The Big One! Lancashire v Yorkshire at the Woodlands on Saturday

Fylde RFC stages its final big game of the 2018-19 season when it hosts the classic Roses contest – Lancashire v Yorkshire – in the Sir Bill Beaumont County Championship at the Woodlands on Saturday, 18th May (ko 15.00). The result will determine the identity of the Northern Group representative to contest the Final at Twickenham in early June, most likely to face Cornwall, clear leaders of the Southern Group.

Lancashire, Yorkshire or Cheshire could top the Northern Group and the game at the Woodlands is likely to be both hard fought and tense. Given their two huge wins at Durham (7-73) and Eastern Counties (7-57), Lancashire are in poll position and need a win of any kind to advance to the Final.

The make up of the two squads at the Woodlands is likely to be very similar, a mixture of National One and Two players, young talents and older, experienced players, plus a few from level 5 leagues. Co-incidentally last Saturday, both teams were drawn from seven clubs. These are accomplished players and they will serve up a quality display for what is hoped to be a good crowd and in fine weather.

Yorkshire’s squad this season has been drawn from Hull Ionians, Otley, Darlington Mowden Park, Wharfedale, Huddersfield, Rotherham Titans and Sheffield Tigers. The Lancashire squad includes players from Fylde, Sale FC, Sedgley Park, Rossendale, Longton, Preston Grasshoppers and Vale of Lune.

Lancashire’s points scorers in the two group games to date have been:

Tries (20): Tries: Tom Grimes (3), Adam Aigbokhae (2), Tom Carleton (2), Hallam Chapman (2), Phill Mills (2), Scott Rawlings (2), Connor Wilkinson (2), Bob Birtwell, Simon Griffiths, Andy Hughes, Alex Hurst, Danny Maher.

Conversions: Chris Johnson 12 (24 points), Steve Collins 3 (6 points).

Whilst the County Championship has a lower profile than in its heyday 30 or 40 years ago, the tournament still has great credibility with clubs, players and spectators alike, constituting an end of season break from the drudgery of a long league season. It also gives players the opportunity to play with different team mates and learn from different coaches.

Lancashire v Yorkshire matches in this tournament have a very long history. The two counties met in 1889 in the inaugural year of the Championship when the White Rose took the title. The last twenty years has seen the dominance of Lancashire under Head Coach Mark Nelson. Since he took on this role in 2003, the Red Rose county has played in 13 finals in 16 seasons, winning it on nine occasions.

The two counties last played each other three years ago at Scarborough RUFC so it is very timely for this fixture to come back into the calendar.

The 2019 tournament has 28 counties, evenly spread throughout England, competing in six divisions. Cornwall had a superb crowd of almost 2,000 spectators cheering them on against Hertfordshire at Redruth last Saturday. The Woodlands has staged many county matches and will be pulling out all the stops to make this another great afternoon for the players, officials and spectators. Whatever financial reductions to the community and county game are made by the RFU next season, rumours of the death of the County Championship may prove premature!