by Tony Halford
LYMM secured an exciting 33-34 victory at Sandal to avoid relegation.
With all the pundits on the “Rolling Maul” website predicting a comfortable Sandal victory, and relegation rivals Kendal expected to win at bottom club Wilmslow, Lymm’s retention of their premier league status could well rest on the last round of fixtures next Saturday. Lymm needed only one more win in their last 2 matches.
How 80 minutes of rugby can change all the pundits predictions!!
This week saw only three squad changes, James Lewis, Alfie Simpson came onto the bench, and Richard Halford started on the wing. The pack starting line-up, which had performed admirably against the heavier Harrogate “eight” last week, remained unchanged. Tom Shard returned to scrum-half in the absence of the injured Andy Davies.
Lymm won the toss and elected to play up the significant slope, giving Sandal the kick-off.
The majority of the first ten minutes was played in the Sandal half. The Lymm pack new that their performance would have a significant impact on the game in the loose and set pieces and for 80 minutes they played their part. With good ball retention and drives, they moved the ball up the park putting pressure in the home 22. With 10mins on the clock and Lymm confidently moving the ball across the pitch, winger Richard Halford received the ball ten-metres out and powered his way over in the corner for an unconverted try, 0 – 5.
Within minutes of the restart, a long kick up the field from Lymm found the excellent Sandal full-back, Jack Townend, who collected in his own half and ran through weak tackling to score under the posts, converted by Greg Wood, 7 – 5.
On 20 mins a thirty-yard break by young James Pitcher, culminated in a Sandal infringement giving Shard a penalty conversion, 7 – 8. Back row player James, has established himself as one of the season’s discoveries. In particular his on target line out throwing, has helped resolve a problem set piece area for the team.
Lymm, continued to retain their shape and with the ball made ground against the hosts. However, after 30mins, Sandal regained possession and as has happened more often than preferred this season, especially in view of last season’s defensive exploits, poor tackling gave Sandal scrum-half Morecombe a try under the posts from twenty-five metres out, which Wood converted, 14 – 8.
Deep into injury time, sustained Sandal pressure allowed full-back Townend to score his second try close to the touchline which was unconverted, 19 – 8.
HALF-TIME 19 – 8.
With news that Kendal were winning at half-time, the pundits’ predictions looked good, and Lymm’s league status could well rest on next week’s home match against high-flying Billingham. Tom Bray moved to fly-half and Scott Redfern to full-back with Alfie Simpson coming onto the wing for injured Luke Richards.
Within 4mins of the restart, from a good Lymm lineout, Redfern came into the line and released winger Simpson who outpaced the covering defence from thirty yards out and once over the try line moved inside towards the posts enabling Shard to make the conversion, 19 – 15.
On 50 mins, Redfern was again in the action. Sandal were putting together some solid phases up the slope into the Lymm 22. They moved the ball quickly left and it looked like their winger would have a clear run into the corner. Lymm defence desperately shuffled right as the final pass went out to the winger but it never made it. Redfern swooped and raced the length of the pitch to score in the corner for an unconverted try, Lymm were back in front, 19 – 20.
Sandal were very much in the game and responded 5 mins later when a good attacking move up their right, released second-row Austin Thompson to power through for a try converted by Wood, 26 – 20.
Lymm were not daunted and quickly responded with good retention and passing between forwards and backs. A lovely break by James Pitcher, with his forwards in support, enabled Aaron Rasheed to score under the posts for Lymm’s 4th try converted by Shard, 26 – 27. Two league points now guaranteed, the Lymm travelling support now smelt a possible victory and taking further medication, increased the volume of their support.
But there was no respite as on 65 mins a Sandal try looked inevitable, until James Kimber tackled the carrier inches from the line. Lymm regained possession and from another good lineout, moved play down field. This was quickly followed by a good break from Jake Ashall and capitalized on by the supporting Rasheed who scored his second try, Lymm’s 5th close to the posts for Shard to convert, 26 – 34.
Sandal now needed two scores to win and on 75 mins scored their first requirement when slick hands moved the ball across the pitch for Martin to score close to the corner flag which was excellently converted by Wood, 33 – 34.
Tension amongst the Lymm supporters was now at “cardiac level” especially when news came through that Kendal were narrowly in the lead against Wilmslow. In the dying seconds of the match it looked as if Sandal would get the score they needed when an overlap on the left created the chance, however Redfern covering across the pitch, made the crucial tackle, the ball rolling into touch, followed by the referees final whistle.
Players and supporters were ecstatic at this victory, which secured their place in the league, irrespective of the fact that Wilmslow beat Kendal with a last minute penalty 35 -34. We had secured our own destiny in this league for a further season
It is always difficult to pick the “man of the match” but in this reporters opinion I would chose eight – the Lymm pack who were unchanged, and as so often the case, do the lion’s share of the work.
Head Coach Adam Fletcher, always calm in his match reflections, commented. “Great to win and secure our place in this competitive league next season.
“We didn’t play well enough in the first half and deserved to be losing. We turned it round in the second half by playing with tempo and more accuracy.
“It was a real nail biter in the end but finally we got some well deserved luck, I’m very proud of the boys”
Next Saturday Lymm play their final league match at home to Billingham, KO 3pm.
Team: 1) Gavin Woods, 2) Adam Bray (C), 3) Jordan Widdrington, 4) Aaron Rasheed, 5) Matty Connelly, 6) Jake Ashall, 7) James Pitcher, 8) Joe Watson, 9) Tom Shard, 10) Scott Redfern, 11) Luke Richards, 12) Ben Stansfield, 13) James Kimber, 14) Richard Halford, 15) Tom Bray, 16) Rob Makin, 17) James Lewis, 18) Alfie Simpson.