Lymm 29 – 14 Sandbach
1st Team Match Report | Saturday February 4 2023
2nd half blitz sees Lymm reach summit
Lymm hosted Sandbach at a wet and windy Crouchley Lane coming off the back of three successive 70+ point victories. The visitors from South Cheshire sit 3rd in the league and would surely provide much sterner opposition than recent weeks. Lymm’s squad bore 5 changes from the previous week; Saxton-Martin, Nolan, Watson and two club returnees, James Sherlock and Andrew Rowley, made their way into the match day 18 as Shard, Rooney, Williams, Dowdswell and Ashton dropped out.
At number 8, Oli Higginson was making his 251st league appearance for Lymm and it would be remiss to not add a few superlatives about a great teammate and friend. A ‘freak’ in the very best sense of the word; a one-man lineout; a powerful and elusive ball carrier with incredible hands and offloading skills, Higgo has been a towering presence in the Lymm 1st team for nearly 16 seasons and deserves all plaudits for a fantastic achievement. One of the very best to ever play in a Lymm shirt.
Hooker Rob Makin with Oli Higginson in Support
With a strong wind blowing a rain shower across the pitch, the 1st half opened cagily with neither side gaining much in terms of territory or superiority. After 5 minutes, there was a lengthy delay to attend to long-time Bach number 8 Jack Seddon who appeared to suffer a serious ankle injury after a lineout. Best wishes to him on his recovery. The opening quarter was tight, physical and somewhat disjointed as neither side established much in terms of control – Bach looking to use their powerful maul and scrummage whilst Lymm defended resolutely. Both teams, despite fielding two of the best kickers in the league in Cormac Nolan and James Preston, surprisingly missed relatively easy penalties to keep the game locked at 0-0. After 20 minutes, the deadlock was broken.
Directly from a solid scrum on halfway, Bach winger Grout made a break clean up the middle of the pitch and streaked to try line only to be felled by a superb cover tackle by Paddy Jennings which appeared to have stopped a certain try. The referee, however, deemed the challenge to be illegal and awarded a penalty try and yellow card to the disbelieving Lymm winger. Lymm 0 Sandbach 7. Lymm responded positively and gained their first real territory of the match, including several 5 metre lineouts, but could not break down a resolute Bach defence. Half an hour in, the game remained an abrasive and cagey affair with little in the way of chances or flow.
James Kimber with Ben Simpson in Support
The final 10 minutes of the half saw Bach begin to dominate territory; a combination of their own astute tactical kicking and mauling and Lymm’s own catch-pass errors which prevented them from getting any foothold in the game or unleashing their powerful, multi-phase attack. With 5 minutes remaining, Sandbach doubled their lead with scrum half Essenhigh finishing from 5m after a quick tap penalty from a collapsed maul. Lymm 0 Sandbach 14 with the visitors very much in the ascendancy. Just before half time, Bach’s scrum forced another penalty and round of red zone defence from Lymm but could not add to the score.
Half time – Lymm 0 Sandbach 14 with the visitors’ good value for their lead.
A first half to forget for the watching Lymm faithful with little of the fluent, high tempo attacking rugby that has become their hallmark. The 2nd half, however, was a different story. It began almost immediately; Lymm captain James Yates, a relentless, rampaging presence all game, charging down an attempted box kick, regathering and scrambling over himself. Lymm 5 Sandbach 14 and with that the comeback was on.
Skipper James Yates, a Relentless Presence all Game
Lymm, far brighter and more accurate after half time, immediately began to pile on the pressure. Several promising attacks, including a lovely back peel from a lineout with scrum half Cal Morris thundering onto the carry, were thwarted until the Lymm scrum, much improved after the half time introduction of James Sherlock, forced a 5 metre penalty. Higginson tapped quickly to himself and smashed over, Nolan converting. Lymm 12 Sandbach 14 and the momentum had well and truly swung ten minutes after half time.
Oli Higginson crosses for 2nd Lymm Try
Fifteen minutes into the 2nd half and Lymm continued to ascend. Another dominant scrum forced a penalty and from the resulting lineout drive Rob Makin was stopped just short. A further Bach offence saw Lymm tap and go and batter multiple phases at the Sandbach line who held firm. As is often the case though, momentum was again to swing briefly back Bach’s way. A wobbly wide pass was picked off and intercepted by Bach fly half Nick Allsop who travelled 60m before being run down by Nolan. Bach recycled and, although the Lymm scramble defence recovered and prevented a try, Cal Morris was sin binned for side entry at the breakdown (not horrid chat as some had suggested or ‘being too good looking’ as the man himself reported.) In a blink, Lymm had lost 90m territory and were now down to 14.
Having gone from one try line to the other, Lymm looked set for another defensive effort. The ensuing lineout however was poorly thrown and Lymm regained possession, exited their own territory and soon struck again. From a creaky scrum on half way, Jennings carried hard up the middle, Ben Simpson, now at scrum half in the absence of Morris, darted left and attempted a grubber kick which, half charged down, ricocheted fortuitously in the path of the onrushing Higginson who scooped, drew the full back and passed to Harry Martin to score under the posts for a simple Nolan conversion. Lymm 19 Sandbach 14 and Lymm into a lead they were not to relinquish.
Flanker Harry Martin scores Lymm 3rd Try
Ten minutes remained and the next score was critical. It went to Lymm and was a microcosm of their flowing best. Rhys Lilly, whose work rate and impact was immense all day, fielded the kick off, carried hard and forced Bach into giving away a penalty which Lymm kicked to half way. From there, they struck – a classic Andrew Davies three-phase move. A Higginson lineout take was punched up in midfield by Jennings and the ball was worked back blind to Yates who passed out the back to Scott Redfern sweeping round. Redfern found Higginson who drew the last man and put the flying Rowley away down the right edge. Just scragged by the cover, Rowley offloaded inside to hooker Makin in support who carried, drew the full back and passed to the supporting Simpson who appeared to have a run in from the 22. A fantastic, last-ditch cover tackle pulled him down just short but he intelligently offloaded from the floor to Redfern who, fighting through the contact, reached out and crashed over. The move and score of the game with Nolan adding the extras – Lymm 26 Sandbach 14.
Bonus Point Try, Scott Redfern scores to complete the Try of the Game
The remainder of the match saw Bach desperately playing from deeper and deeper in their own half with Lymm content to defend with their customary line speed and organisation; Joe Watson, a destructive cameo from the bench, Sam Dickenson and Morris were all prominent. The ferocity of the defence forced a penalty, converted from 40m by Nolan to take their tally to 29 unanswered second-half points and put the game completely away. Full time – Lymm 29 Sandbach 14.
A blistering 2nd half display to seize all 5 points and move Lymm, albeit with one more game played, ahead of Blackburn to 1st in the league. For Lymm, the aforementioned Yates, Higginson and Lilly were all outstanding and the centre combination of Redfern and Kimber were powerfully, classy and composed throughout.
DOR Adam Fletcher commented after “The boys showed a lot of character and fight in the 2nd half to get the 5 points. Sandbach flew out of the blocks and were really physical. We definitely struggled deal to with it and they deserved their halftime lead. We lacked accuracy and urgency in the 1st half. In the 2nd, we were a different team. Every part of our game improved and, as a result, we scored 29 unanswered points. So happy and proud to get the win against a good Sandbach team.”
Next week, Lymm host familiar foes Wirral at Crouchley Lane. KO 3pm, with the chance to complete another double over a local rival.
Team: 1. Ben Thompson (6), 2. Rob Makin* (42), 3. Samir Taharoui (6), 4. Sam Dickenson* (11), James Yates* [Capt] (92), 6. Rhys Lilly* (25), 7. Harry Saxton-Martin (25), 8. Oli Higginson* (251), 9. Cal Morris (9), 10. Ben Simpson* (12), 11. Paddy Jennings* (22), 12. Scott Redfern (103), 13. James Kimber* (81), 14. Andy Rowley* (63), 15. Cormac Nolan* (205), 16 James Sherlock* (9), 17. Joe Watson (97), 18. Ali Sutherland (76).
( ) = number of Lymm First XV League appearances
* Former Lymm Colt’s Academy/M&J player
A big thank you to our Referee, Mr Adam Tweddle, North Federation Referees Group.
Match Report: Adam Bray
Match Photos: Stuart Watson & Tim Martin