County Championship: Cornwall 25-36 Lancashire

Lancashire kept their grip on the County Championship as they beat Cornwall at Twickenham to lift the trophy for the 22nd time.

Three first-half tries for Lancashire proved too much for Cornwall, who had the better of the second period.

Nick Royal's double and a try by Dominic Moon put Lancashire 22-6 up before Neilson Webber pulled one back.

Cornwall scored two second-half tries, but Ben Rath's late score sealed a fourth title in five years.

The backing of former England captain Phil Vickery had given Cornwall added incentive as they looked to win the trophy for the first time since 1999.

But after Paul Thirlby and Chris Johnson exchanged early penalties, they found themselves trailing when Royal got on the end of Rath's pass to go over after 11 minutes, with Johnson adding the conversion.

Thirlby replied with a penalty, but straight from the restart Cornwall were caught napping and number eight Dominic Moon went in from 12 metres to give Lancashire a 15-6 lead.

Cornwall's route to Twickenham

Cornwall's Steve Johns
  • Beat Gloucestershire 24-19
  • Beat Kent 23-17
  • Beat Hertfordshire 41-29

Things got worse for the Duchy 10 minutes later as a loose pass was picked off by Royal, who cruised in from 30 metres out.

At the end of the half, however, Cornwall's pack gained the upper hand and gave their thousands of travelling fans hope as they forced a series of penalties on the Lancashire line, one of which was tapped quickly by Webber, who broke through to make it 22-11 to Lancashire at the break.

Lancashire had a try disallowed after a knock-on from scrum-half Steve Collins, but the fearsome Cornwall pack continued to drive their northern rivals back and forced a penalty try to cut the gap to four points.

Royal had the chance of a hat-trick for Lancashire, only to lose his grip on the ball as he was about to cross the line, and they had to wait until 18 minutes from time for Johnson's second penalty to extend their lead to seven points.

They were quickly pegged back as Thirlby's penalty went over off the upright, but Lancashire responded with some sustained pressure in front of the Duchy's posts which set up a drop goal for Johnson.

Cornwall's pack asserted themselves again for Lewis Vinnicombe to go over with four-and-a-half minutes left, but Thirlby's conversion attempt drifted wide.

The miss was academic as Rath went over with two minutes left and Johnson added the extras to take his tally to 15 points and seal victory for the Red Rose side.