A YOUNG rugby fan who led his heroes out to victory on Good Friday as a mascot has lost his battle for life.

Four-year-old Johnathan Parr, who had a brain tumour, died in the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital after a 2-year fight.

And yesterday, friends and family of the rugby-mad lad packed out St Joseph's RC Church, Leigh, to say goodbye to the boy who had touched their hearts.

He was buried with his favourite toys -- Bob the Builder and Mickey Mouse -- and a packed lunch from his mother, Alison.

His grieving mum said: "Johnathan was very active -- his illness never stopped his spirit or held him back. I will never forget my fun-loving, sweet little boy.

"He never cried or caused a fuss because of his illness -- he was a very brave little trooper.

"And he fitted a lot into his life and was given as much love in four years as some people have in a lifetime."

Johnathan, who lived with his mum and brother Oliver, seven, at Briar Grove, Leigh, was diagnosed with a brain tumour 2 years ago after being repeatedly sick and losing his balance.

He had an operation followed by chemotherapy and spent 12 months in remission. But last November a scan revealed the tumour had returned and a second bout of chemotherapy failed to remove it.

But Alison, 26, added: "I was very hopeful he would survive until just four weeks ago when the doctors told me it was terminal.

"But, at the end of the day, we only borrow them and he has now gone back to God. He died peacefully and did not suffer."

Alison, a business studies student at Wigan and Leigh College, thanked the nurses and doctors at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital who had cared for him throughout his illness.

And she paid tribute to the many big-hearted people in Leigh who raised money for Johnathan to go on trips to Euro Disney, London, and to Lapland to see Father Christmas.

Johnathan was chosen as a mascot for Leigh Centurions who beat Widnes Vikings on Good Friday and was carried out at the head of the team.

The club's commercial manager Kevin Ashcroft said: "He was a lively little lad and he loved his day here.

"He was presented with the match ball and an Easter egg but to be honest he was much more interested in the ball and wouldn't let go of it.

"He had a wonderful day, the lads made a fuss of him, and we feel very proud to have been a part of his short life."

Johnathan was buried at Leigh Cemetery yesterday with flowers in the shape of Postman Pat, Bob the Builder and the Telly Tubbies.

Cavendish Street Day Nursery, which he used to attend, was closed for the day as a mark of respect.

His family have asked that anyone wishing to send donations should direct them to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.