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Lancaster Rugby

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Lancaster vs. Blackpool 31st July 2004

LANCASTER 18 BLACKPOOL 30 Conference Shield

A fantastic game of rugby league that ebbed and flowed from first minute to last was deservedly won by Blackpool Sea Eagles who triumphed by 30-18 at Lancaster University meaning that Lancaster’s season is now at an end.

An intense, and at times niggly, first half saw the sides level 6-6 at the interval. Lancaster made a poor start and struggled to get to the pace of the game. Blackpool’s forwards dominated the early exchanges and were rewarded when second rower John Seery opened the scoring. To many, he appeared not to ground the ball but the referee waved away Lancaster protests and awarded the try.

It took Lancaster over twenty minutes to enjoy a set of six in Blackpool’s half and when they did Russell Birkett’s run saw him burst through two tackles to bring his side back into the game. After Neil Walker’s conversion the scores were level.
By now, Lancaster were firing and an Andy Garnett run straight from the kick off caused panic in the opposition defence. The forwards began to get on top and with Keith Hartlebury pulling the strings at half back it seemed they would go into half time with the lead.
Had it not been for some more dubious touch judging they would have done. In identical circumstances to the week before the Lancaster winger (this time Garnett) was sent clear and was crossing the try line when the touch judge, supplied by the opposition, raised his flag. Garnett was at least a yard in field and Lancaster, were again denied the lead at a crucial stage of the game.

Sadly, Lancaster experienced more déjà vu in the second half. Having been winning or drawing in seven of their twelve games this season, an admirable record, the home side contrived to blow the game in the first fifteen minutes of the second period. This section of the game has regularly been the undoing of the team in 2004 and at the 55 minute mark Lancaster were 6-18 down and had Gavin Winder in the sin bin.Classy stand off Dave Evans scored the half’s first points with a try under the posts and Winder was yellow carded for a professional foul on the Blackpool full back Mark Crowther. The referee had no option but to award a penalty try along with the sin binning which meant a simple conversion from under the posts.

Faced with a twelve point deficit, Lancaster began to complete their sets of six and temporarily stopped conceding penalties. Darren Clark, on at hooker, plumped for a grubbing kick on the last tackle and followed up to capitalise on a fumble by the full back to score next to the posts. Walker duly converted.Ten minutes later and with Winder back on, Lancaster drew level. Hartlebury positioned himself at first receiver five metres from the Blackpool line and sold the defence an exquisite dummy by motioning a pass to his left, tossing the ball a yard in the air and regathering. Having thrown his opponent off the scent he side stepped the hapless full back to register a magnificent
try leaving Walker with a difficult conversion to tie the scores. After a nerveless kick, the scores were level at 18-18.

Having clawed their way back into the game, Lancaster should have gone on to win but after Walker found the touchline instead of Garnett with a pass on the half way line Blackpool at last had some possession. On the fourth tackle, winger Gareth Rees was sent to the line and despite Lancaster protests that the pass was forward, the visitors had regained the lead.

There was still time for Lancaster to tie the scores but their final desperate attack came to nought and Blackpool broke away to score thus
denying Lancaster their third trip to Crewe in four weeks to contest the shield final of the North West division.

LANCASTER: 1 Gavin Winder, 2 Andy Garnett, 3 Phil Casson, 4 Matt Craven, 5 Mark Squires, 6 Neil Walker, 7 Keith Hartlebury, 8 Dave McVernon, 9 Michael Holmes, 10 Liam Hall, 11 Chris Helme, 12 Liam Butterworth, 13 Russell Birkett. Subs: Colin Bebington, Nick Roberts, Darren Clark, Mark Allan, Ian Hughes


The Verdict - Rob Shaw

It's a credit to the commitment of both teams that Saturday's match played out in soaring heat didn't end up with a basketball score at the end, which would have been an entirely understandable result considering the conditions.

Perhaps one of the decisive factors in the final outcome was that whilst waiting for the referee (delayed in traffic) to arrive, Blackpool chose to rest in the shade whilst Lancaster went ahead with an extended pre-match routine.

Once the whistle went, the forwards got on with the business of establishing dominance up the middle with such ferocity you might have thought it was winter with players trying to keep warm. However, as the second half wore on it was the Lancaster forwards who wilted in the heat.

Field position can affect tremendously the psychology of a team. A team on the attack deep within opposition territory is rarely short of eager runners to take the ball up, whereas when bringing the ball out from your own try line eager volunteers are often in short supply. On Saturday, the Lancaster forwards gave away penalty after penalty, gifting Blackpool field positions that they have probably not enjoyed a lot of this year.

With the vocal Blackpool support giving the referee assistance at every opportunity in spotting Lancaster infringements, the Blackpool players, unsurprisingly and sniffing the scent of an upset, had their tails up and ran with passion not seen in the previous encounter between the clubs.

Despite the lack of possession, Lancaster just about kept pace with the game through individual brilliance rather than great teamwork. The final nail in the coffin was hammered in by the ref who allowed a Blackpool try to stand from a blatant forward pass. Even the Blackpool coaching staff were cursing the pass until they realised the referee had awarded the try.

But lets not make excuses. The real reason why we lost was a lack of discipline, which we have only ourselves to blame for. Mistakes by the referee are always going to happen, and over the length of a season there are no doubt as many which favour us as there are those which have gone against us, as in the last couple of matches. If Lancaster had not spurned so much possession on Saturday, we would have had the game tied up before half time, this would have made the odd mistake or two by the officials irrelevant to the final result.

So that's the end of the 2004 season. A quick check at the stats reveals an average score of 21-32 against us for the year. Disappointing, but compared to last year's campaign where the average result was 16-38 against us, it does indicates that we have been a lot more competitive in both attack and defence this year. I will be happy if at this time next year we are reflecting on a season where we have shown the same improvement again.

North West Division Summary


Lancaster 18 V 30 Blackpool (Blackpool to play Crewe Wolves)
St Albans Centurions 38 V 28 Wolverhampton Wizards
Mansfield Storm 32 V 44 Worksop Sharks
Hemel Stags 4 V 28 Cambridge Eagles (Cambridge to play St Ives Roosters)
Thorne Moor Marauders 46 V 36 Bradford Dudley Hill (Thorne Moor to play South Wakefield Sharks)
Cardiff Demons 54 V 22 Swansea Valley Miners
Newport Titans 30 V 6 Valley Cougars
Oxford Cavaliers v Telford Raiders























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