1st Team Match Report | Saturday January 18 2020
Lymm topple league leaders
An exciting afternoon was in store at Beechwood as league leaders Billingham were visiting the leafy village, and the question on most lips was could Lymm retain their 100% record of wins on their artificial grass pitch.
Billingham, who had lost at home against Rossendale the previous week, were back to full strength and had beaten Lymm on their AGP at the start of the season by over 40 points. It proved to be an intriguing game on a dry, cold day with a biting cross wind.
Billingham started brightly, with the confidence of league leaders, as they moved the ball to the right from first phase, with a simple but effective backs move and the full back scored wide out on the right. No conversion, 0-5 after 1 min.
Lymm initially struggled to get out of their own half in these early exchanges and when they did so looked rusty, frustratingly knocking the ball on in the visitor’s 22. Eventually Lymm won a penalty 40m out on the right, which Cormac Nolan, back to full back, with the return of Tom Shard at scrum half, slotted beautifully, making it 3-5 after 7 mins.
Billingham meanwhile were willing to run everything and looked most threatening. Their re-set play after each tackle, and speed of reaction both at the breakdown and inter-play was impressive but Lymm adjusted well to this as the game wore on.
The ref, who also was at Wirral the previous week, was a known quantity to the home side and the coaching staff had done their homework, learning what he wanted through the game. This week it was to be Billingham who suffered at his whistle, and one penalty against them was followed by dissent, so he marched them back another 10m. This brought the posts into range on the halfway line which Nolan wonderfully slotted, taking the lead, making it 6-5 after 15mins.
However, two more dropped passes between the 22’s meant Lymm could not extend this promising start. Billingham’s second row then broke through the defensive line and a subsequent penalty gave Billingham the lead, 6-8 after 24mins.
Lymm then received another penalty at an attacking scrum 10m out when Shard was tackled off the ball before he could pick it up. Nolan, who’s eye was well and truly in all afternoon, carried on slotting the penalties making it 9-8 after 27mins. It was ‘ding dong’ as Leslie Phillips might say.
Billingham then had an attacking scrum following a kick to the corner and prop Spoors scores, awarded by Moore, as he trundled over for a try from 8m out, wide on the left. 9-13 after 35mins with the conversion missed.
The re-start did not go 10m and Lymm suddenly found themselves back in their own 22. However, they daringly worked the ball to left winger Alfie Simpson who sprinted up his wing making good yardage. The ball was quickly moved right until 5m out it was adjudged to be knocked forward, before right wing Nathan Beesley scored. This knock forward was apparently not by a Lymm player but the try was disallowed.
Perhaps Lymm had found the best way of taking on such an expressive opposition, which was to run the ball back at them at every opportunity and so it proved, as the half concluded.
The confidence in the Lymm ranks was tangible and growing as centre James Kimber made a bullocking break down the middle, but, with a two-man overlap the last pass was dropped. However, Lymm were encouraged by their running game and another penalty was converted by Nolan after 48mins, making it 12-13.
A high kick into Lymm’s 22 was well taken by Beesley, under severe pressure from the runners and the Lymm back row continued to play a significant defensive role all day. A penalty from Nolan gave Lymm the lead of 15-13 after 54 mins and then came the breakthrough Lymm had been threatening to make.
Billingham were becoming increasing nervous about Lymm’s back play and rightly so. A centre break from a clever pass was adjudged to have gone forward, much to the disappointment of the home crowd, with a certain try in the offing. However, another well worked move facilitated a searing break from centre Steve Pilkington from 35m out, and he had the speed to reach the line, scoring a superb try wide out on the left. 20-13 after 57mins as the conversion was missed.
Lymm’s tails were up and Billingham continued to catch the ref’s eye. Then another penalty from Nolan on 62mins extended the lead to 23-13.
Lymm’s scrum had been solid all afternoon but when Nick Ashton at tighthead prop took the field, solidity turned to domination. This was something of a turning point and added to the belief they could now win the game.
A clash of heads wide out on the left, meant Shard, who had had a superb game, groggily left the field as Nolan went to scrum half and Simpson moved to full back. Billingham are not league leaders for nothing and following an attacking line out, eventually scored a converted try after 76mins, 23-20.
With four minutes remaining Lymm attempted to play a conservative, possession game but came unstuck at the breakdown. The visitors kicked to the corner and had one last chance to steal the match. As the clock ticked down the spectators held their breaths, as Aaron Rashid grappled with the ball in the air at the line out with his opposite number, until, at last, the ref blew for full time, to much delight all round.
What a game and what a win at 23-20, and a much-deserved victory. This may prove to be a turning point in the season for Lymm, who showed they can take on anyone on this home surface, showing both the skill and confidence.
In two weeks Lymm travel to mid-table Rossendale who are also showing good form as the season unfolds. It will take a good team to stop Lymm in their tracks based on the level of play they are now attaining.
“What a win. You have to play well if you are going to beat the league leaders, I thought we were excellent”, commented DoR Adam Fletcher.
“Our energy and attitude was superb and our defence was aggressive. We spoke a lot on how we couldn’t afford their 10 to boss the game, he’s a class player so we wanted to pressure him often.
“We didn’t really fire a shot in the first half but the superb kicking from Cormac Nolan kept us in touch. Our Attack in the second half started to function and I thought we looked like a real threat. Our try was executed really well.
“We will enjoy the win but we know we have to keep improving. Our next two games are away from home at arguably the two most difficult places to play. Confidence is building, so let’s bring them on”.
Next Saturday there are no games for Lymm teams. Next 1stXV game is away at Rossendale on Saturday 1st February.
1) Gav Woods, 2) Adam Bray (C), 3) Harry Ratcliffe, 4) Joe Watson, 5) Aaron Rasheed, 6) Campbell Thomson, 7) James Lewis, 8) Oli Higginson, 9) Tom Shard, 10) Tom Bray, 11) Nathan Beesley, 12) James Kimber, 13) Steve Pilkington, 14) Alfie Simpson, 15) Cormac Nolan, 16) Nick Ashton, 17) James Yates, 18) Josh Hadland.
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