- Sevens mood adds gloss to Bill Beaumont Cup decider
- Relegation for loser of Lancashire vs Cheshire at Percy Park
Photo: RFU Archive
The Northern Pool decider in the Bill Beaumont Cup at Broughton Park on Saturday between Lancashire and Cheshire will be staged amidst the Manchester Sevens, which is occupying the location for the rest of the weekend.
And judging from some of the exciting rugby provided by both teams in the run-up to the final, devotees of the fast-and-loose version of the game may find that the rugby on offer fits nicely into the freestyle sevens mood.
So far Lancashire have scored 14 tries in their two outings against Northumberland and Yorkshire, their eight-try demolition of their Roses rivals at Scarborough being an especially entertaining affair as wing Ollie Brennand celebrated with a four-try display.
Cheshire have been slightly more restrained, crossing six times against Northumberland to add to the five tries they collected against Yorkshire earlier.
Ironically, while some Red Rose eyebrows were raised at the decision to take the Roses game to distant Scarborough – reservations subsequently swept aside by a big crowd, perfect facilities and a superb rugby occasion – Lancashire’s choice of Broughton Park on Manchester Sevens weekend has provoked a few logistical queries.
Cheshire’s Dave Partington, however, is very positive about the venue: “I think it could be a tremendous event with a big crowd and a really good move. We’ve done the Twickenham experience where you’re expected to be at a certain place at a certain time – even kicking off at 10am – and that does take some sorting out. I’m sure we’ll be fine and I have no problems with them trying it.”
And while Lancashire coach Mark Nelson has downplayed his side’s chances in what has proved to be a competitive table, Partington is under no illusions about who starts favourites in this encounter.
“They are a quality side. Lancashire set the standards in the County Championship and they have raised the bar,” he said. “And when the quality of the competition has improved, they have still finished at the top of the pile and they remain the side to beat.
“We haven’t managed that for a long time and there is no question that the challenge in right in our faces. We are playing what is historically the best side in the County Championship and we’ll be doing our best.”
Lancashire will go into the game without last week’s hero Brennand, who will be playing in the Amsterdam Sevens, but he is replaced in the squad by England Sevens man Nick Royle, who was ruled out through injury last weekend.
“Having the county game dovetailed with the Manchester Sevens gives the day an added dimension for both events and there’s a lot of interest in region which demonstrates the groundswell of interest for the Championship,” said Nelson.
“That interest has been taken to the wire on Saturday by the fact that we have two very interesting games on the final day – the one at Broughton Park deciding who goes to Twickenham and the other at Percy Park dictating who is relegated.
“Every time we play Cheshire they are in our face and they don’t give up. I don’t expect anything else this weekend.”
Yorkshire travel to Percy Park for their game against Northumberland knowing that a place in the second tier of the competition awaits them if they cannot come away with a win. The White Rose men have never suffered that indignity, although last season they were in the same position, needing a win over Warwickshire to preserve the place in the top flight.
Yorkshire select from an unchanged squad, Danny Paul (achilles injury) being the only casualty from last weekend’s defeat by Lancashire.
“Northumberland pushed Lancashire close in their opening game and have a strong side on paper, so no one is underestimating the challenge,” said Team Manager Graham Siswick. “I thnk we have the capability, but we have to deliver on the day. There were too many defensive lapses last week, even though we scored 33 points. That’s something we’re working on.”
Cumbria also have a Twickenham outing in their sights when they entertain Surrey in the semi final of the County Championship Shield at Aspatria, and having been beaten at the same stage for the last two season by an aggregate of just eight points, they do not lack motivation.
“The players feel they let themselves down against Surrey last year,” said Team Manager Mark Richardson. “It was a game they could and should have won and we’ll be better prepared this time now that the players know what it feels like to lose in the semi final.
“From a preparation standpoint, we also had a better game against Notts, Lincs & Derby. They played particularly well and it was only in the last 20 minutes that we got on top in the forwards.”
Cumbria expect to be at full-strength with the return of scrum half Paul Newton and centre Mike Hawley, who were ruled out last weekend by work and injury respectively.
The prize at stake for Durham, who take on Eastern Counties at Cambridge, is promotion to the senior section of the Bill Beaumont Cup and the renewal of old rivalries with Lancashire, Cheshire and the winners of the Northumberland/Yorkshire game.
Durham coach Peter Taylor, a former Yorkshire player, takes a full-strength squad to Cambridge, with the four changes made to the squad all known in advance.
Shaun Brown (Ryton) comes onto the bench for Tom Rock and Tom Jeffrey (Blaydon) comes into the side at lock for Horden’s unavailable Dan Palmer, with Mowden Park lock Andy Wilson joining the replacements. Durham University prop Josh Bayford comes in as a replacement for Ralph Appleby (Mowden Park).
The form-book points to a Durham win, with Taylor’s men beating Warwickshire 48-14 in the opening game and the Midlands side them toppling Eastern Counties 39-34.
“I think we’ve got to play at least as well as we did against Warwickshire, but I expect that to happen naturally having had one game together,” added Taylor. “I’m simply hoping that come Saturday night we’ll be back among the Northern elite.”