SEDGLEY Tigers coach Geoff Roberts was a proud spectator at Park Lane on Saturday as five of his players answered the county call to help power Lancashire to another Twickenham final.
Lancashire set up a Bill Beaumont Cup date with Cornwall on Sunday in a repeat of last year's county championship final.
But they had to do it the hard way, coming from behind to beat Cheshire 25-19 and top the northern group ahead of rivals Yorkshire.
Tigers regulars Matt Riley, Louis McGowan, Matt Lamprey, Ben Black and Steve Collins all featured for the select side on home turf, putting in strong performances in a match played in atrocious conditions.
“Over the years we’ve always had plenty of players called up for Lancashire. In fact going back 10 years we had half the team in,” said Roberts.
“It reflects well on Sedgley because obviously these players have been picked on the strength of their Tigers’ performances.”
Collins came off the bench after the break with the hosts 19-7 down.
“When he came on he created a threat and changed the game,” added Roberts.
“Lamprey put in a very sound performance and Riley also played well.
“Overall it was a good game and a great comeback from Lancashire. It has been a nice end to the season for the lads.”
They now face one more game on the biggest stage rugby union has to offer.
That opportunity looked in doubt, however, after Cheshire started the brighter.
Richard Vasey missed an early chance to score for Cheshire from a long-distance penalty. But with the Cheshire pack working well they kept the pressure on the Lancashire line and Gareth Rawlings was yellow-carded.
Successive scrums eventually led to the Lancashire pack succumbing and referee Karl Kirkpatrick awarded the visitors a penalty try. Vasey converted before adding a penalty soon after for a 10-0 lead.
Lancs captain Chris Johnson showed great vision and kicking from hand to give the home side the platform to work their way back into the game, and from a driving maul, Rawlings made up for his earlier misdemeanour by carrying the ball over for Lancashire’s first try.
Johnson, of Fylde, converted, but Vasey had the last laugh of the first period, kicking an excellent drop goal from the 22 metre line bang on half-time.
Vasey kicked two penalties to stretch the lead further after the break, but Johnson was able to find his aim with two of his own around the hour mark.
At that point, news was coming through of Yorkshire’s lead at Tynedale, and with the Tykes having earned a try-scoring bonus, Lancashire coach Mark Nelson knew they would have to take at least a losing bonus point to make the final.
But after Cheshire’s replacement scrum-half Alec Smith was sin-binned Lancashire made sure of all the points as Adam Lewis sprinted over for a converted try to put the home side 20-19 up and Warren Spragg sealed the win with a late burst.