Johnson skippers England to second straight win

Billy Johnson

Billy Johnson - Credit: Archant

Billy Johnson captain England Counties to a second straight win as they recorded memorable 24-15 victory at a rain-soaked Stade Francais Rongieras in Perigueux on Friday.

The Old Albanian lock’s first game leading out the side ended in a 37-3 win over Scotland Club at Fylde. While he was instrumental in that contest, scoring a try, but it was Chris Johnson who provided the difference in France.

The Fylde fly-half landed all eight of his penalties in a physical but try-less contest. It was only the second time that England Counties had won in France and it avenged a one point defeat by the Federale XV in Nevers 12 months ago.

Chris Johnson kicked England Counties into a 12-0 lead before France drew level but a mature and composed display ensured that France gave away penalties under pressure and the Fylde man held his nerve to secure the win.

“It was a bit of an arm wrestle but the boys really ground it out. The whole squad were involved and really worked hard,” said England Counties head coach Steve Pope.

“There were lots of mistakes and it was a bit of cauldron atmosphere but the boys stayed very composed.

“We took the points when we got the opportunity and Chris put them away. We were unlucky when Matt Miles broke through and nearly snuck through but got caught short. But to play two spring internationals and not concede a try is something that we are very pleased with.

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“We think this is the first time we have won both spring internationals and it’s the first time we have won in France for a long time. “We are absolutely delighted. For the boys to come together in such a short space of time typifies what the Counties is all about.

“The boys are so desperate to work for each other. When we announced the team you could see the disappointment in the faces of those who weren’t starting. But the boys who were on the bench led the warm-up and kept everybody upbeat.

“I’m particularly pleased for James Shanahan as assistant coach because he stepped up when I couldn’t travel up to Fylde for the Scotland.

“He made such a big impact that there and held things together. I enjoy working with him and things really seem to flow.”

England Counties, the flagship representative team of the community game in England, will next be in action in June when they play two matches on their summer tour of Romania.

England Counties XV

15. Mike Wilcox (Cinderford)

14. Will Hurrell (Coventry)

13. Markus Burcham (Blackheath)

12. Seb Rodwell (London Irish Wild Geese)

11. Ollie Brennand (Fylde)

10. Chris Johnson (Fylde)

9. Joe Bedford (Sandal)

1. Aston Croall (Blackheath)

2. Sam Wilkes (Cinderford)

3. Steve Johnson (Hull Ionians)

4. Keith Laughlin (Blaydon)

5. Ben Hilton (Launceston)

6. Billy Johnson (captain, Old Albanians)

7. Darren Fox (Peterborough Lions)

8. Gavin Jones (Blaydon)

Replacements: Matt Miles (Worthing Raiders), Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon), Tom Harrison (Clifton), Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon), Evan Stewart (Fylde), Jack Daly (Old Albanians), Cameron Mitchell (Darlington Mowden Park), James Love (Ealing Trailfinders).