backbone of Trelawny's Army presenting themselves for duty at boggy Basingstoke, but Cornwall's progress to the semi-finals of the County Championship is all about a one-man band. Daren Chapman has been banging away these past three weekends and, without so much as a sniff of a welcome try, has kept TA regulars on the road to Twickenham.

Chapman - 'you set 'em up and I'll knock 'em down' - has so far kicked 33 of Cornwall's 36 points in squeezing past Middlesex, Surrey and now Hampshire to reward his side with a Redruth homecoming against Yorkshire on 20 February. Relief for the army, whose ranks will be swelled to five figures for the meeting, and a relief for the Rugby Football Union, which prays annually for a Cornish presence in the final.

It was Chapman who received the chop in 1989 when, having helped take the west countrymen all the way to HQ in the first place, he was forced to watch from the bench as, with Alan Buzza at stand-off, Cornwall went down to Durham.

Two years later and Billy Peters was wearing the No 10 shirt as the title, won only once previously in 1908, was lifted in triumph by Cornwall after an epic extra-time encounter against Yorkshire.

Poor Chapman, then, must be wondering if his day will ever come. But he has recovered well from a knee injury and on Saturday - in the mud, the wind, the rain and, ultimately, snow - he landed the three penalties and a drop goal that kept Cornwall on course. It was a superb sure- footed effort when others about him were often out of step.

Graham Dawe said as much, the Bath and former England hooker far from happy with the all-round performance of the team. 'I'm enjoying the captaincy,' he said, 'but our ball retention is awful and we will have to work on our levels of fitness.' Yorkshire, mind, will have a devil of a job surviving for a showdown with either Lancashire or Middlesex.

If nothing else, Cornwall are great fighters. 'We would welcome the odd try, though,' Bill Bishop, once a front-row stalwart and now the county's RFU representative, said. Neither side came close but you could not dampen Cornish enthusiasm during a neanderthal battle for the ball.

They were already singing in the bar two hours before the kick off. 'We left at 6.30 this morning,' a supporter bedecked in black and gold said.

'It's a long way and a lot of roundabouts from home but I wouldn't miss it for the world. At least the beer here is cheaper than it was at Sunbury last week. We were skinned there - not to mention the fact that we were damned lucky to win.'

He and his mates, several wearing only replica rugby jerseys to ward off the elements, then went out to cheer on their heroes. They are a hardy breed, no doubt about it, and by the end, whatever a brave Hampshire had thrown at them, Cornwall were home if not dry and thankful of the kick-start that Chapman had given them.

Hampshire: Penalties Livesey 3. Cornwall: Penalties Chapman 3. Drop goal: Chapman.

HAMPSHIRE: R Rowledge (Basingstoke); J Bates, S Parry, S Boydell, A Wilson (Havant); M Livesey (Richmond), B Short (Harlequins); D Robson (London Irish), I Lillington, J Ford (Basingstoke), G Curtis, M Baldwin, M Sheldon, W Knight (Havant, capt), R Stratford (Rosslyn Park).

CORNWALL: K Thomas (Redruth); M Chatterton (Exeter), M Savage (Penzance and Newlyn), M Brain (Clifton), L Oman (Bath); D Chapman (Camborne), C Whitworth; A Ellery (Redruth), G Dawe (Bath, capt), R Keast (Redruth), M Wesson (Penzance and Newlyn), T Cook (Redruth), M Addinall (Penryn), S Berryman, A Bick (Penzance and Newlyn).

Referee: A Savage (North Midlands).

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