- All to play for in Northern counties
- Roses win puts Lancashire in driving seat
Bill Beaumont Cup rugby promises an exciting regional finale in North Division 1 next Saturday (May 18) when the final brace of matches offers the prospect of a Twickenham outing for one of the top two teams and relegation for one of the sides at the other end of the table.
Lancashire’s Roses win at Fylde installed them in the favourites slot and lines them up for a return match with defending champions Hertfordshire if the form book is a reliable guide.
Their 35-25 victory at The Woodlands gave them a four-point advantage at the top of the table over second-placed Cheshire, but they now have to visit Macclesfield in their final outing, so there is no scope for complacency.
Defeat for Yorkshire leaves them with a slender one-point lead over Durham, who they now face at Scarborough on Saturday with relegation to North Division 2 at stake.
While the Red Rose side outscored Yorkshire by four tries to three, it was the calibre of their defensive work that eventually brought them victory in the face of a strong forward effort by the visitors, which frequently had the home side on the back foot.
Despite those periods of pressure, however, Yorkshire could not engineer enough clear-cut scoring chances to win the day, although they did edge ahead just after the hour mark, only for Lancashire to finish strongly and reclaim the advantage and the victory.
"The win was built on defence as much as anything because we turned over a lot of ball and Yorkshire were able to dominate possession for long spells," said Lancashire Coach Mark Nelson. "We tried to play an expansive game, but mistakes were made and we had to defend, which we did very well. It was a dogged and gritty performance and I was proud of the way we responded in what was a very competitive and difficult game."
Tries by No 8 Dominic Moon (Preston G), wingmen Nick Royle (Vale of Lune) and Andrew Riley (Sedgley Park), and replacement fly half Chris Johnson (Fylde) rewarded Lancashire’s attacking ambitions, fly half Steve Collins (Sedgley Park) adding two conversions and a penalty, Johnson one conversion and two penalties.
Tries by No 8 Gavin Jones (Blaydon), centre Tomasi Tanumi (Beverley) and a penalty try for Yorkshire were supplemented by two conversion and a penalty from fly half Chris Reakes (Hull Ionains) and a penalty from replacement fly half Greg Wood (Sandal).
Durham’s ambition has always been to prove that they are good enough to play in Division One of the competition and while they have clearly demonstrated that with two good displays, they now need to beat Yorkshire at Scarborough on Saturday to avoid slipping back into the second tier.
Their 31-29 defeat by Cheshire at Gateshead RFC underlined the commitment of the Durham players after they launched a determined rescue act after falling 21 points behind, but a final conversion attempt by fly half Andy Baggett (Blaydon) after Dan Burns (Billingham) had scored a late try was wide of the mark.
Cheshire had tries by Under 20 pair full back Mike Barlow (Stockport) and two from replacement Mike Finnemore (Macclesfield) and another from centre Danny Ridge (Birkenhead Park), with Barlow converting all four and adding a penalty.
A try by flanker Rob Bell converted by Baggett, was Durham’s only score of the first-half before they launched their last-gasp onslaught, centre Chris Hyndman (Billingham), replacement John Boatman (West Hartlepool) and Burns all crossing in the closing minutes.
Baggett finished with three conversions and a penalty, leaving Mark Nelson to lament: "If he’d landed the conversion we’d have been a Twickenham already."
In the County Championship Shield, Cumbria came out on top when they beat visitors Leicestershire 38-17 at Penrith to win Pool 1 and claim a semi-final slot against Warwickshire at Aspatria on Saturday.
Leicestershire fielded 13 players from Level 5 clubs, so Cumbria can take some pride in their achievement as they looked workmanlike in the forwards and more than competent in the threequarters, with both half backs having outstanding games.
Man-of-the-Match fly half Alistair Leddingham opened the scoring with a long-range penalty, before South Leicester scrum half Joe Glover scored Leicestershire’s opening try, which was improved by his South Leicester teammate Mark Lord.
The visitors looked at this point as if they might take control of the game, but a piece of audacious skill from Leddingham brought a try under the posts, which he converted for a 10-7 lead.
Cumbria then grew in confidence and pulled ahead with a try by prop Billy Coxon (Kendal) before the try of the game came when good work at the back of the scrum ended in full back Greg Smith (Wigton) crossing.
Leddingham then added a penalty with the last kick of the half for a 23-7 interval advantage before Lord added a penalty to reduce the deficit and when centre Ryan Oakes (Hinckley) crossed for a second-half try and Lord converted, Leicestershire were only nine points adrift.
The visitors twice went close, but Cumbria held out and tries by Leddingham and flanker Tom Lindsay (Aspatria) and a conversion and penalty from Leddingham sealed the win.