16/02/24 | Matchday Programme

Lymm RFC v Otley RFC – Saturday 17th February 2024

Author: John Case


Presidents Welcome

As ever, it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome you to Beechwood for our 19th league fixture of the season.

I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to our visitors today, Otley RUFC.

Otley RUFC was founded in 1865 but broke away from Rugby Union in 1900 to become a Rugby League club. Having seen the error of their ways (!) they disbanded in 1906, reformed as a Rugby Union club in 1907 and moved to their current home (Cross Green) in 1921.

Like a number of teams in this league, Otley’s form and league status has waxed and waned over the years and they have played variously since 2007 in National League One, National League Two, North Premier and National League Two North.

Until this season, our most recent encounter with Otley was in the 2021-2022 season when we were both in the North Premier league, when they beat us home and away (34-5 & 15-33) with Otley winning the league that season and Lymm finishing 5th.

There is, of course, a famous connection between Lymm and Otley – on 17 November 1979, a Northern Division side featuring our own Tony Wright (who has given a personal account of the day for today’s programme) was amongst the likes of Bill Beaumont, Steve Smith, Fran Cotton, Roger Uttley, Tony Neary, John Carleton, Tony Bond and Mike Slemen to humble a Test quality New Zealand team, 21-9. The venue for that fixture? Otley. To gauge just how special that victory was, it is worth remembering just how different Rugby Union was in those days. Then, as now, the All Blacks were the living embodiment of invincible power. For a regional side to seriously trouble the New Zealanders, let alone beat them, was almost unthinkable. That game at Otley marked the only defeat New Zealand suffered on their 11-match tour.

And so, to today’s game – when we played Otley on 14 October 2023, it was something of a breathless encounter. Lymm trailed 26-3 inside 18 minutes but after scoring three second half tries in nine minutes, we seemed to have control of the game, leading 31-34. But, and this is something that we have become familiar with this season, we were undone by conceding towards the end of the game – Otley scored two converted tries in a five-minute spell in the final quarter and we lost 45-34.

It is, however, to the enormous credit of this Lymm team that as the season has progressed, we have showed real signs of finding our ‘Level 4 feet’ and that was illustrated last week when we travelled to Sheffield. To put things in context, Sheffield were (and remain) 3rd in the League, we were (and remain) 11th in the League and they had beaten us 26-41 when we played them at home last October. Sheffield had also beaten a very good Wharfedale team 31-14 the week before and were on a 9-match winning run.

Although we lost, 28-24, some have said that this was one of our best performances of the season – our tackling was brilliant throughout, bringing down their forwards time and time again and stopping them at source. In the end Sheffield (by their own admission) were glad to come away with a bonus point win. Their Head Coach said after the game: “Lymm took the game to us and it was a hell of a match. It shows how tough and brilliant this league is. We had to pull something out of the bag” Post-match, Sheffield’s alikadoos were full of praise not just for the Lymm team but also our coaching staff.

Otley will be looking to bounce back from a 0-41 defeat at home to Wharfedale last week but if we carry the performance and belief we showed against Sheffield last week into today’s game, anything is possible!.

Finally, as many of you will have seen, it has been another sad week for Welsh rugby – having lost JPR Williams on 8 January 2024, Barry John left us on 4 February 2024. By the standards of his contemporaries, Barry John’s international career was brief, spanning only 6 years, comprising 25 caps for his country and appearing in five Lions Tests. but it is fair to say that he more than made his mark during that period. At the height of his powers, on the Lions tour in 1971 to New Zealand, he achieved something approaching mythical status and was a major factor in the Lions winning that Test series 2-1, in which he scored 188 points, which remains a record for a Lions tourist. By way of remembrance, it is probably sufficient to say that the All Blacks press on that 1971 tour dubbed him ‘The King’. RIP Barry John.

All that leaves me to say, as usual, is that I wish both teams today the best of luck and look forward to meeting you pitch-side and afterwards in the bar for some warm Lymm hospitality.

Varun Maharaj, President

From Lymm Skipper to beating the All Blacks (in 3 months)!

Tony Wright was Lymm’s captain for the 1978/9 season after which he decided to try his hand playing at the next level up. He joined Sale at the start of the next season and, to no surprise of his former teammates, he made an immediate impact.

Below is Tony’s account of his most famous day at the home of today’s visitors Otley.

Otley 1979, a Personal Memory

Today, we welcome Otley, home to one of the greatest rugby performances by any English team in the last 100 years (So I’m told!!).

If you were to mention the name Otley to any Northern Rugby Union enthusiast of a certain age, many of them would probably respond “is that where The North beat the All Blacks?”  They may not know the date, they may not know the score, but they would know that The North were victorious.

I can tell them the date, the score, the team etc, as I was fortunate to play for the North of England that day against the All Blacks.

Date: 17 November 1979

Score: North of England 21 – 9 New Zealand

I had only moved from Lymm to Sale that season, and at the start of the season I was playing for Sale 2nds.  However, over the next few weeks, I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and, as I have been told on many occasions, I took my opportunities when they arose.

Having gained a place in the Lancashire side for the County Championship, it would appear that the North of England selectors had started to take notice of some of my performances.  A couple of weeks before the North of England’s game against the touring All Blacks, Geoff Green, from the Manchester Evening News, informed me that I was being considered for The North.  To be honest, I didn’t even know at that time that the All Blacks were on tour!

My main aim when I moved to Sale was to get into the Sale 1st team so I had already exceeded my expectations.  But Geoff Green rang me on the Sunday before the All Blacks game and when I picked up the phone all he said was “you’re in”, before giving me the rest of the team.  I could not believe it.

There was only time for two training sessions with the rest of the team during the week before the game. Fortunately, there were 10 players from Lancashire, which made it easier, including all of the back line, apart from Alan Old at stand off.  We met up again on the Friday afternoon in Otley, for what I suppose would now be called the “captain’s run”.

Turning to the day of the game and what a dull, dank, gloomy and overcast day it was, but that didn’t affect the buzz around the hotel as the team met up for breakfast.  There was definitely an air of confidence around the players.  As we arrived at the ground, queues were already beginning to be formed by the spectators, keen to get the best view of the game.  In the dressing room, I was changing next to Fran Cotton, who said to me “Wrighty, if you had to pick one, what would it be, win today, or win the County Championship”.  At that time Lancashire were in the semi-final.  “Oh Fran” I said, “definitely the County Championship”.  Fran replied “wrong answer Wrighty, win today and you’ll make history”.  How right he was.

As kick-off approached, we lined up to watch the All Blacks perform the Haka and I still couldn’t believe I was there and about to play against the greatest ever rugby playing nation.  By the way, the Haka was nothing like the beefed-up, aggressive version which is performed today.  It was more akin to a bunch of Morris Dancers!

There have been numerous reports of the game and I won’t try to describe the action here, as I could not do justice to the game and the outstanding performance of The North team that day.  Extended highlights can still be viewed on Youtube, but the picture quality isn’t that great, especially the final few minutes, when darkness rapidly descends on a joyous Otley crowd.

The spectators that day were magnificent.  The official attendance was 9,999, but judging from the number of people who have said to me since, that they were there on the day, then the attendance must have been nearer 50,000.  A bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift.

You can imagine the celebrations afterwards.  It turned out to be the only game the All Blacks lost on that tour.  To cap a great day, I ended up with captain Graham Mourie’s All Blacks tie, and he ended up with my Lancashire tie.  This happened at the reception after the game, where I was sitting next to Bill Beaumont, who was opposite Graham Mourie.  At the speeches, Mourie presented Bill with his (Mourie’s) All Blacks tie.  Bill, for some reason, said to me, “Wrighty, give us your Lancashire tie so I can present Mourie with something”.  I protested saying “Bill, this is my Lancashire tie”, but he insisted I give it to him.  Then he said “here have this All Blacks tie, I’ll buy you another Lancashire one”, which to be fair to Bill, he did.

The following Saturday, the All Blacks were due to face England at Twickenham.  The story goes that after the Otley game, a group of England selectors were huddled in a corner of the Otley club house, no doubt deliberating on the following week’s selection.  Apparently, a spectator went over to the table, threw his programme on the table and said, “there’s your team for next week”, with a few expletives thrown in for good measure!  Alas, they didn’t take his advice!!

As Fran predicted, it was a day which will always be remembered.  Some 40 years later, a number of newspapers wrote a piece marking the 40th anniversary of the game.  The one I am particularly proud of, appeared in The Rugby Paper on Sunday 17 November 2019.  Part of the article read as follows:-

“There were other fine cameos to note.  In the centre, Sale’s Tony Wright looked to the manor born, one of the North’s best players on the day and not remotely fazed by the Kiwis.  How remarkable that England never looked his way, or perhaps not, given England’s
supreme ability to side-line serious talent at the time”.

What a Day!

A New Centurian

On Saturday, Matty Hand will play his 100th match for Lymm first team.  Given that Matty is still only 24 and has played all these matches in the front row, this is a truly noteworthy achievement.  Indeed, Matty will almost certainly be among the youngest Lymm players to have achieved this mark.

Matty joined Lymm in the 2015/16 season in our Junior Colts squad.  Kerry Anderson, at the time the Head Coach of this age group, reflects “Matty joined as a hard running number eight who was built like a prop.  In common with most teams, we had more back row resources than front row, so over the Colts years we introduced him to the front row.  His strength and pace, complemented with his tremendous ball handling skills, gave us another dimension further strengthening our squad. Over this period, Matty played a major part in our successes, helping us win 7 trophies over 2 seasons.

He was a well-liked team player who fitted into our squad and the wider club fantastically well.  It’s brilliant to see him reach the 100-game milestone and I’m sure he’ll go on to chalk up many, many more.”

Matty played his first match for Lymm first XV on 2nd September 2017, aged 18 and a few days, in a 37-15 victory at Morley.  That season he played in 20 of Lymm’s 26 fixtures, scoring his first try in the 21-7 home victory over Kendal – and what a try!  Those that witnessed it will recall being dumbfounded that a young, tight-head prop could outpace the entire Kendal back line from fully 60m!

In fact, Matty has the knack for the unpredictable – only this season, in the home match against Tynedale, his 20m miss pass to put Paddy Jennings in to score was remarkable…especially for a tight-head prop….something that was still being remarked on by the Tynedale supporters at the return fixture a few weeks ago.

All told, Matty has scored 13 tries in his 99 appearances to date.  What is interesting is that his most prolific season so far is the current one, having scored 5 tries in 17 matches.  Whilst most of these have been from close range, it is clear evidence that he is really enjoying the heightened physicality that playing at National 2 demands.

Congratulations Matty on a tremendous achievement.


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