March 30, 2007
Unbeaten Yorkshire are just two wins away from a return to Twickenham on May 28 to defend the National Under 20 Championship title they won last year by beating Northumberland.
The White Roses side entertain North Midlands at Driffield on Sunday (April 1, 2.15) in the Quarter-final hoping to maintain the form that has carried them unbeaten through the Northern group.
Yorkshire finished with four wins from as many outings, amassing 156 points in the process and conceding only 35.
Interestingly, their opening game in the group brought a 39-7 demolition of arch-rivals Lancashire at Huddersfield YMCA, but the Red Rose men regrouped well after that defeat and now find themselves joining Yorkshire in the last eight.
They suffered two defeats in the programme, the second being at home to Cumbria, but when Yorkshire emerged 20-9 winners over Cumbria in their final game, they opened the door for Lancashire to qualify as runners-up via their superior points difference.
As a result, Lancashire now take on Staffordshire at Lichfield on Sunday (3pm).
Yorkshire go into the quarter-final tie with the mixture very much in line with the one that has got them to within a couple of wins of getting back to Twickenham, whereas Lancshire have been forced to ring the changes.
Continuity has been a key element in the side's unbeaten progress through the Northern group and even though they have been forced to make a couple of changes because of injury and unavailability, the line-up has a predictable look.
"We are without Leeds Tykes prop Ed Pickles, who has an injury, so Richard Bennett steps in and Andrew Goodwin comes onto the bench," says Chairman of Selectors Keith Dyas.
"The fact that we have had a settled side and continuity stems from the hard work that goes into our pre-season preparations and it certainly helps."
Lancashire, in contrast, have a handful of changes due to injuries, holidays and other representative commitments.
Prop Tom Baker is ruled out with injury and replaced by the returning Alex Cowey, Will Fewkes coming onto the bench; hooker Anthony Harvey comes in for holidaying Billy Graham; prop Danny Birchall resumes after being out since the opening Roses defeat; and the considerable presence of 6ft 8in, 19st Joe Birtwistle is added to the replacements in case a bit of extra timber is needed.
Behind the scrum, No 9 Scott Morton also gets his first chance since the opening game because Matt Conway is holidaying.
In the backs, centre Ollie Moore and full-back Mark Murray return after injury.
Yorkshire U20s (v North Midlands at Driffield, 2.15): Karl Birch (Hull Ionians); Luke Gray (Leeds Tykes), Ben Mitchell (Halifax), John Marshall (Leeds Tykes), Sam Furbank (Driffield); Jonathan West (Dinnington), James Doherty (Wharfedale) capt; Richard Bennett (Otley), Steven Maycock (Rotherham), Jonathan McMillan (Rotherham), Alec Kaihau (Leeds Tykes), Jacob Brady (Pontefract), Gavin Jones (Huddersfield), John Bishop (Rotherham), Ryan Burrows (Dinnington).
Replacements: Andrew Rennison (Hull Ionians), James Greene (Hull Ionians), Sam Booth (West Park Bramhope), Andrew Goodwin (Dinnington), Lee Brown (Harrogate), Richard Piper (Cleckheaton), Tom Perkins (Moortown).
Lancashire U20s (v Staffordshire at Lichfield, 3pm): Mark Murray (Preston Grasshoppers); Jack Moorhouse (Sale), David Kirby (Preston Grasshoppers), Oliver Moore (Preston Grasshoppers), Jonathan Walmsley (Blackburn); Dom Kohler (Sedgley Park), Scott Morton (Eccles); Derek Salisbury (Caldy), Jack Haward (Preston Grasshoppers), Alex Cowey (Vale of Lune), Dan Perry (Vale of Lune), Graham Thomas (Preston Grasshoppers), Luke Ford (Vale of Lune), Dan Waller (Fylde), Jordan Pearson (Blackburn).
Replacements: Joe Birtwistle (Fylde), Will Fewkes (Manchester Met University), Alan Whittaker (Vale of Lune), Liam Reeve (Aspull), Anthony Harvey (Caldy), Nick Smith (Preston Grasshoppers), Mark Kellett (Preston Grasshoppers), Danny Higham (Aspull), Sean Hall (Preston Grasshoppers), Danny Birchall (Vale of Lune).