by Simon Plumb
Lymm showed plenty of flair but were edged out 21-18 in a close derby encounter at Wirral.
This local derby kicked off against a backdrop of a previously drawn game earlier in the season with Lymm slightly higher in the league but a tough encounter was envisaged. Wirral have become something of a cussed, bogey team for Lymm and this was to be no different.
There were some changes to the Lymm squad from last week due to unavailability. Joe Watson started at lock; Ben Stansfield at centre; Alfie Simpson left wing; Tom Bray moved to fly-half with James Kimber moving to full back. Matty Hand, James Yates and Campbell Thomson came onto the bench.
A gusty but rain-free afternoon saw Lymm start confidently, controlling the ball well in multiple phases, pressurising the hosts deep in their half. Their reward was a simple penalty by scrum half Cormac Nolan after 1 minutes play, 30m out, in front of the posts, 0-3. Lymm appeared to have steadied their scrum after recent performances and continued the offensive, resulting in another penalty from a similar position, making it 0-6 after 8 minutes.
The cross wind, which slightly favoured the visitors, was proving tricky when high balls went up but Wirral were proving up to the task defensively. A kick through from speedster Nathan Beesley on the right wing nearly resulted in a try but he was just beaten to the touch down.
It was all Lymm for the first 20minutes and a bit more daylight on the scoreboard would have served them well, but it was not to be. Wirral shook off early rustiness and subsequent sustained pressure on the visitors’ line resulted in centre Steve Pilkington being carded for off-side in front of the posts. Wirral went for a scrum but Lymm held firm until after various scrum resets, prop Jordan Widdrington went on the offensive and allegedly questioned the ref’s penalty decision. His yellow card meant Lymm were temporarily down to thirteen and well under the cosh.
The home number 10 took advantage of Lymm’s disruption and a kick, wide out, to his right winger gave Wirral the try they were threatening to score. It was well converted, making it 7-6 after 35mins. The pendulum had well and truly swung in favour of the hosts as they scored a second try on 39mins, again skilfully converted, making it 14-6 as the half time whistle went.
The ref was playing a major role in the game and it is not this observer’s tendency to comment but at least he performed equitably for both sides.
Wirral started the second half with the wind favouring them and camped in the visitors half. Lymm fought their way out only to be penalised again and again, and were pinned back once more. A well worked move, orchestrated by their fly half, saw Wirral break down the left hand with the No 8 prominent. The subsequent converted try made it 21-6 after 50 mins leaving Lymm with a mountain to climb.
Lymm seemed at odds with the ref’s decisions at the breakdowns, which resulted in the heavy penalty account against them. Between 20-40 minutes of the game, 10 of them being down to 13 men, were critical and Wirral took full advantage. But as the game wore on and with a full complement back on the park, a few decisions started to come our way and Lymm started to regroup.
The set pieces were providing good ball and control at the breakdown seemed to be to the ref’s liking. Good controlled phases moved us into the home half. Eventually, clearly wearing sturdy crampons, Lymm’s prop Gav Woods scored through an efficient rolling maul from an attacking line out and Nolan added the extras on 60mins, 21-11.
Then came the try of the game. From their own 22, Lymm worked the ball to left wing Alfie Simpson who made good ground till he passed inside to the outstanding No 8 Ollie Higginson. The ball was then passed through multiple hands ‘till Campbell Thomson broke through the last tackle and scored near the posts. 21-18 after 60 mins with Nolan’s extras and Lymm’s tails were up. Two tries in 4 minutes changed the complexion of the game and Lymm went for the kill.
A succession of exciting thrusts from the visitors took play to 5m out until that man in the middle adjudged the ball was held too long in the tackle, much to the players’ and away spectators’ frustration. The moment for winning the game was gone, as Lymm, who clearly had got up the ref’s nose all afternoon, and the bogey was back.
Wirral saw out the game with professionalism and dominated territorially in the closing minutes. The penalty count was high and the ref showed little empathy for allowing an open, free-flowing game, which could have ensued. Overall this favoured Wirral who were workmanlike without showing much flair.
“However, Lymm will not be deflected from our coaching philosophy” commented Lymm Director of Rugby, Adam Fletcher. “We want to win games but coach and train to provide and play a brand of rugby that is fast, continuous and entertaining, that both our players and spectators will enjoy.
“I was happy with how we started the game. We looked threatening and controlled the opening exchanges. We probably left a few points out there during the first 15mins and this gave Wirral a bit of confidence.
“We lost the game between 20-40 minutes. We lost our discipline and didn’t adapt to the ref’s interpretation of the breakdown. Wirral are a tough team to chase down. They play a simple but effective brand and it was hard to get a foot hold back in the game. So, I was really happy with how Lymm responded to the challenge and got back in the game. Unfortunately we couldn’t convert our final chance.
“We will review the game and continue to develop our brand of rugby. Saturday against Billingham should be a cracker”.
Next Saturday Lymm are at home to league leaders Billingham KO 3pm.
Squad: 1. Gav Woods, 2. Adam Bray (C), 3. Jordan Widdrington, 4. Joe Watson, 5. Will Baldwin, 6. Josh Hadland, 7. James Lewis, 8. Oli Higginson, 9. Cormac Nolan, 10. Tom Bray, 11. Nathan Beesley, 12, Ben Stansfield, 13. Steve Pilkington, 14. Alfie Simpson, 15. James Kimber, 16. Matty Hand, 17. James Yates, 18. Campbell Thomson.
Referee: Mr Ben Moore – Liverpool Society & RFU Northern Panel