LYMM 22 SANDAL 8
Report by David Fernyhough
THE visit of Sandal marked a welcome return to rugby at Crouchley Lane after the excesses of the festive season. The visitors had brought a sizeable and vociferous support with them, guaranteeing a lively atmosphere. Lymm had been forced into a pre-game change with an injury to back rower Sam Mullarkey. James Yates was on hand to make a welcome return to first team rugby.
Lymm seemed unaffected by the change in plan, as they opened the scoring very early on. Adam Bray’s strong break was supported by centre James Kimber, who crossed for a try. Cormac Nolan was unable to convert, 5 – 0.
The home side would soon score again, following a scrum on half way. Sandal put Lymm’s scrum under some pressure, but the ball was able to reach Scott Redfern whose clever and well weighted kick settled in the in goal area. Nolan would be the winner of the chase to touch it down and Lymm went 10 – 0 ahead. Again the conversion was just wide.
Sandal responded brightly and had the better of much of the ensuing play. A break down the right wing evading Jordan Widdrington’s diving tackle was well tidied up by the Lymm backs and the ball sent back into Sandal territory. Sandal attacked again through their talented fly half, Gregory Wood. Again Lymm tidied up comfortably.
This was the pattern for a chunk of the first half. Sandal made threats which Lymm’s defence matched, and forced them back to start again. However Wood would eventually unlock the meanest defence in the division, rewarding a great line by Stephen Nolan with a perfectly timed pass for the centre to race away to open their account. 10 – 5.
The half ended with Lymm being the team threatening the try line. A penalty in front of the posts was kicked to touch rather than going for goal, a sign perhaps of the attacking confidence of this squad. But the Yorkshiremen showed the quality of their own defence and the half time score remained 10 – 5.
The half started with the withdrawal of young winger Joe Denman (suspected concussion). Lymm were thus forced into yet another re-shuffle. Flanker Ali Sutherland was moved to get cold on the wing and Jake Ashall joined Matty Connolly in a rather Lilliputian (but physical) second row. Both teams strangely looked rustier at the start of the second half than they had in the first. Penalties at the breakdown by Lymm were starting to mount, and Sandal missed a penalty kick from one of these. Both team’s attacks were petering out with knock-ons and lack lustre execution.
Sandal though were the first to show some focus, and began to assert themselves inside Lymm’s 22 metre line. Again, their attacking intent was meeting the home side’s defensive resolve. After a multi-phased attack in which the influential Sandal 10 nearly broke the defence, but was tackled short of the line, a poor pass to the wing was intercepted by Redfern. He was the first carrier as Lymm went the length of the pitch to score. Sandal’s scrambling defence halted Redfern’s break but he off-loaded to Nolan. When Nolan was caught he had Kimber in support and when his run was halted Redfern, who had started it, was on hand to take his short pass and take the score to 15 – 5. Nolan converting, 17 – 5.
Again Sandal attacked and again Lymm pushed them backwards. Gav Woods, Ashall and Yates in particular tackled relentlessly. Undermining the quality of the defensive line was the continued infringement at the ruck. Eventually Sandal were able to capitalise on the amount of penalty possession coming their way, and a goal took the score to 17 – 8.
Lymm’s final score was probably their best. It was the least flamboyant, but showed the improvements this squad have made to their ability to control a game. Starting with a penalty kick for a line out on half way, they patiently pushed forward. The Sandal defence was being stretched in many ways, and the clock was running down. After many phases of controlled possession, Lymm were into the visitor’s 22 and a gap opened up out on the left. The ball was worked to Nolan who dived to score in the corner, 22 – 8.
The addition of Tom Shard and his positional kicking ensured the last minutes of the game were played well away from Lymm’s line, with the final whistle bringing to an end a well contested match.
Lymm will be happy to come away with a bonus point win despite not being at their most cohesive or incisive. The passion and structure of their defence probably played more of a role in this victory than their attacking flair. Sandal will be disappointed that they could not take any points away from a game that they were never outclassed in.
Next Saturday Lymm are away to Wirral KO 2.15 pm.
Squad: 1. Gav Woods. 2. Dan Horton, 3. Jordan Widdrington, 4. Joe Watson, 5. Matty Connelly, Ali Sutherland, 7. Jake Ashall, 8. Adam Bray (C), 9. Andy Davies, 10. Scott Redfern, 11. Joe Denman, 12. James Kimber, 13. Tom Bray, 14. Richard McEvoy, 15. Cormac Nolan, 16. Matty Hand, 17. James Yates, 18. Tom Shard
Referee: Mr Elliot Lewis – Northern Panel