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16
MAY

BILL Beaumont Cup holders Lancashire put themselves in the driving seat ahead of their final North Division One game against arch-rivals Yorkshire when they overpowered Northumberland at Tynedale to become the only unbeaten side in the table.

The Red Rose men now have a 23-point advantage over Yorkshire in the scoring statistics to cushion them against defeat, but even so, coach Mark Nelson is not taking anything for granted.

"The certainties now are that we can't be relegated and Northumberland can't go to Twickenham," he says: "The rest is to be played for and it's a very, very close division. There's very little to chose between all four teams, but we're strong up front where it really matters in these situations and at key times our more experienced players have stepped up to the mark.

"We had four or five driving mauls that covered 20 metres and it's that pack power that really does grind down the opposition. We were also very strong in the tight. We focus on the basics of the game and try to cut out errors. When you do that, you keep possession and you gain territory and that's how we've played so far.

"Northumberland were a very good side and put us under a lot of pressure, but our forwards dominated and we finished off the chances we created.

Lancashire had tries by lock Gareth Rawlings, scrum-half Craig Aikman, replacement Mike Waywell, centre Matt Riley and replacement Ryan de la Harpe, with two penalties and three conversions from fly-half Steve Collins.

Two tries from wingman Charlie Ingall and another from centre Hamish Smales, with two conversions and a penalty from fy-half Andrew Hall kept Northumberland in the hunt until Red Rose muscle finally prevailed.

Cheshire kept their Bill Beaumont Cup hopes alive when they came from a 13-3 deficit to beat Yorkshire 18-13 at Macclesfield.

Despite scoring first through a penalty from fly-half Mark Atkinson, the home side failed to use the wind at their back in the first half and were 10-adrift at the break to a try by wingman Steve Parsons and a conversion and penalty by fly-half Richard Vasey.

A second Vasey penalty edged the visitors further ahead, but at that point the balance of the game shifted as Yorkshire lost their way and Cheshire, using the trial rolling substitutes regulations to good effect started to fashion their winning riposte.

Tries by lock Dave Marwick and prop Gavin Woods, together with a conversion and a penalty from Atkinson, enabled them to turn the game round as Yorkshire buckled under the pressure.

Durham showed plenty of fighting spirit the previous week when they rallied from a 26-6 deficit to lose by a point to North Midlands. Yesterday the boot was on the other foot against Warwickshire as the Dunelmians allowed a 27-7 lead to slip through their fingers at Gateshead, the visitors snatching a 29-27 win with a conversion in the third minute of added time.

In the County Championship Shield game at Mansfield, Cumbria proved far too strong for Notts, Lincs & Derby, running out 63-27 winners to earn a semi-final trip to Leicestershire.

Penrith centre Mike Hawley was the chief beneficiary of Cumbria's dominance, scoring four tries, while his club-mate Steve Wood, the fly-half kicked five conversions and a penalty to cement the success.

Bill Beaumont Cup

May 8: North Division One - Northumberland 26 Yorkshire 31 (at Tynedale RFC), Lancashire 37 Cheshire 27 (at Fylde RFC). South Division One - Cornwall 17 Devon 31 (at Cambourne RFC), Gloucestershire 26 Hertfordshire 3 (at Lydney RFC). North Division Two - Warwickshire 24 Eastern Counties 8 (at Coventry RFC), North Midlands 26 Durham 25 (at Stourbridge). South Division Two - Middlesex 18 Somerset 35 (at Staines RFC), Hampshire 15 Kent 55 (at Havant RFC).

May 15: North Division One - Northumberland 22 Lancashire 35 (at Percy Park RFC, Cheshire 18 Yorkshire 13 (at Macclesfield RFC). South Division One - Devon 9 Gloucestershire 23 (at Plymouth Albion RFC), Hertfordshire 30 Cornwall 32 (at Hertford RFC). North Division Two - North Midlands 87 Eastern Counties 10 (at Stourbridge RFC), Durham 27 Warwickshire 29 (at Gateshead RFC). South Division Two - Somerset 14 Kent 43 (Taunton RFC), Middlesex 36 Hampshire 34 (at Staines RFC).

May 22: North Division One - Cheshire v Northumberland (at Chester RFC, 3pm), Yorkshire v Lancashire (at Huddersfield RFC, 3pm). South Division One - Hertfordshire v Devon (at Old Albanians, 3pm), Cornwall v Gloucestershire (at Redruth RFC, 3pm). North Division Two - Eastern Counties v Durham (at Sudbury RFC, 3pm), Warwickshire v North Midlands (at Rugby Lions RFC, 3pm). South Division Two - Hampshire v Somerset (at Basingstoke RFC, 3pm), Kent v Middlesex (at Folkestone RFC, 3pm).

May 29: Division Two Plate final - Winners of South Division Two v Winners of North Division Two.

May 30: Cup final: Winners of North Division One v Winners of South Division One at Twickenham

County Championship Shield

May 1: Pool 1 - East Midlands 15 Oxfordshire 54, Leicestershire 43 Essex 19; Pool 2 - Staffordshire 20 Notts, Lincs & Derby 28; Pool 3 - Dorset & Wilts 31 Buckinghamshire 6, Berkshire 28 Sussex 20.

May 8: Pool 1 - Leicestershire 33 Oxfordshire 12 at Market Harborough RFC, Essex 32 East Midlands 24 (at Barking RFC).Pool 2 - Cumbria 42 Staffordshire 10 (at Penrith RFC).

Pool 3 - Dorset & Wilts 48 Berkshire 10 (at Swanage & Wareham RFC), Buckinghamshire 24 Sussex 22 (at Aylesbury RFC).

May 15: Pool 1 - East Midlands 13 Leicestershire 44 (at Peterborough RFC), Oxfordshire 34 Essex 27 (at Chinnor RFC). Pool 2 - Notts, Lincs & Derby 27 Cumbria 63 (at Mansfield RFC). Pool 3 - Sussex 13 Dorset & Wilts 42 (at Lewes RFC), Buckinghamshire 24 Berkshire 27 (at Marlow RFC).

May 22: Shield Semi-finals - Dorset & Wiltshire v Oxfordshire, Leicestershire v Cumbria.

May 30: Shield Final at Twickenham

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