Lancashire lose Roses rugby clash at Fylde and miss out on County Championship final

Lancashire's Lewis Allen claims one of many high kicks  Picture: CHRIS FARROW
Lancashire's Lewis Allen claims one of many high kicks Picture: CHRIS FARROW

Yorkshire defeated Lancashire 26-20 in rugby union's County Championship at Fylde RFC to deny the Red Rose a place in the final at Twickenham.

READ MORE: Fylde RFC stages Roses decider in County Championship
Victory would have meant 2018 champions Lancashire contesting the Bill Beaumont Cup final at the home of English rugby union for the 10th time in 11 years but a streetwise Yorkshire squad dominated possession and territory.

Lancashire had beaten Durham and Eastern Counties to put themselves in pole position to win the northern group but Cheshire moved above them in the final table, overwhelming Durham 52-5, and will face Cornwall in the London showpiece on June 2.

An excellent Woodlands crowd of close to 1,000 saw Yorkshire take the lead in the 10th minute, when winger Tom Hodson touched down wide out on the left. Full-back Lewis Minikin’s touchline kick was spot-on.

Lancashire were struggling for continuity and were subjected to 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, Minikin extended the lead to 10-0 with a straightforward kick in the 24th minute.

Yorkshire fly-half Callum Irving enjoyed plenty of space and time behind his dominant park and launched a series of high kicks to test the Lancashire defence. Home full-back Lewis Allen caught the great majority of these under serious pressure.

Lancashire settled down somewhat and a penalty by Chris Johnson got them on the scoreboard after 33 minutes.

They received a further boost when Yorkshire centre Harry Dunne was sinbinned but this didn’t seem to affect the visitors as another penalty by Minikin restored their 10-point cushion, making it 13-3 t half-time.

Lancashire pressed in the Yorkshire half in the early minutes of the second half and Johnson coolly dropped a goal to bring his side back within seven points.

In the 45th minute, Lancashire's promising centre James Robins was forced off with an arm injury and replaced by Alex Hurst, who was promptly shown a yellow card.

With a man advantage, Yorkshire were soon back in Lancashire territory and the ever-dangerous centre James Tincknell forced his way over from close range for a crucial try in the 56th minute. Minikin added the extras for a 20-6 lead.

Hurst returned to make a splendid break through centre field, linking up with the fast-supporting replacement hooker Ben Gregory, one of four Fylde players in the starting 15.

He in turn sent Fylde team-mate Tom Grimes free for an excellent try down the left. Johnson’s conversion was rarely in doubt to reduce the deficit to 20-13.

Lancashire again conceded a penalty at the breakdown in the 72nd minute and Minikin stroked the ball over to put two scores between the sides again.

A minute later Lancashire worked the ball to winger Tom Carleton. The Fylde flier had seen little ball up to that point but last defender Minikin made the mistake of showing him the outside and immediately regretted it.

Carleton's excellent individual try was converted by Johnson and the Lancastrians had a chance to pull the game out of the fire at 23-20.

But Yorkshire sealed a deserved victory through a fourth Minikin penalty in injury time.

They had the measure of the Lancastrians on the day but Cheshire’s win in Birkenhead meant neither of these Roses rivals would qualify for the final.

Lancashire head coach Mark Nelson, who had led the county to 13 of the previous 16 finals and to nine wins, 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.