Lymm lose out to Billingham in a game of two halves

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by David Fernyhough

LYMM lost out 13-24 in a game of two halves to third-placed Billingham who had bravely crossed the Pennines through the stormy conditions.

It was cold. It was really, really cold. A cruel icy storm was blowing in from the north-west, chilling the supporters and at time baffling the players.

Lymm had a late change to their squad with Aaron Rasheed standing down due to a back injury, Matty Connelly taking his place in the 2nd row. Two debut call ups were on the bench, Sean Boyce and the former Sale Sharks and Samoan international centre, Johnny Leota.

“Bill” kicked off, with the wind in their favour. From the back of the ensuing ruck, Lymm box kicked. The ball travelled forward briefly before being flung back by the wind to within 10m of their try line. Lymm tidied up and then box kicked again…same result. Lymm then decided not to box kick any more.

For most of the next chunk of the game, the wind kept Lymm pinned 15m in their own half, with their fierce defence keeping the visitors 35m from Lymm’s tryline. This stalemate was broken when Billingham’s swift number 12, Luke Wilson, hit a fine line through Lymm’s defence and passed out of the tackle for Scrum Half, Connor Foley to score beside the posts. Job Roxby added the extras, 0 – 7.

From the restart Lymm built sustained pressure inside Bill territory. Fly half Scott Redfern was looking assured in the conditions, whilst the less hirsute members of the Lymm pack, Woods, Yates and Watson were bashing their way over the gain line. Lymm were awarded a trio of penalties which they kicked to the corner for line outs. The line outs were outstanding, with Adam Bray mastering the wind, and the work being done in training showing dividends. However they were unable to cross the line, but did kick two penalties in front of the posts, courtesy of Cormac Nolan, 6 – 7.

The Lymm scrum was also on top and putting the visitors under great pressure. Oli Higginson was his usual self, making breaks from number 8, and off-loading in audacious style to the keen outside backs. However slightly miss timed passes and frozen hands knocking-on prevented Lymm adding to their score. Billingham were making their own attempts but Lymm were too strong defensively and their vaunted back line could not manage to express itself.

So, as the half-time whistle blew, with Lymm just one point behind at 6 – 7, hopes were high in the home camp. Whilst the visitors realised that they had not capitalised on the elements and now had to face a buoyant Lymm with the wind at their backs. However, the half ended in acrimony. A Billingham attack had been pushed into touch bang on the half-time whistle. A bit of a scuffle occurred and then the referee showed the red card to Lymm flanker Matty Connelly. Not many onlookers shared the referee’s perspective on events, but the damage was done.

The crowd after half time seemed to have thinned. The risk of frostbite and exposure had persuaded some to seek the warmth of the club house and a hot toddy.

In the second half Billingham enjoyed playing with an extra man, and they were adept at finding the spaces out wide. As a result the Lymm defence found themselves very much on the back foot and the visitors were quick to add to their tally. Firstly from a Roxby penalty; then next an excellent 50/22 kick gave them lineout possession on Lymm’s 5m line, which was moved in field and then very efficiently mauled over for a score by 2nd row Ben Walton. Roxby converting, 6 – 17.

Lymm had pockets of possession, with breaks coming from Yates, who was held just short of the line but they were also amassing penalties aplenty. The introduction of Leota gave Lymm another direct runner, but gaps were now appearing defensively, as the visitors extra man took its toll. Bill were gifted an opportunity as a sizeable space appeared in the centre of the Lymm line. They capitalised on this and trotted in for another try by flanker Anthony Jackson with 67mins on the clock, converted by Roxby which took the score to 6 – 24. The home supporters were now in frozen shock at the change in fortunes from the 1st half.

As the final whistle neared, a Lymm scrum near the visitors goal line was turned over but Redfern was on hand to intercept the Bill pass and score a hope inducing try, which

he converted 24 – 13. But the chance of a losing bonus point converted try slipped away as the last few minutes ticked by.

On the final whistle Billingham were deserved victors, but Lymm were better value than the score might suggest. They do however need to drastically reduce the penalty count against them and more disciplined game management is needed.

‘The Red card obviously had a big impact on the outcome of the game but it wasn’t the only reason we lost the game.’ Commented DoR Adam Fletcher

‘We played some great rugby in the 1st half but being critical I actually think we let them off the hook by 7-10pts. Billingham kept hold of the ball very well in the 2nd half and used the extra man they had to their advantage.

‘Billingham were clinical, they put away each chance they created. I’m happy that we are creating chances but to win these close matches we have to start converting line breaks and pressure into points.’

Next Saturday, Lymm travel to play Blackburn, who are in excellent form, in what will be a tough encounter for Lymm.

Team: 1. Gav Woods, 2. Adam Bray, 3. Kurt Riley, 4. Matty Connelly, 5. James Yates, 6. Ed Morris, 7. Joe Watson, 8. Oli Higginson, 9. Gregor Watson, 10. Scott Redfern. 11. Harry Martin. 12. Ben Stansfield (C), 13. Steve Pilkington, 14. Rory Riddell, 15. Cormac Nolan, 16. Jordan Widdrington, 17. Sean Boyce, 18. Johnny Leota.

Referee: Mr Patrick Wheeler – Yorkshire & RFU North Panel.

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About Author

Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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