Norton Rose blasts back of the net to clinch 5-3 final

They came from all over the UK, their hearts set on a prestigious cup, their goal to beat the cream of the nation's football-playing lawyers.

Norton Rose walked away with the cup. Another 120 teams left with the memory of a good day's play at Arsenal's famous Highbury grounds.

There were a couple of scuffles, a selection of interesting and impressive strips and a lot of the competitive edge that makes lawyers obvious candidates for a national five-a-side competition.

Last year's winners, Birmingham-based Edge & Ellison, came close to a repetition of their glory moment, but were beaten 5-3 by Norton Rose.

The match was a worthy final spectacle to two weeks of play-offs. A tight, fast game, it saw Norton Rose pull convincingly into the lead with two goals before Edge & Ellison scored. Norton Rose opened up a wide margin and came across the stronger side.

But when Edge & Ellison's captain Adrian Lumb brought the score to 3-5, it all looked possible for them again. Time ran out, with Edge & Ellison supporters still believing in a draw, if not a victory. They were well-matched, but a day of play-offs had left both tired and no longer in first gear.

Stephen Sweeney, Norton Rose's captain said afterwards: “We knew the finals would be difficult.” But his team had seen a good season outside The Lawyer competition, he said.

Plenty of entrants were Sunday league veterans (you can generally tell by the quality of the strip) but many had rustled together a one-off team.

Edge & Ellison had played Ashurst Morris Crisp in the semifinal and beaten the London side 6-3. Adrian Lumb scored six against Ashursts. The rest came from Ray Wearmouth, Roy Tozer and Brian Woolcock. Neil Carter and Brian Daly scored for Ashursts.

The other, hard-fought, semi pitted Norton Rose against Belfast side O'Reilly Stewart. This game saw a true soccer scuffle, with everyone joining in the melee and a couple of yellow cards doled out, but it broke up swiftly and the game ended 2-1. Captain Paul Meehan scored for O'Reillys, Dave Peterson for Norton Rose.

The semis and final were impressive football, but the whole tournament held some surprises. Honourable mentions go to Bradford side Gouldesboroughs, who did well last year and whose Michael Alphonse was fitfully brilliant, and the JR Jones side, which played extremely well as a team.

Competition organiser, Arsenal's Ray Coventry, described the backstage atmosphere as buzzing. The teams were allowed a 10 minute break between games and came together to talk tactics or to recover from the energetic bursts of play.

This year's event was about 30 teams down on last year's. Out of the 121 sides, eight were from barristers' chambers. And it was good to see women playing, too; Stephens Innocent had a star striker in the form of Nula Cosgrove, who plays for the Chester ladies side.

The tournament had a serious feel this year, with not so many comedy team names. A couple worthy of mention are: We Love Chelsea (north London-based Kofteros & Yerolemu), The Fraud Squad (captained by Richard Budworth), AC Mackenzie Mills and the Paper Tigers (Chambers of Maurice Kay QC).

This year's charities to benefit from sponsorship are Arsenal's own charity, DIVERT, and solicitors' and barristers' benevolent funds.

Special thanks to John Reynolds, who co-ordinated the event for The Lawyer.