Coach hails a right Royle win

Nick Royle
Nick Royle
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Lancashire rugby union coach Mark Nelson has been reflecting with pride this week on leading the county to a record 22nd Championship triumph at Twickenham.

They beat Cornwall 35-26, but it was not without its pitfalls and concerns along the way, as Nelson readily concedes.

The opening match of the campaign against Durham at Hartlepool presented many selection problems, one of which was the fact that the match clashed with Fylde’s re-arranged National League One clash with Macclesfield – a number of Fylde players would normally have been on duty with Lancashire that afternoon.

Nelson too could not be with the county that day because of his coaching commitments with Fylde.

He recalled: “We sat for a full three and a half hours at a selection meeting at Blackburn, and had to come up with a plan to face Durham.

“In the end, we awarded 15 new county ties that day – it shows the depth we have available to us.

“If it wasn’t for the lads who played that day, turning around the game up there, we could have gone down.”

Durham eventually won that day 40-29, county forwards coach Martin Scott, the former Fylde hooker, taking charge that afternoon.

The week after, Nelson was able to call upon regular county players from his own Fylde team, Lancashire beating Yorkshire in a Roses battle at the Woodlands by 35-25.

In their final northern group match, Lancashire lost to Cheshire by 20-13, but they sneaked into the final via the tradesman’s entrance.

The losing bonus point, courtesy of a late penalty by Fylde fly-half Chris Johnson, was enough for Lancashire to make it to Twickenham.

On Sunday in the final at Twickenham against Cornwall, Lancashire triumphed with tries by Vale Of Lune and ex-Fylde wing Nick Royle (2), Preston’s Dominic Moon and Fylde’s Ben Rath – Johnson added 15 points with the boot.

Nelson said: “I thought the half-backs (Johnson and Steve Collins) were excellent out there - they ran the show.

“The forwards were magnificent, as were the outfield backs when they got space.

“The back three were a real thorn in the side of Cornwall, while the midfield held it together.

“Across the board it was a great effort.”

“To have had the start that we did, with those 15 new players was magnificent.

“It was those lads who got us to the final with the first match at Hartlepool Rovers.

“If we had lost, we may well have been relegate - the win was a real squad effort, not just the lads who played at Twickenham.

Nelson continued: “We are seeing some real continuity in Lancashire, with lads coming up through the ranks at Under 20, such as Ben Rath and Ally Murray.

“With (Fylde’s) Paul Arnold as the Lancashire under-20s coach, we have got a real buy-in with the county ethos, and I know that it is down to everyone who has played their part during the last month.”

“Thanks need to go to Martin Scott for leading the side at Hartlepool, while the management team of Steve Rigby and John Greenwood have been magnificent as always, as have all the backroom team who work hard behind the scenes to put everything in place for the players.”