Lancashire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
IT HAS been some time since the County Championship had any real influence on the direction of English rugby; and it will be considerably longer before anyone at Otley will allow this compelling Roses match to pass from the memory.
The tranquil Wharfedale ground has staged its fair share of memorable matches, but none in modern times, if at all, has produced quite such an unforgettable finish. On a day glowing with mutual celebration - this was the 100th Roses encounter since 1889, when Yorkshire won the inaugural championship - the timing could hardly have been better, for next season the tournament will exclude players in the First and Second Division.
This reductive change to the competition would rule out all but Gary French of this Lancashire team, who will look back on Saturday's unexpected victory with a mixture of pride and incredulity. None more so than French - the son of the BBC's rugby league commentator, Ray French - whose tackle on the Yorkshire centre Diccon Edwards sparked the dramatic closing sequence to what, until then, had been a less than extraordinary game.
Perhaps the turning point came as early as the ninth minute when Nigel Melville withdrew with knee ligament damage which may bring an end to his injury-hit career. If the former England scrum-half had stayed on, Yorkshire's tactical approach would have left no room for Lancashire's last-minute larceny.
With a considerable shortfall in pace, Lancashire knew they had to close down the Yorkshire backs. To achieve this, they sensibly decided to test the tolerance of the referee. Once Lancashire found that Steve Griffiths was notably less than vigilant in applying the offside law, their job was half done.
But Yorkshire must not blame the neglectful Mr Griffiths for their shortcomings. Melville's replacement, Guy Easterby, and his half-back partner, Robert Liley, should have countered Lancashire's illegal encroaching by chipping over the top and by using the high ball. Their failure to do so was ultimately to cost them dear.
Even so, Yorkshire, with an overwhelming advantage in line- out possession and territory, appeared in no danger at 11-3. Then Ian Aitchison stroked two timely penalties and, with three minutes left to play, French struck to salute Spencer Bromley's 23rd birthday.
Bromley raced into the corner for what seemed the winning try only for Jon Eagle to score at the other end from the restart and tie the scores at 16-16. Bromley then repeated the trick immediately to leave Yorkshire paralysed in disbelief, their only consolation being a worthy contribution to folklore.
Yorkshire: Tries Tipping, Eagle; Penalties Liley 2. Lancashire: Tries Bromley 2; Conversions Aitchison 2; Penalties Aitchison 3.
YORKSHIRE: R Thompson; J Sleightholme, D Edwards, A Atkinson (Wakefield), J Eagle (Leeds); R Liley (Wakefield), N Melville (Otley) ; J Woodthorpe (Harrogate), G Throup (Morley), S Rice (Otley), I Carroll (Wakefield), S Croft (Harrogate), S Tipping (Otley), P Buckton (Waterloo, capt), C Vyvyan (Wharfedale). Replacement: G Easterby (Harrogate) for Melville, 9.
LANCASHIRE: S Taberner; P Hamer (Orrell), P Stansfield, G Stocks (Sale), S Bromley (Rugby); I Aitchison, C Saverimutto (Waterloo); M Ridehalgh (Orrell), G French (Liverpool St Helens), D Southern (capt), S Bibby (Orrell), N Allott (Waterloo), P Manley, N Ashurst, S Gallagher (Orrell).
Referee: S Griffiths (North Midlands).Reuse content