- Second-half fight-back decisive for Red Rose men
- Cheshire take their neighbours to the wire
Lancashire are back in the final of the Bill Beaumont Cup after another epic County Championship battle with their neighbours Cheshire at Chester, their 36-29 victory earning them a meeting with Hertfordshire in the final at Twickenham on May 27, 2012.
True to the traditions that have marked this season’s campaign, Lancashire had to produce a resilient second-half showing to get the better of their equally resolute opponents, four of their five tries coming after the interval, at which point they trailed 14-8.
“It was a tense affair that could have gone either way,” said Coach Mark Nelson. “We were behind at half time, but Cheshire picked up a couple of injuries and we had a better bench. We also had a bit more pace and guile than them.
“This was another very entertaining game and if you look across the board, there have been some very good games in this season and a lot of interest being shown in the Championship. It’s very important that the hierarchy of the game recognise that.”
Fylde centre Chris Briers opened the scoring for Lancashire with a try, but his England Counties team-mate Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing Trailfinders) put the home side ahead with three penalties before Macclesfield wingman Fergus Mulchrone claimed Cheshire’s opening try.
A Chris Johnson (Huddersfield) penalty cut the deficit before half-time and though the fly half put his side ahead when he converted a try by back-row man Ben Vernon, a Hodgkinson penalty and a try by Macclesfield wing Jack Moorhouse put Cheshire ahead again at 22-15.
Briers’ second try, converted by Johnson, levelled the scores and Lancashire then added tries by Fylde lock Paul Arnold and Fylde Fylde flanker Even Stewart, both goaled by Johnson, to take a winning lead.
Cheshire took the game to the wire with a last-minute try by No.8 Jon Keep that Johnson goaled, but by then Lancashire had booked a return to Twickenham.
Yorkshire avoided relegation when they triumphed 43-27 over Northumberland at Percy Park, a three try opening onslaught putting them in the driving seat.
Two tries by Huddersfield wing Adam Ryder and one from Wharfedale flanker Dan Salomi, all converted by Wharfedale fly half Tom Barrett, put the visitors 21-0 ahead after 19 minutes and though Northumberland responded with a penalty try and two more from Northern wing Peter Weightman before the interval, Yorkshire were first to score after the restart when Hull wing Jim Wigglesworth crossed and Barrett converted.
A try by Tynedale centre Chris Harris on the hour cut the deficit, but Yorkshire retained control with a Barrett penalty and conversion and tries by Ryder and Otley full back Chris Georgiou, Gosforth full back Nathan Bailey replying with a try for the home side that Northern’s Kris Borthwick converted.
Cumbrian hopes of making it third time lucky in the County Championship Shield were dashed when they suffered a repeat of last season’s semi final defeat, going down 37-20 to Surrey at Aspatria.
Three penalties and four conversions by Steve Mumford and tries by No.8 Ben Lucas, wing Mike Terenak and a brace from flanker Chris Lewis took the game away from Cumbria. The home side had a first-half try from Penrith centre Phil Fell and a conversion and penalty from Greg Smith, but although the full back cut the deficit to four points with a second penalty early in the second half, the visitors had the game sewn up before a try from prop Graham Andrews, goaled by Smith, wrapped up the Cumbria scoring, a late penalty by Munford sealing the Surrey win.
Durham left it late to snatch victory and promotion to the top tier when they scored a try with the last play of the game deep in injury time to beat Eastern Counties 32-31 at Cambridge.
Right-wing Tom Jeffreys from Blaydon was the hero of the hour after the home side had taken a 31-27 lead as the game moved into the closing minutes.
The visitors looked to have the game under control when they built up a 17-3 half-time lead, but the Counties rallied strongly, Durham lost three players to the sin-bin and as the game went into added time, a home win seemed likely.
Tries by Fraser Wilson and Rob Bell, both converted by fly half Andy Baggett, who also kicked a penalty, put Durham in control at the break, but the Counties hit back and though Wilson scored his second and Baggett goaled, the home side replied with three tries, two of which were converted, to level the scores at 24-24.
A Baggett penalty put Durham ahead, but a converted try by the Counties set up the thrilling climax.
“It was very entertaining in one way, but if you were from Durham it was really nerve wracking,” said Coach Peter Taylor. “The main thing is that we are back in the top flight and that’s a great feeling.
“We put out one of the best Durham sides the county has had for a long time, but Eastern Counties were a very good side and could so easily have won it."