SOUTHERN COUNTIES INTERMEDIATE CUP FINAL: Trowbridge 34 Bletchley 10
TROWBRIDGE moved to within two wins of a national final at Twickenham as their forward power and the searing pace of full-back Jackson Szabo destroyed Bletchley at a rain-soaked Doric Park on Saturday.
The home side lifted the Southern Counties Intermediate Cup with an overwhelming performance against the Southern Counties North leaders and now wait the winners of the South West Counties final between their Southern Counties South rivals Wells and Devon's Ivybridge which was postponed at the weekend.
That match is now expected to take place this weekend, with the winners facing Trowbridge, again at Doric Park, in the South West final - effectively the last eight of the national Intermediate Cup - on February 22.
In conditions which fluctuated between driving wind and rain and bright sunshine and back within minutes, Trowbridge's canny tactics and clear superiority in the pack handed them a convincing triumph.
The home side had the benefit of the wild conditions in the first half and made full use of them as the Buckinghamshire visitors were driven backwards at every opportunity.
Bletchley have lost only once in their league campaign to date, but they struggled to contain Trowbridge's close driving game, while the away side's scrummage was soon back-pedalling at an alarming rate.
Once such mighty shunt set up the first try as Trowbridge shoved their opponents off their own ball and number eight Adam Sullivan broke. The space was made out wide and Szabo joined the attack to dive over after just seven minutes.
Centre Lloyd Davis landed a superb conversion in tricky conditions and, with Bletchley's clearance kicks being blown sideways by the gale, the found escaping their own territory a near-impossible task.
Just past the midway point of the half, Trowbridge seized a lineout 20 metres out and a magnificent forwards rumble took them up to the line, where prop Sean Jones emerged from a pile of bodies as the scorer.
Davis added the extras and the home dominance continued unabated as the forwards strode upfield again before Szabo again injected lightning pace into the backline to skirt around the defence and touch down out wide.
Davis was unable to add that conversion, but did land a long-range penalty as half time approached.
From the restart, Bletchley enjoyed their one bright spell of the half as Trowbridge botched the catch and were then shunted off their own scrum ball, allowing Steve Allen to dot down for a try.
That gave the visitors hope going into the second half with the elements in their favour and they started well, being narrowly denied in the corner before lock Adam Fox ploughed over from a set penalty move 15 minutes in.
Trowbridge could have wobbled at that point, but instead they came back stronger.
Fox was sin-binned for an off-the-ball incident spotted by the touch judge and his side paid the price as they were marched back in the scrum once more and, after conceding the penalty, were unable to stop scrum-half Kyle Knight from taking a quick tap and crashing over.
The icing on the cake arrived with 10 minutes remaining as Trowbridge broke from their own 22, Szabo showing the defence a clean pair of heels around the outside before timing his pass well to wing James McFarlane who finished with ease.
Davis added the conversion and while the final moments were played in a near-monsoon, it mattered little to the home side, who headed for the sanctuary of the dressing room clutching the trophy.
REACTION & MORE PICTURES FROM TROWBRIDGE'S WIN IN THIS FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES