Lancashire 20 Yorkshire 26
Yorkshire proved superior in this physical Roses Sir Bill Beaumont Cup contest and in doing so denied Lancashire a Twickenham Final appearance. With Cheshire snapping at their heels, any kind of win for the Red Rose county would have taken them through to their 14th Final in 17 years. It was not to be as a streetwise Yorkshire squad dominated possession and territory. Cheshire overwhelmed Durham by 52-5 and went through to face Cornwall in the showpiece occasion on 2nd June.
From the outset, the gritty Yorkshire pack showed that this was going to be a tough afternoon for the home side at Fylde’s Woodlands Ground in front of an excellent crowd just short of a thousand. In the 10th minute a Yorkshire attack ended with winger Tom Hodson touching down wide out on the left. Fullback Lewis Minikin’s touchline kick was spot on and his side had a 0-7 lead.
Lancashire were struggling for continuity at this stage and began to suffer from fierce White Rose pressure at the tackle breakdown. Referee Alex Thomas penalised Lancashire frequently and this undermined their attacking options. From one of 16 penalties awarded against the home side during the game, Minikin extended the lead in the 24th minute with a straightforward kick.
Yorkshire fly-half Callum Irving enjoyed plenty of space and time behind his dominating park and launched a series of high infield kicks to test the Lancashire defence. Home fullback Lewis Allen was a match for the great majority with clean catching under serious pressure.
Lancashire settled down somewhat and, when a Yorkshire player offended in the 33rd minute, fly-half Chris Johnson kicked a good goal to get his side on the scoreboard. They also had a useful advantage when Yorkshire centre Harry Dunne was sinbinned. It didn’t seem to affect the visitors as another penalty by Minikin a couple of minutes later soon restored the ten points margin and the teams retired to the changing rooms with a score of 3-13 favouring the visitors.
Lancashire pressed inside the Yorkshire half in the early minutes of the 2nd half and the pragmatic Johnson coolly dropped a goal to reduce the deficit. In the 45th minute, promising young utility back James Robins was forced off with a painful arm injury and was replaced by Alex Hurst. The experienced centre’s immediate stay was a short one as he was shown a yellow card a few minutes later.
With a man advantage, Yorkshire were soon back inside Lancashire territory and the ever dangerous centre James Tincknell forced his way over from close range to claim a crucial try in the 56th minute. Minikin added the extras for a 6-20 lead.
Hurst was soon in the action when he returned to the pitch and he made a splendid break centre field. He linked with the fast supporting replacement hooker Ben Gregory who in turn set winger Tom Grimes free and he scored an excellent try down the left. Johnson’s conversion was rarely in doubt to reduce the deficit to 13-20.
One again, Lancashire conceded a penalty at the breakdown in the 72nd minute and Minikin stroked the ball over to restore Yorkshire’s advantage. A minute later Lancashire worked the ball to winger Tom Carleton who had been relatively starved of possession during the game. The last defender, fullback Minikin, made the mistake of showing the Lancashire youngster the outside and immediately regretted it as Carleton skated past him to score an excellent individual try. Johnson’s conversion meant the deficit was down to 20-23 and suddenly the Lancastrians had a chance to pull the game out of the fire.
If they had done so it would have been harsh on the visitors and they ensured a deserved victory through a fourth Minikin penalty in injury time. They had the measure of the Lancastrians on the day as Cheshire’s win against Durham meant that neither team at the Woodlands would qualify for the Final.
Lancashire Head Coach Mark Nelson said: “Ultimately we came up short in our ambition to get to another final but the campaign as a whole was very pleasing on many levels. We had a group of young Lancastrians breaking through into the senior side and the mix of experience and youth bodes well for the future.
“As for the Yorkshire game, we couldn’t get a foothold until Alex Hurst made the telling break which led to the Tom Grimes try followed by the superb score by Tom Carleton. The issue was the breakdown, an area in which unfortunately we couldn’t get on the right side of the referee. It is unusual that one aspect of the game is so significant but on this occasion it proved pivotal.
“I think if we could have got in their half in the last five minutes we could have pulled it out of the bag but sadly we didn’t. Credit to Yorkshire – they massively improved on their performance against Cheshire and deserved to win but with neither of us going to the final it was all a bit muted afterwards.
“I will say that the standard and intensity was higher than most National league games which is a great credit to everyone involved in County rugby. So once again the RFU need to take heed when making decisions on funding.”
LANCASHIRE: 15 Allen; 14 Carleton, 13 Robins (Hurst 45), 12 Rawlings, 11 Grimes; 10 Johnson, 9 Crampton (Collins 56); 1 Birchall (Griffiths 77), 2 Loney (Gregory 56), 3 Griffiths (Altham 45), 4 Tomlinson (Davies 45), 5 Birtwell, 6 Hughes (Aigbokhae 56, Hughes 77), 7 Mills, 8 Chapman.
Non-playing replacement: Hall.
YORKSHIRE: 15 Minikin; 14 Broadley, 13 Dunne, 12 Tincknell, 11 Hodson; 10 Irving, 9 Maplesden; 1 Laverick (Bell 40, Stout 65), 2 Graham (Entressengle 70), 3 Stout (Moss 40), 4 Makin, 5 Brady, 6 Hedgley, 7 Tyson (Bradley 72), 8 Falkingham (Brady 40).
Non-playing replacements: Blakeney-Edwards, Watts.