By Simon Plumb Pictures Stuart Watson
LYMM’S strength in depth proved decisive as they overcame Burnage 0-49.
On a cold, dry, cloudy day, with very little wind, Lymm, with nine changes from the week before, visited local adversaries Burnage, playing on one of the original, and now 14 years old, Artificial Grass Pitches in the region. Renowned for encouraging a running game neither side disappointed as they played scorching fast rugby on a firm, well-crumbed pitch, in the middle of winter.
Burnage were immediately out of the blocks, nearly scoring with their adventurous spirit, as they broke through with the first play. However, Lymm, as they did throughout the afternoon, repelled this and many more forays into their own 22. Lymm came back immediately with an attacking lineout on the left, which resulted in right-winger Paddy Jennings diving over in the right-hand corner. Cormac Nolan, full back, superbly converted from the touchline making it 7-0 after 6 mins.
Burnage continued to throw the ball about with gay abandon but Lymm, following a huge kick by fly half Scott Redfern from his own 22 to within 15m of the Burnage line, attacked the opposition’s line out throw. Throw-ins proved a bit flaky all afternoon for the hosts and Lymm also looked in charge at scrum time, heaving the opposition pack back time and again. Following fast hands on the right, second row James Yates, who was everywhere all afternoon, was put away in space and yomped into the right-hand corner from 30m out, taking the score to 14-0 after 16 mins, with Nolan repeating his superb conversion from wideout.
Burnage were unfortunate not to score soon after, with an adjudged forward pass 5m from Lymm’s line. Sustained pressure from Burnage in the 22 was absorbed as Lymm’s defence, once more, held firm. Ollie Higginson, normally No 8 was playing in the centre this day but received a dead leg and was replaced by Tom Shard after 23 mins, for his first-team debut this season.
Burnage, playing with sustained, febrile energy, were having little success against such stern defence. Following an extended driving maul, Lymm made huge territorial inroads and the ball came wide to Nolan. His speculative kick bounced awkwardly for the defending full-back and Sam Wadsworth, looking comfortable at centre, sprinted up and pounced on the indecision to collect the ball, scoring under the posts – 21-0 with Nolan’s simple conversion after 33 mins. Despite Burnage’s continued attacking play there were no more scores as the half came to an end.
If Burnage had any thoughts of a come-back they were shattered following a scintillating break from left-winger Mick Stratford on his debut, who jinked up the middle, to give back row Joe Watson, lively throughout the afternoon, a straightforward try under the posts after 43 mins – 28-0, converted by Shard.
Lymm’s man-and-ball tackling was beginning to wear the opposition down but Redfern, having moved to fullback, was deemed unlucky to be yellow carded for not releasing, having bravely made two excellent tackles in quick succession to save a certain try. By now Lymm’s back division had evolved beyond recognition, as Rhys Lilly moved into the centre from the back row, and Dan Horton came on as front row replacement.
Kieran O’Callaghan, after a lengthy lay-off which included getting married, also replaced Nick Ashton at prop. It was a reflection of Lymm’s strength in depth that they kept their shape in defence and attack, despite all the changes. It was one such attack that captain Adam Bray, now at No 8, drew the last man and put the rapid left winger Stratford away from halfway, to score on the left after 60 mins – 35-0 following Shard’s conversion, with Nolan off due to a groin strain. That month in the health spa had certainly helped Shard get into shape.
There then followed a series of four attempts at scoring tries by the Lymm backs, two of which were successful, and two of which were not. Wadsworth, who had looked sharp all afternoon and deemed Back of the Day by the travelling supporters, was well fed by Shard and he dived over for his second try, suitably converted by Shard after 72 mins – 42-0.
Stratford then broke through twice in succession and, with some very nifty footwork, just failed firstly to ground the ball in play first time, then spilled the ball over the line in the tackle on his second attempt. However, what an asset he will be moving forward.
With much of the final 10 minutes played in the Burnage 22, it was up to Wadsworth to sidestep his way past four would-be tacklers, to brilliantly score the final try, and his hat trick, in the last action of the match. Shard duly converted giving a final score of 49 – 0. Yates, following a barnstorming afternoon, was deemed Player of the Match for Lymm.
Adam Fletcher, head coach summed up his thoughts: “I am really happy with the 5 points. I thought we weren’t quite physically on it in the first half but after halftime we really upped our aggression in defence and started dominating the gain line.
“Nine changes to a side takes some managing but the lads who stepped in played really well. I was so happy to see Dan Horton and Kieran O’Callaghan back on the pitch and what a debut by Mick Stratford on the left-wing!”.
The referee, Mr Kristian Garland, is also to be congratulated because, whilst being equally fair to both sides, used the advantage law to good effect and was hardly noticed in allowing an entertaining game of rugby to take place.
The visiting Lymm contingent received a very warm welcome in Burnage’s clubhouse and were joined by our old chum and local legend Richard Trickey of Sale FC. He clearly wanted to get an injection of grassroots rugby into his veins and could not have been in a better place.
Team: Gav Woods, Adam Bray, Nick Ashton, Aaron Rasheed, James Yates, Rhys lilly, Harry Martin, Joe Watson, Gregor Watson, Scott Redfearn, Mick Statford, Sam Wassworth, Ollie Higginson, Paddy Jennings, Cormac Nolan. Replacements: Kieran O’Callaghan, Dan Horton, Tom Shard.