LYMM Rugby Union inflicted an impressive 16-12 defeat on title chasing Darlington Mowden Park.
Both teams showed their attacking flare and defensive ability in equal measure. Lymm dominated territory in the first quarter and winger Matthew Barnes-Smith put down the first marker on 12 minutes, when he showed his pace and power to hand off his opposing winger before putting in a perfectly weighted kick into the dead-ball area. On this occasion he was just beaten to the touch-down by a covering defender, but on 19 minutes he was on hand again to skilfully finish off a move instigated by flanker Jake Ashall, whose rampaging runs into the heart of DMP’s defence were the highlight of the early encounters. Centre, Luke Emmitt missed the conversion from the corner, but had converted an earlier penalty to give Lymm the well-deserved lead Lymm 8; DMP 0.
The ominous threat of the DMP team was evident on 29 minutes, when a pressure relieving punt up-field from Lymm gave the DMP full-back a counter-attacking opportunity that his team exploited to the full. Incisive running, good inter-passing and excellent support play resulted in a very well-taken try, just when Lymm thought they had cleared their lines. Lymm must work harder on the forward chase and midfield defence in such situations to limit the try-scoring opportunities granted to the opposition.
An outrageous attempt at a drop-goal from the half-way line by Emmitt fell just short of the bar, but a more modest penalty from him on 37 minutes extended Lymm’s slender lead to 11 – 7. The task was to control possession of the ball to take this lead into half-time. DMP had a different plan and executed it professionally. Everybody could see why they are top of this league and likely to remain so, as their forwards busily, aggressively and collectively marshalled their resources to drive over the line with the last move of the first half. DMP was in the lead 12 points to 11. Lymm had played as well in this first half as they have played all season. The question was whether they could raise their game to edge back in front by the final whistle.
The first of four defining moments came on 50 minutes when Cheshire winger Dave Williamson (pictured top) intercepted a ball destined for his opposing winger, who was just about to touch down for what looked like an inevitable try, to sprint the length of the field to score at the other end. Chased by a pack of DMP players and urged on by the home spectators, he managed to out-fox his would-be captors by weaving his way to the line to put Lymm back in the lead.. Lymm 16 – DMP 12.
The Lymm pack matched their opponents in the scrum and for the most part in the line-out, but the DMP forwards were marginally quicker to the breakdown and craftier in disrupting Lymm’s ball when not in possession. Pressure that they exerted on 64 minutes resulted in a penalty, which allowed DMP to kick to the corner for a 5 metre line-out. The Lymm spectators were expecting a catch and drive-over try. They should have had more faith in Oli Higginson’s aerial ability to steal the ball at the line-out. This was the second defining moment of the match. What a relief when Oli showed his skill and his ability to execute it under pressure to those watching from the touchline.
If this was not the stiffest test of the Lymm team up until the 66th minute it certainly was thereafter when their inspirational pack leader Alex Bennett was yellow-carded for being off-side at a line-out.
Facing ten of the last fourteen minutes with only fourteen men was not the sort of test that Lymm would have wanted to set for themselves. The fact that they were able to raise their game to dominate play until the final minute of play was the third defining moment of this match and of the team’s development this season.
From 72 to 74 minutes Lymm were incredulously camped on the DMP line and looked like scoring from a series of well-executed forward drives. Tremendous tackling on their 22 metre line kept DMP at bay when the ball had been lost. But everybody knew that DMP could still win this match. The fourth defining moment came with a minute to go and with Alex Bennett back on the field, when Lymm conceded a penalty and had to defend an attacking line-out 5 metres from their line. People in Darlington would have heard the roar from the home spectators when Oli Higginson popped up again in the line-out to steal DMP’s final chance to win this match. The Lymm players were queuing up to punt the ball into touch to close out the game with the score still: Lymm 16 – DMP 12. You can imagine the scenes on and off the field when the referee blew up for full-time. What joy ! What a great game ! What a great result, especially when Lymm found out that Chester, their next opponents, had surprisingly lost their away match at Morley.
Head Coach Chris Kinsey said:” We have today shown a defensive maturity that was the cornerstone of an outstanding victory”.
Whilst this tremendous win will boost confidence for the next match, away against Chester, no-one will underestimate the challenge that lies ahead in two weeks time. Winning away at Chester would, arguably, be an even greater achievement than beating DMP at home. Chester will be pulling out all of the stops to rescue their season, following three unexpected defeats. What a celebration it will be if Lymm were to beat them and climb above them in the league. Don’t miss this match. It could be the next defining moment of Lymm’s season.
Team: 15: Knowles 14: Barnes-Smith 13: Fletcher 12; Emmitt 11: Williamson 10: Roberts 9: Baker 8 Bray (A) 7: Ashall 6: Higginson 5: Williams 4: Bennett 3: Widdrington 2: Allen 1: Harrison Replacements: Ashton, Connelly, Raey.