Lancashire seize a devalued crown

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The Independent Online
Lancashire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Yorkshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

THE latest in that interminable series of Roses battles - the 100th in the county championship - was won narrowly and a shade fortuitously by Lancashire, the defending champions, but the war to maintain the status of this venerable competition, for so long the bedrock of the English game, has been well and truly lost.

From next season, matches in the later stages of the competition will coincide with important games in the League, which will mean that the country's leading players will be excluded from participating in the tournament unless, of course, they are prepared to risk the wrath of their clubs. That is unlikely.

Cornwall will no doubt do their best to keep the county ideal alive and the final yesterday could have done with their support and the unique atmosphere they bring to such occasions at Twickenham. Despite their absence this year, there were, remarkably, a few strays from Trelawney's army present, if not quite correct in their timing, and helping to swell the crowd to a respectable 18,000, about a third of whom had loyalties to either side.

For all the enthusiasm and commitment displayed by both sides, the standard of play fully justified the decision to devalue the status of the event. It has long since lost the support of the country's leading players and can therefore no longer expect first- class treatment. Neither side possessed the skill or the wit to engineer a try but, with the bulk of the possession from their heavyweight forwards, Lancashire were undoubtedly the more wasteful.

Yorkshire made better use of their limited resources, principally through their redoubtable defensive organisation, in which Peter Buckton was a prominent figure. He also proved himself in his role as an auxiliary jumper at the line-out where, on several occasions, and under extreme pressure, Yorkshire won vital possession. This was mostly through Dave Baldwin, with the help of Simon Tipping who, on his performance yesterday, could usefully do a spot of moonlighting as a forklift truck.

But in the absence of anything more creative, the game was won on penalties, three kicked by Gerry Ainscough to two from Robert Liley. Spencer Bromley put in some powerful bursts, one of them taking him close to a try and, on the other side, Jon Eagle shuffled and scuttled from some unpromising situations, mostly from behind his own line.

No one came closer to scoring a try, however, than Jon Sleightholme, the Wakefield wing, who, against a rapidly tiring Lancashire defence, was but a fingertip away from scoring in the corner. A few minutes later it was Sleightholme who brought Bromley down to earth after the Lancashire wing had been put clear.

But for all their belated enterprise and superior pace behind the scrum, Yorkshire could not break their ancient rivals, for whom the trophy, the last under ADT's sponsorship and in the last of the finals as we have known them over the years, will be something of a collector's item.

LANCASHIRE: S Taberner; P Hamer, G Ainscough, S Langford (Orrell), S Bromley (Rugby); A Handley, C Saverimutto (Waterloo); J Russell (Broughton Park), G French (Liverpool St Helens), D Southern (capt), R Kimmins (Orrell), N Allott (Waterloo), S Gallagher (Orrell), M Kenrick (Sale), N Ashurst (Orrell).

YORKSHIRE: R Thompson (Wakefield); J Eagle (Leeds), D Edwards (Wakefield), P Johnson (Leeds), J Sleightholme; R Liley (Wakefield), A Crowley (Bradford & Bingley); M Vincent, T Garnett (Wakefield), S Rice (Otley), I Carroll (Wakefield), D Baldwin (Sale), S Tipping (Otley), C Vyvyan (Upper Wharfedale), P Buckton (capt, Waterloo).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).

Scores: Ainscough (pen, 38 min, 3-0); Ainscough (pen, 44 min 6-0); Liley (pen, 46 min, 6-3); Ainscough (pen, 59 min, 9-3); Liley (pen, 61 min, 9-6).