Outstanding defence wins the day for Lymm

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by Andy Leach

AN outstanding defensive performance saw Lymm secure a hard-earned win 9-15 at Wirral.

Following a 4-week break, the first match of 2022 was always going to be a tough encounter, especially when it involved a visit to local rivals Wirral, who boast a particularly strong home record.

The dreadful weather of the morning of the match suggested this was unlikely to be a free-flowing, expansive match and did at least cast some doubt as to whether the match would go ahead. However, the 100 tonnes of sand that Wirral had applied to their pitches over the Christmas break and a cessation of the heavy rain as we moved towards kick-off meant that the pitch was actually in remarkably good condition and playing conditions, other than a strong wind blowing down the pitch, perfectly acceptable.

Again, Lymm shuffled their squad with, particularly, prop and top try scorer Kurt Riley and experienced centre Johnny Leota both unavailable. The most notable change to the starting XV was the inclusion of Sam Wadsworth, hitherto having been selected on the wing, in the centre alongside Steve Pilkington – so forming yet another Lymm starting centre partnership.

Lymm won the toss and, unsurprisingly, elected to play with the strong wind at their backs. Following some initial exchanges, Lymm were awarded a penalty on halfway following a breakdown infringement, from which flyhalf Scott Redfern used the wind exceptionally well to secure a Lymm lineout 7m from the Wirral try line. Whilst Lymm’s first catch and drive didn’t quite make it to the try line, the referee had spotted an offence by the home side which allowed Lymm a second opportunity. This time, having secured the ball Oli Higginson took it powerfully into the 5m channel and used his long arms to score. The conversion attempt by Cormac Nolan from the touchline failed but Lymm had started well and after 5 minutes were ahead 5-0.

Wirral then won the ball from the kick-off and in the subsequent phases of play Lymm’s Ed Morris was penalised and then rather harshly yellow-carded for a high tackle. With the man advantage, it was Wirral’s turn to exert pressure on the Lymm defence which was now missing one of its strongest contributors. However, the green, black and white line remained firm setting the tone for the afternoon. In this period, it looked odds on that, following a long miss-pass, the Wirral winger would score in the right-hand corner but an outstanding cover tackle by Joe Senior bundled him into touch just before he was able to ground the ball.

It was on 16 minutes, whilst still a man down, that Lymm extended their lead. A line out on halfway was secured and the ball moved infield through several strong carries. Scrum-half Watson then moved the ball back to the right-hand side where Lymm were able to create an overlap allowing Aaron Rasheed to stretch his legs and gallop in from 22m. This time Nolan’s conversion was successful. 12-0

From the restart, a Wirral attack was disrupted on half-way and the loose ball kicked through by Higginson. As he continued his footwork, he was impeded illegally by a Wirral defender about 5m from the try line. Whilst the referee issued a yellow card to the offending Wirral player, he judged that it had not been a clear try scoring opportunity awarding Lymm a penalty, rather than a penalty try. From the resultant lineout, Lymm’s forwards built another impressive drive to cross the Wirral line – however, the referee was unable to confirm the grounding. So, unfortunately for Lymm, two excellent opportunities in quick succession to add to their try tally had both come to nothing.

On 36 minutes, Nolan missed a penalty attempt from 35m, but Wirral put the subsequent 22m restart directly into touch. From the resultant scrum Lymm put in a clever kick behind

the Wirral backline which the speedy Nathan Beesley was agonisingly inches away from touching down before it rolled over the dead ball line. However, with the final kick of the half, Nolan slotted over a penalty from 22m to increase Lymm’s lead further. As the teams left for the changing rooms the question on the spectators’ lips was whether a 15-point half-time lead in the conditions would be sufficient….

Half Time: WIRRAL 0 – 15 LYMM.

The second half quickly settled into a pattern of Lymm being regularly being penalised and Wirral either using the wind to take play well into the Lymm 22 or taking the three points on offer. When Wirral did get into their 22, Lymm were aggressive in defence, effecting turnovers at crucial times and often disrupting the Wirral lineout. However, Wirral were able to erode the Lymm lead to 9 points with successful penalties on 45 and 55 minutes.

Shortly after this Wirral had their best chance of the half to score a try. Following an excellently timed break through midfield, one of their forwards fed the ball to a supporting winger who, for all money seemed to have a clear 25m run to the try line. However, full-back Nolan put in an outstanding cover tackle to save the situation. Wirral added a 3rd penalty on 63 minutes, to bring the teams within one score of each other. 15-9

As the game progressed, play became much more frenetic and open with both sides having scoring opportunities. Wadsworth used his power and pace to make an outstanding break from within his own 22, linking with Higginson in the 5m channel who took play into the Wirral 22 before combining with the supporting Adam Bray. Some more offloading and Lymm were within 5m of the Wirral line before a handling error allowed Wirral the opportunity to clear their lines. A short while later Bray though he had scored only for the referee to have adjudged that he had done so from an offside position.

As the sand in the hourglass ran out, Lymm were camped in their opponent’s 22, Wirral then electing to put the ball into touch to bring proceedings to a halt and preserve their losing bonus point. So, a hard-fought and pleasing victory for Lymm especially in keeping Wirral tryless at home for the first time this season. Whilst Lymm’s defence had been outstanding throughout the specific try-saving tackles of Senior and Nolan were especially worthy of note

After the match Head Coach, Andy Davies, commented: “I thought the first-half performance was brilliant. We did have the wind behind us but utilised the perfect mix of playing and kicking. The second half was always going to be tough playing into the wind and fatigue did creep in leading to errors and indiscipline.

“Ultimately our first-half performance won us the game and it’s nice to start the new year with a victory, especially at such a difficult place to win.”

1) Gav Woods(c), 2) Adam Bray, 3) Nick Ashton, 4) James Yates, 5) Aaron Rasheed, 6) Josh Hadland, 7), Ed Morris, 8) Oli Higginson, 9) Gregor Watson, 10) Scott Redfearn, 11) Joe Senior, 12) Sam Wadsworth, 13) Steve Pilkington, 14) Nathan Beesley, 15) Cormac Nolan, 16) Jordan Widdrington, 17) James Pitcher, 18) Liam Connolly.

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