by Simon Plumb
AFTER last week’s opening season home win over Blackburn Lymm came back down to earth in an intriguing if somewhat frustrating game as they travelled 200 miles to Northumbrian rivals Alnwick on a windy but clear day.
The squad is still a work in progress as a number of former colts stake their claim for a regular first team place but loose play proved costly as they went down 20-17.
Young Alfie Simpson debuted at fly half in what was to prove quite a test of his composure and playmaking abilities. Joe Senior and George ‘Stormin’ Norman started on the wings and both looked comfortable throughout.
Lymm were awarded a penalty after three minutes for holding on in the tackle, which full back Cormac Nolan converted from 40m out, with a strong wind assisting his attempt. 0 -3.
There then followed a sustained attack as Lymm put pressure on the Alnwick line but these hardy Northumbrians know how to defend, despite a turnover in their own 22.
The score never came and after 10 minutes, Alnwick eventually got into Lymm’s half.
A long, clever clearance kick by scrum half by Tom Shard brought play back to the home side’s 22 and was indicative of the strength of the wind. This was to prove one of very few deep kicks from the visitors which seemed an odd strategy to the away supporters.
Then came a piece of individual magic as Alnwick’s No 10 evaded several tackles with flair and speed, and scored from 35m out. The straightforward conversion took the score to 7-3 after 20 minutes.
Lymm took the initiative, attacking with intent and Nolan converted another penalty for offside taking the score to 7-6 after 29 mins. Three minutes later however, the Alnwick scrum half took a quick tap penalty and released his jinky centre who broke a number of tackles to score to the left of the posts. 14-6 and despite early domination Lymm was in a state of shock.
Poor tackling in the run-up to this score featured rather heavily and things needed to tighten up if Lymm was to make significant progress, as the afternoon wore on. A penalty kick to Alnwick, as the half came to a close, was missed so the score remained at 14-6.
The visitors appeared to lose confidence as the half wore on with passes going to ground and Alnwick’s confidence grew as the game progressed. Lymm’s centre pairing however, of James Kimber and Ben Stansfield was operating well with Stansfield tackling anything and everything throughout.
A penalty to the home side after 42 mins extended their lead to 17-6, and this was compounded when fly half Simpson was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on. Now it was Lymm’s turn to stoutly defend their line which they did with determination.
Kimber then had one of his trademark breaks through the middle and he fed speedster Senior on the right wing. The score did not follow but this showed increasing intent to attack – a natural state for this young team.
Lymm then had an attacking line-out in Alnwick’s 22 and here was a platform to get that crucial score. The line out had been operating well all afternoon and the away support thought this could be a turning point. It was not to be as the ball missed the jumper and Alnwick stormed back and won a penalty at the next scrum, extending their lead to 20-6 after 59mins.
Kimber again launched another attack with a bullocking run, releasing Senior once again but the last scoring pass to Simpson went to ground. This served to ignite Lymm’s attacking instincts and, after fast, accurate hands, right to left, Nolan eventually scored in the left hand corner making it 20-11 on 64mins.
The game started to open up and optimism surged through the away team and support. The last 20mins of any game this season should see Lymm play with their tales up but if the score line is beyond them after an hour no amount of ‘going for broke’ will win a game.
So it proved but Lymm did score a penalty from Nolan – 20-14 after 72 mins. Desperate defence on their own line then preceded Lymm’s last gasp attacking surge up the pitch. After several phases Lymm eventually forced an attacking line out in Alnwick’s 22.
Then a bizarre, result-changing moment. Alnwick infringed trying to keep Lymm out in their 22 and the ref informed Lymm the score incorrectly stood at 23-14 which meant Lymm could not win the match but could win a losing bonus point if they succeeded with a penalty kick, which they duly did. However, the correct score was 20-14 and if Lymm carried on and scored the try they were threatening to they could have won the game with a converted try.
As it was Nolan slotted the penalty and the game concluded at 20-17, much to the visiting supporters disgruntlement. In truth Alnwick deserved the win and Lymm will need to tighten up and be more efficient earlier in future games., if they are going to survive or thrive once more in this tough division.
‘Now the dust has settled we are fairly happy with a point but definitely had chances to come away with more. We started strongly but definitely should have had more points on the board after 15 minutes, commented coach Adam Fletcher.
‘It probably took us too long to adapt to the narrow pitch, we were too lateral in the first half.
‘Defensively we have to be more alert and stronger when teams attack from deep. We let them make too many yards.
‘Obviously we had the confusion at the end of the game with the score and the referee giving us the wrong information. This was a shame as it stopped us from having a opportunity to go on and win the game. In all fairness to Nathan (Ref) he held his hands up and apologised to the whole squad post game. Let’s hope the RFU can make a positive out this error so it doesn’t happen in the future.’