North show little solemnity at funeral

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The Independent Online
Midlands 42 North 45

As funeral preparations go this was a cheery, even enjoyable, affair. The Divisional Championship is not such an old and cherished friend to warrant prolonged obsequies. But when, 15 minutes before time of an extraordinary clash at Nottingham, the local radio commentator had to raise his voice to make it clear to the studio that the score really was 37-38, the grey-coated members of the Rugby Football Union committee dissolved into uncontrollable mirth.

No one laughed louder than John Jeavons-Fellows one of the architects of the recently published RFU Commission report: "Open Rugby, the Right to Decide". Among its wide-ranging recommendations, it calls for the abolition of the unloved regional competition which the North won for a record fifth time.

The body of the CIS Divisional Championship is likely to be interred immediately after next month's meeting to declare which of the commission's proposals will be accepted as a move towards restructuring the playing season.

Fran Cotton, the North's team manager, appearing as lugubrious as Les Dawson, has no doubt this will be a mistake. "If they abolish the divisionals it will be a big step backwards," he said. "Without this series, the division will be left to play touring teams without the benefit of proper preparation and we will be back where we were when the All Blacks would come over and wallop everyone in sight."

In all there were 12 tries, the match and the championship being decided by Rob Liley's surer goal-kicking. Liley converted all six of North's tries, whereas James Quantrill was off target with three of his attempts.

Midlands: Tries Challinor 2, Whetstone, Farr, Pountney, Grewcock; Conversions Quantrill 3; Penalties Quantrill 2. North: Tries Healey 2, Greenwood, Baxendell 2, penalty try; Conversions Liley 6; Penalty Liley.

MIDLANDS: J Quantrill (Rugby); A Smallwood (Nottingham), B Whetstone (Bedford), A Kerr (Moseley), H Thorneycroft (Northampton); P Challinor (Harlequins), J Farr (Winnington Park); M Volland (Northampton), R Cockerill (Leicester), N Webber (Moseley), J-L Phillips (Northampton), D Grewcock (Coventry), I Skingsley (Bedford), B Pountney (Northampton), C Tarbuck (Leicester, capt). Replacement: M Freer (Nottingham) for Volland, 41.

NORTH: J Mallinder (Sale); A Healey (Orrell), J Baxendell (Sale) P Johnson (Orrell, capt), C Yates; R Liley (Sale), D Scully; G Baldwin (Wakefield), G French (Bath), M Shelley (West Hartlepool), P Stewart (Wakefield), K Westgarth (West Hartlepool), R Arnold (Newcastle), A Brown (West Hartlepool), M Greenwood (Wasps). Replacement: C Lee (West Hartlepool) for Yates, 55.

Referee: I Rogers (South Africa).

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