Rugby Union: Yorkshire seek county revival

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The Independent Online
Yorkshire. . . .31

Ulster. . . . . .8

Nonconformists to their roots, Yorkshire can usually be relied upon to produce the unexpected; they have rarely shrunk from bucking trends where others set them.

Well before the Rugby Football Union's announcement at Twickenham in midweek of the changes to the structure of next season - and within hours of Ulster's demolition of Cornwall at Ravenhill - Yorkshire were calling for the abandonment of the Divisional series and the restoration of the County Championship as the premier representative level between club and country.

The declaration by John Jeavons-Fellows - the chairman of the RFU competitions sub-committee - that First and Second Division rugby will be staged on the same Saturdays as county rugby effectively ends the competition so far as the seriously ambitious player is concerned. The supplementary suggestion expecting clubs from the lower divisions to support the counties, as it will still provide a route to the top, is eyewash.

The county game, once the foundation of English rugby, is now so emaciated it is not much more than a fringe activity. If revival is on the agenda it may be better to play the championship in Edinburgh each August. At least then the tournament would be assured of a curious and attentive following.

But Yorkshire continue to surprise. They have put out some extremely effective sides in recent years, despite the fact that they long ceased to have first call on the best of their native players.

At Otley they were denied several who were at Leicester in England's cause, but still had sufficient collective wit to overcome the limited challenge of a disappointing Ulster who have won or shared the Irish Inter-Provincial Championship in six of the past seven years.

Yorkshire adapted to the law changes with greater facility, ruthlessly exposed Ulster's inadequacies at the line-out and laid bare their vulnerability in midfield. Only once was the county's superiority threatened; Ian Orr cutting loose to pave the way for Stephen McKinty's try on the stroke of half- time.

But Yorkshire deservedly increased their 17-8 interval advantage, adding tries by Jon Eagle and Steve Rice to first-half scores by the effervescent Peter Buckton and the captain, Mike Harrison, to post a record win against the Irishmen; their first in the long series of matches since 1983.

Yorkshire: Tries Buckton, Harrison, Rice, Eagle; Conversions Petyt 3, Harrison; Penalty Harrison. Ulster: Try McKinty; Penalty McAleese.

YORKSHIRE: J Mallinder (Sale); J Eagle (Leeds), J Georgiou (Morley), A Scott (Otley), M Harrison (Wakefield, capt); R Petyt (Otley), D Scully (Wakefield); M Vincent (Wakefield), G Throup (Morley), S Rice (Otley), I Carroll (Wakefield), S Croft (Harrogate), S Tipping (Otley), P Buckton (Waterloo), C Vyvyan (Wharfedale). Replacement: G Easterby (Harrogate) for Harrison, 52.

ULSTER: I Orr (City of Derry); R Carey (Dungannon), W Harbison (Malone), M McCall (Bangor), T McMaster (Bangor); D McAleese (Ballymena), A Matchett (Ballymena); D Elliott (Bangor), A Adair (Instonians), G Bell (Instonians), G Longwell (Queen's University, Belfast), D Tweed (Ballymena), S Duncan (Malone), G Hamilton (Ballymena, capt), S McKinty (Bangor). Replacements: P Millar (Ballymena) for Elliott 80; J McDonald (Malone) for Adair, 80; D McBride (Malone) for Duncan 54.

Referee: B Campsall (Todmorden).

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