by David Fernyhough
LYMM bounced back from their opening day defeat at Billingham with a narrow 17-15 victory over old rivals Rossendale at Crouchley Lane.
The match was preceded by a well attended, Club President’s Luncheon in a marquee adjacent to the pitch. Thankfully, the torrential rain abated just as these two old foes kicked off.
Previous encounters have been highly competitive, but on the previous weeks form Lymm were probably a little apprehensive.
With scrum-half Andy Davies missing with injury the withdrawal of Ollie Higginson after failing a fitness test will have done little to sooth the nerves. Other changes to the previous weeks squad: Joe Murphy, last season’s colt, came into the second row; Ali Sutherland reverted to his normal place in the back row as No8; Tom Shard stepped up as scrum-half; Scott Redfern returned at fly-half; James Maher moved to the wing; Richard McEvoy came in on the other wing; close season signing, Cashel Chilvers, making his 1st team debut, together with Zak Lythgoe and Giles Dugdale made up the bench.
The opening exchanges confirmed the home supporters’ worst fears. Rossendale were well organised, powerful, direct and effective. The strength of the visitors rolling maul was immediately evident and resulted in an early penalty against Lymm. Rossendale took full advantage of the territory given to them, building pressure inside the home 22, before exploiting the gaps they created to score by winger Aaron Perry. With the Lewis Allen conversion good, they took an early 0-7 lead.
A jittery Lymm made a mess of the restart and the resulting Rossendale maul was once more near Lymm’s try line. Excellent defence repelled this attack, however Lymm could not build on any possession, with most attacks ending after just one phase. The Lancashire squad meanwhile were looking increasingly dominant, and creating space down their right wing via powerful running and a slick off-loading game. One such attack allied with another controlled maul earned them a penalty in front of the posts which Allen duly converted, 0-10.
The home side though, eventually found their rhythm and from a rare Lymm penalty managed to put some phases together. Tom Bray, Gav Woods, Scott Redfern and Ali Sutherland, were all instrumental in getting the ball to home debutant Jake Maher on the wing. He dived over in the corner to score a well worked try. Cormac Nolan made a tricky conversion and Lymm were back in the match at 7-10.
The resurgence was short lived however. Knock-ons, penalties and forward passes continued to snuff out any hint of Lymm putting an attacking platform together. The visitors meanwhile continued to force Lymm to defend their own line. Soon enough, Rossendale capitalised on Lymm’s stuttering line out. A loose long throw from Lymm, defending on their 5m line, was caught by the Rossendale No8, Dominic Moon, who gratefully crossed the line unopposed for an unconverted try, 7-15.
Lymm did launch one more threatening attack through Bray and Redfern, but this too came undone as the ball moved from left to right, 15 metres from the try line. However this fell apart with two poor passes and a knock on undoing the flicker of hope.
The half ended 7-15, with Lymm possibly lucky to still be in touch. Rossendale meanwhile had picked up injuries to their main organisers and were forced into some changes.
The second half saw a very different game. Rossendale now looked the more unsure, whilst Lymm seemed to have mustered some composure and remembered the attacking flair and intensive defence the team is known for. Rick McEvoy, James Kimber and Cormac Nolan all found space to attack. The agile Lymm pack were stealing possession, with Ali Sutherland and Sam Mullarkey ably supporting the indomitable Adam Bray in upsetting the visitors possession.
More of the game began to be played within 30m of the Rossendale line, but Lymm had still to turn the territory and possession into points. Three attacks saw them either held up over the line, or the ball knocked down by an opponent. However such was the relentlessness of Lymm’s offence that points finally came. A penalty 35m out and close to the side-line was expertly dispatched by Nolan, 10-15 and he would soon add to his tally, converting another difficult chance following an exceptional Lymm try.
A Tom Shard clearance was retrieved by Lymm’s forwards. Fly half Redfern supported them by clearing out a ruck and Lymm quickly moved the wall to the left wing, where returnee Giles Dugdale was able to race away from a flailing defence to add to Lymm’s tally and Nolan was faultless from the tee, 17-15.
The final moments were very tense indeed. Rossendale were regaining some of the structure that characterized their first half, and Lymm were doggedly chopping down each drive that came their way. The penalties were now going against Lymm and Rossendale had the chance to take the lead with a kick from just inside half way. This was wide, but another chance to seize the win soon followed. A penalty line out deep in Lymm’s half with just moments to go saw them in prime field position. Lymm though managed to regain the ball. Tom Shard orchestrated Lymm as they patiently and effectively ran the clock down to secure a tough win. FT 17-15.
Mention should be made of the input of the front row who grafted all afternoon and held their own in the scrum against perhaps more fancied opposition. Lymm should be proud of the attitude and maturity they brought into an at times dynamic second half performance. Rossendale were the better side for swathes of the first half but struggled in the second.
“A great day at Beechwood, made even sweeter by the result” commented Head Coach, Adam Fletcher.
“It was excellent to see so many members down supporting the Presidents Lunch and the boys’ first home game.
“We showed a lot of Character to come back from 7 – 15 down at half-time, following an error strewn first half. We knew if we could keep possession for multiple phases, we could cause Rossendale problems. We started to believe and put increasing pressure on their line.
“The back row were fantastic throughout. Tom Shard had a great game at scrum-half and Cormac Nolan’s kicking was outstanding. We still have a lot to work on but the feeling is good going into next week’s game at Wirral.”
The 8 strong, post-match Man of the Match committee struggled to agree on a winner. 4 players had 2 votes each, so there then followed the task of trying to find anyone else who saw the game lucid enough to comment and not totally pre occupied with knocking their own teeth out. In the end, Scott Redfern just pipped Cormac Nolan for the award. This is not just testament to how addled the members had become but also how much this performance was built on the efforts of the whole team.
Pictures courtesy of Lymm Photographic Society
Squad: 1) Gav Woods, 2) Rob Makin, 3) Matty Hand, 4) Joe Murphy, 5) Zak Lythgoe, 6) Sam Mullarkey, 7) Adam Bray (C), 8) Ali Sutherland, 9) Tom Shard, 10) Scott Redfern, 11) Jake Maher, 12) Tom Bray, 13) James Kimber, 14) Richard McEvoy, 15) Cormac Nolan, 16) Cashel Chilvers, 17) Giles Dugdale, 18) Matty Connolly,