Report by David Fernyhough
LYMM eased their relegation worries with a convincing 52-13 victory over Alnwick.
A month ago, with a poor performance against Kirby Lonsdale coming hard on the heels of a similarly toothless effort at Kendal, Coach Fletcher’s boys looked the epitome of dejection. Relegation was looking a real possibility, and it was very hard to see where the much needed improvement would come from.
Well, the coaching staff dug deep into their tool box and found the Acme Motivational Spanner (copyright The Road Runner), and inspired back to back quality wins. Against Vale of Lune the team looked alert and confidant, but this performance against 7th placed, in form, Alnwick was exceptional.
There were some changes to the squad that played Vale of Lune. Rick Halford moved to centre in place of the injured James Kimber, Giles Dugdale coming in on the wing. The most notable was Senior Colt, Alfie Simpson making his 1st team squad debut. Proud dad David also had another son Henry playing for Lymm 2’s on the adjacent pitch.
Lymm opened the scoring after 2mins. Alnwick turned over a Lymm ruck from the kick off, but Lymm regained control and Matty Connolly set off on a fine run. He was finally tackled about 15m shy of the try line but support was on hand and Jake Ashall capitalised on Connolly’s effort. Spotting a gap he charged past the visitors defence and scored a confidence giving try. Tom Shard converted, 7-0.
Alnwick’s form has been good and it was no surprise when they got themselves onto the score board. Amongst many Lymm ‘Achilles Heels’ recently, has been the relentless concession of penalties at the ruck. Surprisingly for no one, that was the means for Alnwick to score, a penalty kick from in front of goal by Jonny Burn, 7-3.
Alnwick continued to bring the game to Lymm, but Lymm had rediscovered the steely defence of last season. Lead by the Bray brothers the home side smothered their opposition. However, the penalties at the break down continued and eventually the referee lost patience and Gav Woods was yellow carded. With 17mins on the clock, Alnwick, led by their effervescent number 9, Callum Burn, capitalised on Lymm being a man down and immediately attacked out wide for a well taken and smart, unconverted try by Full Back, Jack Smales, 7-8.
With a strong wind behind them Alnwick were able to ensure territory in Lymm’s half, eventually forcing a dropped catch. The Northumbrian’s fluffed their opportunity though and Ben Stansfield and Giles Dugdale combined to advance Lymm into Alnwick’s half. The referee awarded Lymm their first penalty of the half. (Please note, that with more than one person commentating that the ref looked like a younger version of myself, I have decided he had a flawless game). From the ensuing line out Lymm won a second penalty and a series of mini rucks on Alnwick’s try line resulted in a solid forwards’ drive for Jordan Widdrington to touch down after 27mins. Shard again converted, 14-8.
As time went on Lymm were looking more and more assured. They were playing into a strong, blustery wind but excellent kicking from Scott Redfern and Shard kept them on the front foot. The line-out was faultless, with James Pitcher throwing in and Aaron Rasheed exceptional as the main jumper. Ashall, Joe Watson and Gav Woods were now competing for the ball without incurring penalties and the backs line was looking crisp and direct. A penalty just before half time was just reward for their effort when the Alnwick full back was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on in front of the posts.
Half time, 17 – 8.
Lymm started the second half even more sharply than they had finished the first. Within 1min of the restart, Rasheed, who had been impressive against Vale of Lune, created space for himself, breaking tackles and off-loading to James Pitcher for a lovely try. Shard converted a very tough kick from out on the left wing, 24-8.
A nervy few minutes then ensued. Alnwick were pushing the Lymm defence and gaps were starting to appear that hadn’t been there previously. Eventually the visitors number 4, Ollie Sutheran, exploited a gap and made good yards. He was supported on the wing by Cuthbert, who beat a couple of flailing Lymm tackles to get Alnwick back in the game. His try was converted, 24-13. Nerves were now creeping in to the Lymm crowd, but not it seems the players. Scrum half Shard took the game by the throat and used his inventive kicking game, and the strong wind behind him to ensure Lymm stayed on the front foot.
A penalty was awarded, which saw Lymm have a line out 10 metres from Alnwick’s line. An infringement in the maul saw a yellow card awarded by the rather handsome and urbane referee, and back rower Joe Watson was rewarded on 50mins, for his outstanding efforts all game, scoring a try which Shard again converted, 31-13.
Shard next sent an audacious kick from one wing to the other finding Adam Bray in space, Adam struggled to collect the ball but Lymm clearly had more points in them.
Alnwick were still not beaten though, and after good defence deep in their own half they were able to clear and through a combination of soccer and rugby skills advanced to within 10 yards of a try. However. Tom Bray was on hand to cover and Lymm recovered possession. Rasheed again took the ball into safer position on the pitch and then Shard, repeated his wing to wing kick and this time found Rick Halford who from nearly half way, side stepped the Alnwick defence and scored. Shard again converted, 38-13.
The visitors battled on but Lymm were now flying. Debutant colt Alfie Simpson was now on at full back and looking confident. He came into the line and gave a deft off load that allowed Rasheed plenty of space to add another 5 points, Shard remained perfect from the tee, 45-13.
Soon after, with the final whistle nearing, Rick McEvoy scored a bustling solo effort. His direct running had been an influence on the game all afternoon, and a strong fend-off gave him the couple of feet gap he needed to beat the defence score wide out on the left. The difficult conversion sailed between the sticks, giving Man of the Match Shard a 100% record of 7 conversions and 1 penalty. So, Lymm closed the game with a handsome 52-13 victory.
5 league points gives Fletcher’s side a 12 point buffer from the relegation positions but the performance should be worth more than the 5 points earned. It should give them oodles of confidence in their talent as they go into the final run in. Hull next week will be a challenge indeed, but the remaining games are ones where a Lymm side, playing like this can find more points and more validation of their and their coaches’ efforts.
Every member of the team deserves full and effusive credit, but Tom Shard emerged for many as the outstanding performer.
Team: 1) Gav Woods, 2) Adam Bray (c), 3) Jordan Widdrington, 4) Matty Connolly, 5) Aaron Rasheed, 6) Jake Ashall, 7) James Pitcher, 8) Joe Watson, 9) Tom Shard, 10) Tom Bray, 11) Richard McEvoy, 12) Richard Halford, 13) Ben Stansfield, 14) Giles Dugdale, 15) Scott Redfern, 16) Dan Horton, 17) Cashell Chilvers, 18) Alfie Simpson.