Lymm 31 – 30 Hull Ionians
1st Team Match Report | Saturday November 4 2023
Lymm prevail in epic tussle
Lymm entertained Hull Ionians at Beechwood on Saturday. Past encounters between the two clubs have been few and far between, with the last of two previous matches having been a 3-0 victory for Hull Ionians in 2000. With Saturday’s prevailing wet conditions, it felt likely that points would be at a premium, and that a match in keeping with the dour 2000 affair would be on the cards. Conversely though, spectators were treated to an epic tussle between two sides who offered up plenty of free-flowing rugby to keep the crowd entertained – in a match that shifted one way then the other, the lead changing hands no less than nine times during the course of the 80 minutes!
Lymm made a couple of changes to the starting XV from last time out at Otley, with 18-year old Ralph McEachran gaining his first start in place of unavailable veteran Gav Woods, and Ben Thompson being promoted from the bench to cover for the injured Josh Hadland. Nick Ashton and Andy Rowley were additions to the bench. With McEachran joining former colts Matty Hand and James Pitcher the average age of the Lymm starting front row was a staggering 22!
In the first stanza of the match, both teams had their opportunity to get on the scoreboard. First, Cal Morris made an outstanding break from halfway, cutting through the Ionians midfield defence, but just couldn’t connect with his support when a try looked certain. Then it was Ionians’ opportunity, as a loose ball was kicked through by winger Tom Winch, who regathered the ball a few metres from the Lymm try line only for valiant scramble defence to prevent the score. However, this had taken play deep into the Lymm 22 and when Lymm offended shortly afterwards, Hull centre Lewis Minikin had a simple opportunity to put the Yorkshiremen in front. 0-3 after 8 minutes.
Lymm secured the ball from the restart and then followed 5 minutes of Lymm pressure in the Ionians 22. A couple of attacking lineouts were well defended by Hull, so when the ball came back to Tom Shard 22m out directly in front of the posts, he couldn’t resist the temptation to add to his season’s drop goal tally. 3-3 after 13 minutes.
After another period of Lymm pressure, Hull were able to gain momentum of their own, taking play into the Lymm half where, on being awarded a penalty 40m out and 20m to the left of the posts, they elected to have a shot at goal. When the kick sailed between the posts from distance it was clear that Minikin had brought his kicking boots with him! 3-6 after 21 minutes.
Lymm then came straight back onto the attack but, unfortunately, lost captain James Yates to a serious looking calf injury. It was immediately clear though that this set back hadn’t dented Lymm’s attacking resolve in the least. From within their own half, Lymm moved the ball from the left to Shard who put a teasing kick over the top of the Ionians defensive line. The second bounce of the ball was gratefully accepted by Ste Pilkington who found Rhys Lilly supporting on his inside. The Lymm forward took play into the Hull 22 where he expertly drew the last defender, passing to Shard on his inside, the Lymm fly-half strolling in from 20 metres to score under the posts, before converting his own try. 10-6 after 25 minutes.
Rhys Lilly on the charge in the lead up to Lymm’s first try
Tom Shard makes no mistake in scoring Lymm’s opening try
The lead didn’t last long though as straight back came Ionians. The genesis of their converted try was a powerful rolling maul which took play deep into the Lymm 22, with hooker Ally Forth claiming the score. 10-13 after 28 minutes.
Now it was Lymm’s turn. A series of penalties took Lymm into their opponent’s 22 and from a solid lineout, forward drives took Lymm to within inches of the try line before prop-forward Hand was able to reach out and score an unconverted try. 15-13 after 33 minutes.
Matty Hand stretching out to score Lymm’s second
As the half was coming to a close Hull were awarded a penalty, well with the range of the dependable Minikin, who obliged. So putting Ionians’ noses in front at oranges – time for the players to have a well-deserved rest and the spectators to catch their breath.
Half Time: LYMM 15 – 16 HULL IONIANS
A new half – but no change in the tempo. Lymm were quickly out of the blocks full of intent and 3 minutes into the half were back in front. From a half-break by Jack Reynolds, Sean Callender ran an outstanding line to take play deep into Ionians’ 22. From a subsequent scrum Lymm drove the ball forward through several phases, before moving play wide towards the left wing where Harry Martin was on hand to score in the corner, for an unconverted try. 20-16 after 44 minutes.
Harry Martin scooting over for Lymm’s third try
Ionians then bucked the pattern of the “tit-for-tat” scoring that had been evident thus far, registering two converted tries in relatively quick succession. The first was scored by flanker Lucas Powell and the second by replacement forward Frankie Gascoigne, both from close range. 20-30 after 58 minutes.
With around 20 minutes left Lymm were now 10 points down and the momentum was squarely with Ionians – from here it certainly looked a tough ask. But Lymm were up to it! Displaying composure, focus and resolve Lymm stuck to their plans. They maintained their attacking intent, whilst winning the collisions in both attack and defence to continue to pressurise Ionians. The play was now much more in the Yorkshiremen’s territory – such that when they offended on 60 and 66 minutes, Shard was able to easily convert the penalties. 26-30 after 66 minutes.
Lymm were now certainly in the ascendency and winning regular penalties to keep Ionians on the defensive. A bullocking run by James Kimber, who had taken over the captaincy from Yates, took play to within the Hull 22; then Morris crossed the try line, only to be brought back for a Lymm penalty. From the resultant attacking line-out, Lymm executed a perfect front-peel with Lilly powering into the 5m corridor before offloading to Pitcher to score on his 50th appearance. Whilst the difficult conversion was missed, Lymm again had their noses in front. 31-30 after 77 minutes.
James Kimber setting up field position ahead of Lymm’s 4th try
James Pitcher scoring Lymm’s match winning try
Those who had watched Lymm regularly this season, knew that anything could happen in the remaining 3 minutes. And when Ionians got their hands on the ball from the restart, the nerves began to jangle – but outstanding defence dislodged the ball and Lymm played out the final seconds without any further drama before the referee drew proceedings to a close.
Full Time: LYMM 31 – 30 HULL IONIANS
Director of Rugby Adam Fletcher, commented:
“It was another nail biter! I thought we thoroughly deserved the win. Our discipline and defence were brilliant, and our attack shape caused Hull Ionians problems throughout.
To come back from 10 points down with around 20 minutes to go was outstanding. I loved the way we were able to close out the game.
We are a very happy and proud coaching team.
It was also great to see the 2s get a much-needed win. I managed to see parts of the game and it looked like the boys had to work really hard to edge the match. A big shout out to James Anderson for scoring 26 points.”
Squad: Ralph McEachran (2); James Pitcher* (50); Matty Hand* (89); James Yates* (c) (107); Ben Thompson (15); Sean Callender (8); Harry Martin (38); Rhys Lilly* (39); Callum Morris (21); Tom Shard* (118); Paddy Jennings* (34); Ste Pilkington* (49); James Kimber* (93); Andy Williams* (7); Jack Reynolds (8). Bench – Nick Ashton (112); Alex Stewart* (9); Joe Johnson* (7); Jack Stride (5); Andy Rowley (67).
( ) = number of Lymm First XV League appearances
* Former Lymm Academy/M&J player
Referee: George Ounsley
Assistant Referees: Tim Brown and Steve Halliday
Match Report: Andy Leach