Conflict overshadows counties

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 17 Warwickshire 13

While one of the last acts of the amateur game was being played out at Twickenham, the RFU were playing an extraordinary game of their own. Protocol was observed for the visit of the Princess Royal but behind the smiles and handshakes a battle royal was being waged.

The RFU, with the exception of the increasingly isolated Cliff Brittle, decided to hold a press briefing at Twickenham tomorrow to explain their case for wanting the lion's share of the television revenue from the Five Nations championship. When Brittle, chairman of the executive committee, heard of the plan he replied: "Cancel it."

As Brittle was engaged in conversation with Princess Anne, those in favour of the briefing, including the president, secretary and treasurer, had to wait until after the final of the County Championship to inform him that they had no intention of cancelling it. The briefing goes ahead and will be conducted by John Jeavons-Fellows, the man defeated by Brittle in the election for the executive job.

The conflict - Brittle was told it was a majority decision - was not resolved until Saturday night. Brittle, who had been up since 5am on Saturday, declined to comment. The move has undermined his authority and the impression is that the next stage could be to ease him off the negotiating committee.

None of this was of any concern to the finalists who were probably making a little piece of history. They could enter England's Rugby Museum as the last counties to play at Twickenham. Fewer than 8,000 (and many of those were corporate guests) attended a championship that has been gradually downgraded and CIS Insurance, the sponsors, have, in common with almost everybody else, no idea what the future holds.

Their three-year contract which expired on Saturday included not just the county championship but the divisional which has been scrapped. Then there is the question of television coverage which was diluted on Saturday by re-arranged First Division fixtures. CIS will meet the RFU this week.

Gloucestershire (their patron is the Princess Royal) won the title for the 16th time, equalling Lancashire's record, and, despite the absence of first division players, it was a fitting final. Gloucestershire established a 14-point lead but had to withstand a spirited and skillful comeback by Warwickshire, the holders, in the second half.

Gloucestershire deserved their moment of triumph although they are indebted to Derrick Morgan, who pulled off a memorable corner-flag tackle on Jason Minshull. The game was a good advertisement for county rugby, even if it has no place in the professional era.

Brittle, after yet more conferring, got to the after-match dinner just in time to hear Denis Easby, the past president, issue a prayer for the "continuation of this championship."

Gloucestershire: Tries Stanley, Davis; Conversions Smith 2; Penalty Smith. Warwickshire: Try Warr; Conversion Gallagher; Penalties Gallagher 2.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE: T Smith (Gloucester); J Perrins (Gloucester), D Edwards (Berry Hill), L Osborne (Gloucester), D Morgan (Cheltenham); R Mills (Lydney), J Davis (Lydney); R Phillips (Cheltenham), N Nelmes (Lydney), S Baldwin (Gloucester Old Boys), T Clink (Cheltenham), J Brain (Cheltenham), A Knox (Lydney), I Patten (Coventry), A Stanley (Gloucester, capt).

WARWICKSHIRE: A Parton (Henley); J Minshull (Kenilworth), M Curtis (Coventry), M Palmer (Rugby Lions), D Watson (Rugby Lions); M Gallagher (Nottingham), M Warr (Sale); G Tregilgas (Coventry, capt), R Burdett (Rugby Lions), S Revan (Rugby Lions), S Smith (Rugby Lions), P Bowman (Rugby Lions), M Ellis (Rugby Lions), M Fountaine (Bristol), S Carter (Rugby Lions). Replacement: A Ruddlesdin (Long Buckby) for Ellis, 66.

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).

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