Report by Simon Plumb
INJURY hit Lymm’s relegation fears deepened as they went down 33-18 at Blaydon.
The injury crisis still was still a major problem for selection and again a number of players were required to play out of position. There were five changes to the previous week’s squad: Aaron Rashid came into the 2nd row; Ben Stansfield at centre; Tom Baker on the wing; James Lewis and Rob Makin on the bench. Jordan Widdrington started at tight head prop, with Matty Hand on the bench. Joe Watson moved to back row; Ali Sutherland to wing.
Travelling more in hope than expectation to third placed Blaydon, near to Newcastle-on-Tyne, fourth from bottom Lymm faced a seemingly daunting task, in what is now officially a relegation dogfight.
However, Lymm took that fight to the opposition quickly taking the lead with a well worked try after 10 minutes, as second row Aaron Rashid finished a move he started in Lymm’s 22 intercepting the ball and, with good handling, he powered over in the right hand corner. 0-5 as the conversion was missed.
No matter what, coach Adam Fletcher had given his team the objective of a four-try bonus point, win or lose, and their noses were in front. Lymm have struggled to impose themselves early on in recent games but the inclusion of newly betrothed and slimline tight head prop Jordan Widdrington, steadied the pack at scrum time and this proved a positive strategy. He actually played the full 80 minutes which is testament to his new fitness levels.
Blaydon are not a top four team for nothing and responded as the crowd expected, breaking through some questionable tackling. Initially held up over the line the subsequent attacking scrum gave them the platform to score near the posts. 7-5 after 16 minutes.
While Lymm’s half backs were beginning to show renewed confidence but their kicking game was letting them down and on more than one occasion a promising position was scuppered by poor kicking. Blaydon then released their rolling maul which Lymm struggled to counter with a try just left of the posts, extending the lead to 14-5 after 27 minutes.
It was now Lymm’s turn as Fly half Scott Redfern used his strength to score wide out with Full back Cormac Nolan converting to keep Lymm well and truly in the game. 14-12 after 32 minutes.
There then followed an incident few had ever witnessed. Blaydon burst through and were 22m from the line when the ref twisted his ankle and fell over. As he did so he blew up to stop the game, but play carried on and Blaydon scored a well worked try. The rule book, and resident ref assessor, stated the try could not be awarded because the ref did not see it so what would he do? Apparently the Lymm players confirmed it had been a good try so the ref, taking them at their word, awarded the opposition the try which was converted. 21-12 after 35 minutes. Sportsmanship is alive and well at Lymm Rugby Club!
A well taken penalty by Nolan 40m out, just on half time took the score to 21-15 and everything to play for. This was followed just after the break by another successful penalty by Nolan – 21-18 after 44 minutes and game on.
The small but vocal visiting support were helped by the acoustics of the stand, making 6 supporters seem like 60 and this encouragement seemed to help. There then followed a series of attacks by Lymm with the back row prominent throughout.
A penalty to Lymm caused considerable discussion between coach and players because if successful the score would be 21-21 and this might change the game’s complexion. However the stiff wind was deemed too strong, so a kick to the corner was agreed upon. To everyone’s regret the line out, dysfunctional throughout the afternoon, was lost along with the scoring opportunity.
An attacking line out then gave Blaydon another platform but this time the rolling maul was thwarted. At this point the game could have gone either way but, following a contentious yellow card to Nolan for a high tackle, the pendulum swung Blaydon’s way.
Taking advantage of Lymm being a defender down, the home side won an attacking line out and moved the ball quickly right to left for the left winger to score wide out. 26-18 as the game moved into the final quarter.
Now two scores and a man down Lymm had an uphill struggle and Blaydon tasted blood. A forward pass stopped one certain try and Lymm made one final effort only for a dreadful pass, in the middle of a superbly executed move, to scupper a great come-back opportunity. This moment probably defined Lymm’s display, by showing that execution is everything at this level.
A salt-in-the-wound try by the Blaydon centre, as the game came to a close, was hard to take and gave a final score line of 33-18 which did not reflect the struggle and equality of the two sides for most of this game.
Coach Fletcher reflected. “Happy with large parts of the performance but we have to control the ball a little better. We presented Blaydon with too many opportunities from either poor basic skill or lack of execution at the lineout.
“Unfortunately we didn’t manage to take any points from the game but there are definite positives that we can take away
“Big week of training ahead in preparation for a must win game next Saturday at home to Wilmslow”.
All season Lymm’s line out has undermined the game plan, and if this could be solved more wins will surely be forthcoming. A minimum of four wins out of the ten remaining fixtures are now required if Lymm are to avoid the drop and many, including eleven travelling supporters, believe their team can achieve this task.
1) Gav Woods, 2) Adam Bray (C), 3) Jordan Widdrington, 4) Marty Connelly, 5) Aaron Rashid, 6) Jake Ashall, 7) James Pitcher, 8) Joe Watson, 9) Tom Shard, 10) Scott Redfern, 11) Tom Baker, 12) Ben Stansfield, 13) Richard Halford, 14) Ali Sutherland, 15) Cormac Nolan. 16) Matthew Hand, 17) Rob Makin, 18) James Lewis.