Rugby Union: Ainscough on song

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The Independent Online
Lancashire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

Middlesex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

DES SEABROOK has had little to sing about this season while the Orrell side he coaches have foundered. But as Lancashire's choirmaster, Seabrook was leading the chorus at Edge Hall Road last night, when his county marched to their 22nd championship final.

It was a performance which lacked syncopation, but even so Seabrook was delighted that the holders will return to Twickenham on 17 April to meet their oldest rivals, Yorkshire, in the 100th Roses match.

It is to be hoped the occasion will elevate the rugby above the level it was on yesterday, although the conditions were in large part responsible for a mistake-ridden match which just about produced a fair result.

'We defended well except when we allowed Chris Tarbuck to score what was a bit of a soft try,' Seabrook said. 'It also helped that Gerry Ainscough kicked his goals. It means a lot to us and the meeting with Yorkshire at Twickenham - who must have improved since we beat them in December - promises to be a great match.'

If Lancashire are to improve on their 15 title wins and edge ahead of Gloucestershire - who have the same number - they will have to tidy up their ball control and their work at the line-out, which at times was a shambles.

Thankfully for Lancashire, Middlesex did not have much to offer in attack, although they kept the home county screwed down for long periods of a tense second half, before the champions raised themselves at the end.

Ainscough's four penalties from five attempts, added to Paul Hamer's early try, provided Lancashire with a useful 17-5 half-time barrier which proved insurmountable.

Two penalties by the England B outside-half, Paul Challinor, induced plenty of Lancashire nervousness but little else, and Middlesex's chance of adding to their eight titles was drowned in the community singing.

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

MIDDLESEX: K Bray; M Wedderburn (both Harlequins), A Lee (Saracens), R Lozowski (Wasps), M Hutton (Richmond); P Challinor (Harlequins), C Luxton (Richmond); M Hobley (Harlequins, capt), G Botterman, S Wilson, L Adamson (all Saracens), J Fowler (Rosslyn Park), C Tarbuck (Saracens), C Sheasby, A Fox (both Harlequins).

Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset).

Scores: Hamer (try, 7 min, 5-0); Ainscough (pen, 14 min, 8-0); Tarbuck (try, 24 min, 8-5); Ainscough (pen, 28 min, 11-5); Ainscough (pen, 32 min, 14-5); Ainscough (pen, 41 min, 17-5); Challinor (pen, 53 min, 17-8); Challinor (pen, 58 min, 17-11).