by Simon Plumb
IN the first-ever meeting between these two sides, in a clash of different styles, Lymm tested league leaders Otley before losing out 15-33.
Otley were the only team with a 100% record, but Lymm were sitting just three places behind, with a notable home record.
A sturdy wind blowing straight down the pitch looked sure to play its part. Lymm gave a first-team debut to Will Leach at fly-half, quite daunting opposition to face in his first game.
The visitors started the brighter, their first attack halted by Lymm stealing the ball in contact, and their next seeing their centre break Lymm’s line and race a good 70 metres before being hauled down by Steve Pilkington, just shy of the try line. Lymm were subsequently the victims of a yellow card with captain Ben Stansfield taking a very early sit down. Otley capitalised with a well-worked move from the penalty, that saw a lengthy miss pass find the winger for an easy touchdown. The conversion was missed, 0 v 5.
Lymm were soon to get their own points. A clever kick by Cormac Nolan turned the Otley defence in their own territory. Lymm won a line out 10 metres out, and a perfectly worked move saw Aaron Rasheed pop a pass from the top of the line out to the onrushing Ollie Higginson. He drew defenders and delivered an offload to hooker Rob Makin who finished well. The conversion was missed and the game was tied 5 v 5.
Otley were unable to get out of their half for much of the first half, but when they did it came in the form of line breaks, that desperate Lymm defending managed to prevent leading to tries.
The home side was exerting pressure both at the set-piece and in their lively attack. Winger Rory Riddell and full back Nolan combined nicely to put Lymm within feet of Otleys try line. Another line out ensued with James Yates securing the ball, and the rolling maul overwhelmed Otley, and Makin added his second try, 10 v 5.
Otley built some sustained possession in Lymm’s half, but were repeatedly pushed back, despite a yellow card for Yates (off side). A last gasp tackle by Will Leach ended one of the dangerous Otley line breaks.
Just before half time the visitors too were handed a yellow card, for an offence which left the influential Pilkington unable to continue.
HALF TIME. 10 v 5.
The second half emphasised what influence the wind was having in stopping the team facing it clearing their lines.
Otley looked a different team from before the interval. Their constant probing for weaknesses in what had been a resilient Lymm defence, allied to the accuracy of their running lines and passing, saw them quickly establish a secure lead. Four tries in maybe 15 minutes soon took them to 10 v 33 ahead.
Lymm had looked ragged in defence, with gaps appearing in a sometimes tatty defensive line, and players too often falling off tackles, or flailing a weak arm at powerful running opponents.
Otley fully deserved their lead, showing the precision in attack that has got them to the top of the table.
To their credit, Lymm stuck to the challenge and towards the end of the game had begun to rediscover some composure. From deep within their own 22 metre line prop Jordan Widdrington gave a deft offload to Yates who made good yards and Lymm had the rare second half experience of playing in Otley territory.
The attack was finished by the startling sight of hefty prop Kurt Riley, sidestepping and dummying his way to the line to score the home side’s third try of the day. This moment of enjoyment for Lymm fans was to be the final act of the game.
The young Lymm side will have learned much from this game, and will also take heart that they matched their illustrious opponents in many facets of the game. The forward pack for instance performed admirably and had moments of dominance, but ultimately the failure in the second half to find a way out of their own half, and the lack of defensive cohesion, meant they could not continue to contain Otley.
TEAM: Riley, Makin, Sherlock, Rasheed, Yates, Bray, Joe Watson, Higginson, Gregor Watson, Leach, Jennings, Stansfield, Pilkington, Riddell, Nolan, Widdrington, Martin, Welton.