Injuries and weather conspire to thwart Lymm

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by Andy Leach

WHILE there was no Storm Arwen the weather was equally inhospitable as injury-hit Lymm went down 15-10 at Blackburn.

With a fierce wind blowing the length of the pitch and persistent rain, this was clearly not going to be an easy afternoon for either team. Once again Lymm were fielding a squad with a raft of changes from the previous week. The six changes in personnel to the starting XV included on the wings, where Nathan Beesley was a welcome sight making his first appearance of the season and Ben Harper’s debut made him the 40th player called on by Lymm so far this season. There was also one key positional change with Captain Ben Stansfield shuffling across from his usual inside centre position to fill the fly-half berth.

Blackburn won the toss and, unsurprisingly, elected to play with the conditions at their backs. Straight from the kick-off a seemingly excellent kick by Cormac Nolan was caught on the wind, drifting inches out to give ‘Burn a scrum on halfway from which to make inroads into Lymm territory. As has often been the case, Lymm seemed to have upset the referee from the go, and after being penalised three times in the first 3 minutes were soon on the defensive in their own 22. The Lymm defence initially stood up well to the test with, in particular, Ed Morris and Johnny Leota making some telling tackles. Lymm were able to force a couple of turnovers but exiting their 22 in such telling conditions was proving a real challenge. By the 12-minute mark the penalty count against had grown to 6 and, inevitably, the defensive dam finally burst with a Blackburn forward forcing himself over just in from the left-hand touchline. An excellent conversion in the conditions took the score to 7-0.

Lymm did then manage to get their hands on the ball and on 20 minutes, had their best chance of the first half when Leota broke through the first line of ‘Burn defenders to power over the halfway line before feeding the supporting Nolan who, in turn, put Beesley into space on the right flank. However, the cover defence was up to the task and the Lymm winger was forced into touch about 15m short of the try line. Another promising break around the ruck by Morris took Lymm well into their opponents 22 but the inevitable handing errors or lack of precision, not helped by the conditions, snuffed out the initial promise of this attack. Lymm then lost prop Jordan Widdrington to a leg injury and on 25 minutes, the skies darkened and the rain turned to hail – nice!

If Blackburn’s first score seemed the inevitable consequence of a sustained period of attrition, their next score on 27 minutes was, in sharp contrast, somewhat out of the blue. On a day when territory gains tended to be measured in feet and inches, from a seemingly innocuous position on the halfway line, ‘Burn moved the ball wide through their backs with a slickness that created a foot of space on the outside for their left winger who, showing his pace, managed to outstrip the cover defence to score in the corner. This time though, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful. 12-0. This ended the scoring for the half and heading to the warmth of the dry changing room, Lymm must have felt that, in the conditions, this was not a bad outcome at all.

However, as the teams re-emerged for the second half, Lymm must have felt they had emerged into a parallel universe, as the rain had stopped and the wind had dropped considerably and, if anything, was now blowing more across the pitch than from end to end. In the first 5 minutes of the resumption Lymm suffered two considerable blows, as both Beesley (leg) and Stansfield (head) were forced to leave the field. Lymm emptied the replacement bench and reshuffled their backline with Leota moving to fly-half, Number 8, Oli Higginson, taking up a position at inside centre and flanker Rhys Lilley, covering on the right wing. Whilst this unfamiliar backline clearly limited Lymm’s options, they matched Blackburn and the next period was effectively one of stalemate with neither side really threatening the other’s 22. On 64 minutes, ‘Burn were awarded a penalty 35m out from the Lymm line, slightly to the right of the posts. In confirmation of how much the conditions had changed from one half to the other, Blackburn elected to go for the posts – something that would have been considered absolute madness in the first half. The kick was successful. 15-0

Lymm now started to build some momentum and made regular visits to their opponents 22, without being able to make the final decisive break. However, in similar fashion to Blackburn’s first try, the attrition finally took its toll on the Blackburn defensive efforts and on 74 minutes, Kurt Riley powered the last couple of yards to score, Nolan converting from 15m to the right of the posts. 15-7.

Lymm, now had their tails up and were, once again, camped in the Blackburn 22. As the clock moved into red, Lymm were awarded a penalty on virtually the same spot as Nolan’s recent successful conversion. The kick bisected the uprights, securing Lymm a losing bonus point – which was no less than they deserved – in the process as Lymm went down 15-10.

After the match Director of Rugby, Adam Fletcher, commented: “Another tough loss where the elements played a big part in the result. I thought the boys’ attitude was outstanding, especially in the coldest of conditions.

“The first half was tough, as the weather was at its worst with Blackburn having the majority of possession and territory. Given this, I was happy with only being 12 points down at the break.

“2nd half conditions did improve but our luck didn’t. We lost two backs in Ben and Nathan within minutes of each other, which had a big impact on our shape and structure. We still had opportunities to score earlier than we did, but our accuracy just wasn’t quite there. We did finish extremely strongly and worked hard to come away with a point. “The pie, peas and a welcoming warm clubhouse was much needed!”

Next Saturday 11th December, Lymm are at home to York. KO 2.15pm.

Team:
1) Kurt Riley, 2) Adam Bray, 3) Jordan Widdrington, 4) James Yates, 5) Aaron Rasheed, 6) Rhys Lilley, 7), Ed Morris, 8) Oli Higginson, 9) Gregor Watson, 10) Ben Stansfield (C), 11) Ben Harper, 12) Johnny Leota, 13) Steve Pilkington, 14) Nathan Beesley, 15) Cormac Nolan, 16) Nick Ashton, 17) Sean Boyce, 18) Rob Makin.

In the NOWIRUL Cotton Traders Premier League, Lymm 2nd XV were awarded the league points. as their opponents Blackburn 2nd XV conceded the game.

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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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