Report by Andy Leach
STILL trying to come to terms with an injury crisis Lymm tasted defeat in Yorkshire for the second consecutive week as they went down 19-7 at Harrogate.
The persistent rain and leaden skies of the white rose county did not appear especially welcoming.
With a Lymm squad still coming to terms with an unparalleled injury crisis, the news that morning that lady luck had dealt a further blow with Coach Fletcher being unable to make the trip due to his “glass back”, was greeted with a resigned shrug of the shoulders. As one of the Lymm sidelined players commented “It could only get worse if Chris our physio went down – after all, he was our ‘man of the month’ in November!”
On the positive side, the match day squad showed remarkably (for this season’s Lymm) few changes from the previous week with only Zak Lythgoe missing from last week’s starting XV, his place being filled with Ali Sutherland coming off the bench. With Joe Senior resting ahead of his Sunday Lancashire U18 match, the two spare slots on the bench were filled by Jake Ashall and Tom Baker.
With the pitch looking especially well grassed and the going likely to be heavy, there was a degree of relief as the rain abated somewhat as kick off arrived and, to be fair, the match was played in conditions that were considerably better than had been forecast.
Lymm got the proceedings under way and, after an opening stanza in which both teams showed their attacking intent and that the breakdown was likely to be a hotly contested area, were given the chance to put first points on the board when referee Mr Bloomfield, (who had followed Lymm from last week’s match at Ilkley), awarded a penalty 40m out from the ‘Gate try line. Unfortunately, whilst distance was no issue, Nolan’s kick just drifted to the left of the uprights.
On 10 minutes, ‘Gate were the beneficiaries of the referee’s decision to blow for an infringement at the breakdown – one that Lymm probably felt a little hard done by. This was to prove the catalyst for a 5 minute spell which, ultimately, was to decide the outcome of the match. Although in a similar field position to Lymm’s earlier attempt, ‘Gate elected to go for the corner, securing a line out well inside the Lymm 22. From this attacking position, their forwards built a strong platform from which, moments later, their rolling roll crashed over the Lymm line with one if the ‘Gate props claiming the score. The try was well converted from wide out. 7-0
Five minutes later ‘Gate scored their second try, the genesis for which had been a howitzer Redfern kick which had taken an unfavourable bounce and roll to edge over the dead ball line, giving the home side an attacking scrum on the Lymm 10m line. From the set-piece the ball was moved purposefully to the blind side making good yards, then being recycled back into the centre of the field where the other Harrogate prop bounced off a couple of Lymm defenders before running in from 10m to score under the posts. From Lymm’s perspective, a soft seven points to give away. 14-0.
The remainder of the half was relatively even, albeit Lymm didn’t really enjoy sufficient possession in the attacking third to seriously threaten the home try line.
Half Time: HARROGATE 14 – 0 LYMM.
The view on the terraces at half-time was that the next score would be hugely important in determining the outcome of the match. Sadly for Lymm, on 45 minutes this fell to ‘Gate when a clever kick from about 35m out by their scrum half found space behind the Lymm defensive line which their right-winger exploited by just edging the footrace to touch the ball down. This time the conversion attempt from the corner failed. 19-0
The next phase of the match was fairly even although you could sense that Lymm were playing more confidently as the match wore on, putting together better phases, making more yards in attack and, generally, seeming more of a threat to the ‘Gate line. However, there were still too many errors in Lymm’s game – whilst the scrum was solid, the line out struggled; handling errors were too frequent; marginally ill-judged kicks lost the advantage at crucial times – whilst borderline refereeing decisions (as there are in any match), in the most part, seemed to go against Lymm. Finally though after 75 minutes, Lymm got just reward for their improving performance. After a number of purposeful drives down the left flank, with Woods, Halford and Richards in particular making good yards, Halford was able to force himself over the ‘Gate try line to score 15m in from the touchline. Nolan duly added the extras. 19-7.
With relatively little time left, Lymm’s immediate objective was to secure a losing bonus point, something they came agonisingly close to achieving. Confidence was now growing, handling was vastly improved and the interplay between forwards and backs moved to another level, such that the remainder of the match was nearly all Lymm. On the penultimate play Lymm felt that they had achieved their objective when Halford, now playing in the centre, made a strong mid-field break timing his inside pass perfectly for a speeding Nolan, to break through Harrogate’s last line of defence to find nothing but the lush Yorkshire turf ahead of him.
Unfortunately, Mr Bloomfield adjudged that this final pass had drifted forward, thus denying Lymm what would have felt like a deserved score. The final whistle sounded shortly afterwards. It’s fair to say though that even in the gathering December gloom the glowing embers of an encouraging Lymm performance could be seen quite clearly. So two consecutive Saturdays, two trips to Yorkshire, two second halves won and a sense that on both occasions an extra 5 minutes may well have resulted in different outcomes.
After the match Coach Millington was considered in his assessment:”It was disappointing not to take anything out of the game. We can’t fault the effort and graft that the boys put in and I think that in the second half we showed that we can be a match for teams at the top end of the table. We must find a way of starting games better though. We can’t afford to gift teams the early lead. The pressure this creates is what leads to the high error count.
“Credit to Matty Connelly, James Kimber, Ben Stansfield and Richard Halford who I thought were outstanding. The quality is there despite the spate of injuries we have had, we just need to work on putting it together for 80 minutes in what will be a really important game against Sandal next week.”
Lymm will next entertain Sandal at Crouchley Lane this Saturday, December 8, KO 2:15.
1) Gav Woods, 2) Cashel Chilvers, 3) Matty Hand, 4) Matty Connolly, 5) Aaron Rasheed, 6) Ali Sutherland, 7) James Pitcher, 8) Adam Bray (c), 9) Tom Shard, 10) Scott Redfern, 11), Luke Richards 12) Ben Stansfield, 13) James Kimber, 14) Richard Halford, 15) Cormac Nolan, 16) Jordan Widdrington, 17) Jake Ashall, 18) Tom Baker