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Lancaster Rugby

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Performance improves but result is same - Crewe Vs Lancaster 24th July 2004

CREWE 24 LANCASTER 18 Conference ShieldPlayoff Round 1

Lancaster's second journey to Crewe in eight days brought a much improved performance but ultimately another defeat in the play-offs for the Rugby League Conference Shield competition.
The team were without Rob Shaw, Ian Hughes, Darren Clark and Randall Raines from the last game but welcomed back Matt Craven and Neil Walker who returned to the team at stand-off.
However, Craven did not last long as he dislocated a finger in the first half.
The team also travelled without Kevin McGuffog. McGuffog resigned as coach early in the week and after two seasons at the helm the club wishes him well for the future.
In a number of positional changes, Gavin Winder moved to full-back, and Andy Garnett, Mark Squires, Phil Casson, Russell Birkett and Liam Hall all reverted to their favourite positions.
Crewe opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Paul Flannery crossed but in similar fashion to last week Lancaster soon hit back.
The same player as the week before, Mark Squires, equalised with a well worked try as Keith Hartlebury engineered an overlap on the left hand side of Lancaster's attack.
Full-back Danny Hoyland then restored Crewe's lead but from then on, with Hall, Birkett and Hartlebury leading the way, Lancaster dominated the half.
Keith Hartlebury kicked through for himself on the last tackle but knocked on with the try-line at his mercy.
However, this was not to prove too costly as in their next set of six Simon Ledwick scored in the corner after Gavin Winder had joined the three-quarter line from full back. Winder's good work handed Ledwick his maiden Lancaster try.
Receiving the ball from the kick-off, Lancaster stormed back up field.
On the third tackle, Russell Birkett broke free from the clutches of a Crewe defender and beat Hoyland to register a superb individual try.
Unfortunately, Walker was unsuccessful for the third time in attempting the conversion.
With the score locked at 12-12 at half-time Lancaster were in a much better position than seven days previously and felt that victory was within their grasp but the second half started in typically disappointing fashion as, once again, Lancaster conceded a try early in the second half when Mark Martin scored.
Again Lancaster came back. Liam Hall and Russell Birkett were the biggest improvers from the week before and were troubling Crewe with every touch.
Midway through the half, an unstoppable burst from Hall saw him score outwide and, in landing his first conversion of the afternoon, Neil Walker gave his side the lead.
Lancaster almost extended this but the referee controversially disallowed a try for a double movement despite being positioned back on the halfway line.
Crewe hit back to take the lead with right centre Richard Smith scoring before Squires was released down the left flank as Lancaster sought to hit back quickly.
Typically, Squires had beaten the cover and was in the midst of crossing the line when the touch judge raised his flag.
Despite the protests of Squires and the Lancaster players that he was nowhere near the touchline, the decision stood.
On the back of this stroke of luck Crewe set about finishing the game off and thanks to another individual try to Smith they opened up a six-point lead.
At 24-18, a try and a goal from Lancaster could still force extra-time but time was running out.
With one last flurry, Lancaster drove into Crewe's half and their captain Dave McVernon shot through a gap and appeared to be scoring the equalising try.
However, he was felled by a superb try-saving tackle from full-back Hoyland and his desperate offload fell agonisingly wide of Birkett who would have scored the simplest of tries.
Defeat means Lancaster must now play Blackpool Sea Eagles in the final eliminator. The winner will meet Crewe in the North West final with the winner proceeding to the national stages of the Shield competition.
Lancaster will be strengthened by the return of Greg Sykes from injury, Liam Butterworth from Germany, Ireland international Darren Clark from a holiday in his home land and Ian Hughes.


LANCASTER : Winder, Garnett, Casson, Craven, Squires, Walker, Hartlebury, McVernon, Edwards, Hall, Helme, Ledwick, R Birkett. Subs: Edwards, Roberts, G Shaw, Weston.


Harry Jepson Trophy
Qualifying tie Widnes 31 V 29 Chester;
Elimination tie Bolton 8 V 36 Liverpool

RLC Shield
Qualifying tie Crewe 24 V 18 Lancaster;
Elimination tie Blackpool 36 V 12 North Wales Coasters

LIVERPOOL BUCCANEERS produced a fantastic team performance to sweep aside BOLTON LE MOORS in the Harry Jepson eliminator at Sefton. It was sweet revenge for the home side as they beat their rivals when it mattered after two narrow, regular season defeats. The Buccaneers were in total control with superb performances in particular by Mark Yates, the Lacey brothers, Al Stewart and Kris Ratcliffe, who scored the opening try after eight minutes. Soon after, quick thinking by Yates saw him dummy and then scoot in at the left had corner to come up with the four pointer. Liverpool were now brimming with confidence and in the 24th minute went for a power play on the last tackle and were rewarded as the elusive Daryl Lacey scored the first of three tries by the posts to make it 14-0 at the break. In the second half as Liverpool always looked the greater attacking threat, Daryl Lacey breaking the line again on the resumption to sprint in by the uprights. Bolton temporarily stopped the rot with Dave Hindley scoring a try Kieran Lacey made the gap for his brother to draw in the tacklers and unload to send Mike McPartland in at the corner. The half back was at it again soon after, evading the defensive line and dancing through the Bolton defence from the half way line to complete his hat-trick. Yates kicked a magnificent effort from by the touchline. Good passing between Lacey and his brother, Kieran sent Sefton RUFC fly half Phil Evans over for his first try in Buccaneers colours and capped a top performance from the hard tackling centre. Bolton had the consolation of the final say with Mark Brindle registering the last points of the afternoon.

The Buccaneers will now face CHESTER WOOLVES on Friday night after they lost out in heart breaking circumstances to WIDNES SAINTS. Wolves led 21-6 at the break and appeared to be coasting until the league leaders hit back to steal the spoils late on. CREWE WOLVES held on to beat LANCASTER in the Shield in a thriller. Crewe opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a try by Paul Flannery but Lancaster hit back with a try to Mark Squires. From the kick off Danny Hoyland took the ball to cross for Crewe. Lancaster then scored two tries by Andy Garnett and Russell Birkett before Crewe replied with a try by Mark Martin to make the half time score 12 points each. Martin scored his second on the 47th minute to edge Crewe in front. A brilliant try saving tackle by Hoyland on Matt Edwards was the tackle of the match before Liam Hall crossed for Lancaster converted by Neil Walker. Crewe secured the win with a brace of tries by Rick Smith.






















The View From The Axe - Rob Shaw

On Saturday Lancaster had a point or two to prove to Crewe after the previous week’s humiliating defeat. Not only was that point proved, but we nearly overcame the odds to snatch victory.

Both teams were without their respective men of the match from the previous week, but other than that the teams were largely unchanged. So what caused the remarkable turn around in fortunes? Rugby league is all about the sensible completion of sets of six plays. Ideally of course, the sets would be completed with the scoring of a try. Other than that, a skillful kick to gain a territorial advantage over your opponents would be an excellent conclusion to your attack.

It was in this area that Lancaster improved the most, playing the tactical game and pinning Crewe deep within their own territory. The Crewe forwards, so dominant and mobile the week before, were strangely subdued into submission, and the pacy Lancaster three quarters once again had a platform from which to mount an attack.

Throughout the game Lancaster played some scintillating rugby, and my opinion were the better team. The final score indicates a one-try loss, but does give any indication of the numerous times that Lancaster crossed the whitewash in vain.

Firstly, Michael Holmes who had slotted into the scrum half role, broke clear from deep within his own half. The 80-yard break was brought to an end by an ankle tap inches from the line. Holmes, clearly not held in the tackle, reached out to place the ball over the line to score a fine individual try. The unsighted ref, understandably struggling to keep up with the break, ruled that placing the ball over the line constituted an illegal double movement.

Unfortunately at our level of rugby we are some way off having a video ref to call upon. Decisions go against you sometimes, and they have to be taken on the chin. Referees are, after all, human.

However, Mark Squires’ ‘try’ was not disallowed by a neutral referee, but called back by a suspiciously biased Crewe touchjudge who insisted that Squires encountered the touchline after one sweeping Lancaster movement released him down the left flank.

Lady Luck really had deserted Holmes on Saturday. Another try scoring opportunity went awry when he narrowly failed to collect Neil Walker’s restart. With the Crewe team scattered about the pitch in their Kick off positions, the try line was beckoning for Holmes, a devastating broken play runner. As if to confirm that it was not Lancaster’s day, the final try scoring opportunity was put to ground by Hartlebury who narrowly failed to collect his own chip through the defence. The ball stubbornly refused to bounce high enough on the ridiculously long Winnington Park grass.

We could very easily have been writing about a comfortable Lancaster victory today, but for these adverse incidents.

It is a credit to the commitment of the lads that they were able to raise themselves for another trip down the M6 and through the Thellwall car park after the demoralising result at the same place last week. The Lancaster Rugby team of 2004 have proved themselves to be of sterner stuff.

Lancaster now face what is effectively cup-tie rugby – no second chances from now on. One more defeat means the end of the season. Next week we play Blackpool who defeated North Wales in the 7th vs. 8th playoff.

Following the controversial postponement and subsequent cancellelation of the Blackpool league fixture, its fair to say there has been a bit of bad blood between the two clubs. This should add a little extra spice to what is already a highly charged derby fixture.

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