Two late tries denied Cornwall Women a trip to Twickenham as Durham edged this pulsating game in the final ten minutes of the Gill Burns Cup Division 2 semi-final, writes Bill Hooper.

In a match played in very warm conditions, Cornwall made a good start with Lisa Allin scoring an unconverted try after just three minutes, to the joy of the travelling support.

Durham’s speedy winger Laura Wood gave notice of her danger with a good run that set alarms bells ringing in the Cornish defence.

Cornwall continued to harry the home side, whilst the physical tackle count was mounting, Durham knew they were in a game.

A mistake by Cornwall led to a try from Wood who dotted down under the posts giving skipper Marguerite Julia a comfortable conversion.

The breakdown was fiercely contested by both sides with Liz Langton catching the eye, as did skipper Megan Arnold, there was also great work from Roberta Smith-Scotland.

Cornwall’s cause was not helped with injuries to both Millie Chaston and Georgia Hall in quick succession, which saw the introduction of both Joey Sandercock and Abi Smith much earlier than planned by the coaching staff.

Up front Kim Upcott was putting in her big drives almost getting over the whitewash herself, Durham found her a handful.

Approaching half-time Cornwall strung some phases together with Tia Larson’s pass finding Sandercock out wide, the winger showed good pace getting in at the corner for an unconverted try and a 10-7 half-time lead.

Cornwall, trying to play out of their 22, were pinged by the referee for crossing offering Durham a penalty which Julia kicked to level the scores.

Cornwall obtained good field position, from a tap penalty they moved the ball wide with Becky Bennett making good ground to score near the posts, Megan Okey then kicked a conversion courtesy of the crossbar.

Durham’s bench made a difference as Cornwall tired in the crucial final moments. Two tries from Jess Clubby and Nicole Johnstone sealed their place in the final where they will meet Hampshire Women.

For Cornwall disappointment, but the Women can be proud of their superb campaign, which has confirmed them as force to be reckon with at this level.

Coach Jo Holden said: “I am so proud of the girl’s performance today, they really gave Durham a good hard game.

“Crucially we needed a score to put us two scores ahead, sadly we couldn’t quite manage it; that doesn’t take anything away from my pride in the squad and the levels of performance we have achieved in a short space of time.”