Lancashire will be back at Twickenham on Sunday to face old adversaries Cornwall in the final of rugby union’s county championship – but it was a mighty close call.
They needed a four-try bonus point victory over Cheshire in a 29-5 win at Heywood Road to ensure that they made it to HQ.
And they only scored that fourth touchdown with five minutes remaining thanks to Sale FC and former Fylde centre Scott Rawlings.
It was vital they got that try otherwise they would have been pipped in the group standings by Roses rivals Yorkshire, who overwhelmed Eastern Counties 61-15 at Hull Ionians’ ground.
Cheshire pushed Lancashire all the way despite being out-scored by Lancashire to the tune of four tries to one.
Red Rose coach Mark Nelson hailed his players’ performance, but the occasion was marred by an injury to Fylde hooker and forwards coach Alex Loney.
He has suffered a suspected torn Achilles, which is liable to lead to a lengthy lay-off.
The injury could not come at a worse time because not only does Loney miss a date at Twickenham, but he has been ruled out of the England Counties’ summer touring party.
Nelson was delighted at Lancashire’s achievement in getting to the final after three successive bonus point wins. He said: “You never tire of getting to Twickenham.
“It is a fantastic experience for all concerned and some of the lads have never played there before and maybe never will again.”
Cornwall, who have won the title for the past two seasons, beat Hertfordshire 45-21 at Camborne.
The rivalry between the two counties goes back a fair way. The Red Rose beat Cornwall in the decider in 2013 and 2014, but Cornwall defeated the Red Rose in 2015 and beat Cheshire in the final last season.