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PICTURES: Pilkington Recs crowned champions after 32-year wait.
12:25pm Thursday 22nd November 2012 in Sport
RECS ended a 32-year wait for a top flight championship after a classy display of open rugby secured the inaugural North West League’s Grand Final.
They did it the hard way too – backing up after a comprehensive victory over Bank Quay in the semi-final two days earlier to claim the first crown awarded since the bulk of the region's teams switched to a 'summer' season.
The famous club’s last top-flight league championship came in 1980 and after finishing runners up in four out of the past five winter seasons the success tasted particularly sweet for long servants such as John Rees and Mark Ashton. Recs had held the advantage from early on when Rees twisted in a tackle after being fed by Jamie Smith.
Ryan Hilliard added to the lead after slick handling and then substitute Jono Peers barged through from hooker Ryan Liptrot's short pass.
It was not all the red, amber and blacks, however, and they had to be on their mettle defensively.
Their line did crack as the half time whistle approached as powerful centre Scott Robinson charged down the right flank and sent Adam Hunt in at the corner.
But Recs forced an error from the restart and Smith offloaded a short pass to send Lancashire scrum half Lynch darting under the posts.
The number seven added his third conversion to leave Recs with a commanding 22-4 lead at half time.
They were rocked on their heels shortly after the break as St Cuthberts struck twice in the space of a few minutes.
Hooker Lewis Sheridan counter attacked from deep inside his own half and sent Mike Scrivens over.
Then Robinson charged over and his second successful conversion reduced the gap to six points.
Recs appeared unnerved and when Rogers glided through only to see his pass to Lynch go to ground with the tryline begging, the anxiety intensified.
But they steadied themselves and another crafty pass from Liptrot sent the outstanding Smith crashing over.
And, when Rogers combined with Andrew Knapper, the centre sent his 17-year-old brother Kyran in at the corner for a try Lynch converted from the touchline, they began to breathe more easily.
To put the result beyond doubt, the lightning handling along the three quarter line that created an overlap that sent Kel Duffy in was a classy way to seal the victory and the championship to delight coaches Gareth and Kurt Haggerty.
The celebrations were tempered by a serious injury to second row John Pennington in the closing stages that brought the final to a premature end.
He was carried from the field by stretcher with a suspected compound fracture to his lower leg – but even he was not missing out on marking a historic day for Recs as he team-mates to bring his medal and the trophy to the treatment room.
The highly influential Ryan Rogers capped a memorable season by being named the man of the match by the St Helens Domino's Pizza NW Men's League.