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10
MAY

DEFENDING champions opened their Bill Beaumont Cup campaign with a 27-10 win over Northumberland at Harrogate, but the final scoreline did not reflect the competitive nature of the game.

First-half tries by flanker Grant Beasley and centre Fraser Shaw gave the visitors a 10-8 lead having had first use of the breeze, but having scored from close range through prop Ryan Wederell, Yorkshire had identified their best route to success. With the elements in the favour after the break, the home side dominated play territorially and used their forward power to carry them to victory.

Tries by prop Chris Steel, No 8 Max Lewis and flanker Ollie Cook eventually overcame Northumberland stout resistance, fly-half Chris Johnson adding two conversions to his first-half penalty.

Roses rivals Lancashire launched their County Championship season in emphatic style when they beat Warwickshire 66-28 at Coventry after leading 40-7 at the interval.

Warwickshire, weakened by the absence of players from Nuneaton who had a rearranged National Three North game, were over-powered by the Red Rose men, with wingmen Nick Royle and Matt Williams both scoring hat tricks.

Durham set up a 'winner takes all' final County Championship Plate game against East Midlands at Darlington next Saturday when the came from behind beat Staffordshire 34-12 at Lichfield.

With the wind at their backs, the home side took the led with a try by flank forward Joe Carpenter, converted by fly-half Russell Clarke, but Durham immediately replied with a try by scrum-half Gareth Foreman. Simon Moore missed the conversion, but then landed a penalty to put Durham ahead.

Staffordshire added a second try through full-back Gareth Brear to recapture the advantage and lead 12-8 at half-time.

Durham used the wind very effectively after the break and went ahead when a driving maul resulted in prop forward Joe Oselton scoring his side's second try.

Having regained the lead, Durham enjoyed territorial advantage throughout the second-half, Foreman breaking blind to score his second try and Moore adding the conversion.

No. 8 Ben Maidment and replacement Lewis Calder completed the win with additional tries, both of which Moore converted.

Cumbria were expecting a tough opening encounter when they entertained North Midlands at Workington, but they were in sight of the winning post when their visitors snatched a 25-22 victory.

Wingman James Aston was the Cumbria heart-breaker when he grabbed an opportunist 77th minute try to clinch the win. Centre James Curgenven and lock and captain Ben Griffiths scored North Midlands' first half tries with fly-half Richard Vasey adding two conversions and two second half penalties.

Cumbria matched their opponents' try count with three of their own, the product of a very satisfying performance by the team until that late disappointment. Centre Chris Harris, fly-half Steve Wood and hooker Joe Graham crossed the line, with Wood adding two conversions and a penalty.

Cheshire are next up for Cumbria and they will travel to Aspatria on Saturday bursting with confidence after a 61-18 win over Leicestershire at Vipers.

Star of the show was debutant wingman Fergus Mulchrone, who claimed four tries. He finished leading try scorer and Player of the Season at Macclesfield and could not have hoped for a better start to his county career.

Other tries came from centre Pat Leach and Tom Hughes, Ollie Hewitt, Nick Pearson, Gavin Woods and Ben Coulbeck, with Tom Eaton and Gavin Roberts adding the goal points.

Leicestershire, promoted from the County Championship Plate as last season's runners-up, scored tries through No 8 Chris Bale and fly-half Mark Lord, who also landed a conversion and two penalties.

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