Lymm 46 – 22 Preston Grasshoppers
1st Team Match Report | Saturday December 2 2023
Christmas comes early for Lymm as Santa Shardy delivers a festive haul
Lymm welcomed Preston Grasshoppers (PGH) to Beechwood for one of the few, if not only, games to survive the weather at the weekend. Recent history between the two sides and current league positions suggested this would be a close affair. The reality was very different, with Lymm dominating the game from start to finish to record a well-deserved and much-needed victory.
The Lymm team sheet saw various changes from the previous week. Josh Hadland was an absentee, which saw Rob Makin make a welcome return to the Lymm ranks on the bench. Jack Reynolds returned from injury and Nathan Beesley made his first start of the season, assuming the captain’s armband from the still absent James Yates.
Lymm started with the icy breeze in their favour and faced up to the PGH kick off. Before the large crowd had a chance to take their positions, young Lymm prop Ralph McEachran, had juggled and caught the kick, sold an outrageous dummy and sprinted from half-way to score under the post, all without a hand being laid on him – all in a day’s work for the modern day prop. Stand-off Tom Shard added the extras, which was to be the first of his almost perfect day from the kicking tee, 7-0 to Lymm with barely a minute on the clock.
Lymm were now dominating proceedings, with scrum-half Callum Morris using the breeze to kick and pin PGH down in their own half. A penalty soon followed the pressure, and Shard obliged from the tee, to make it 10-0. On 15 minutes with the ubiquitous Shard now moved to scrum-half, he was able to take advantage of a mix up at the base of the PGH scrum to intercept and wander over unopposed for the second try, 15-0 to Lymm and PGH had yet to fire a shot.
Credit must go to the Lymm coaching team who constantly switched Shard and Morris throughout the game, enabling Morris the freedom to defend from the back-field and return any PGH kicks with interest. PGH eventually woke up and Lymm found themselves on the end of several penalties from the excellent referee Jack Moorhouse, the final one resulted in a PGH line-out. The subsequent catch and drive was well executed and PGH crossed the line to make it 15-5.
After a more equal period, Lymm were sparked back into life by a break from flanker Harry Martin. The Lymm back row of Martin, Sean Callender and Rhys Lilly were excellent all afternoon giving PGH no respite all over the field. A flowing move eventually saw Nathan Beesley one-on-one with his opposite wing, and in the blink of an eye Beesley was past him and over in the corner. Shard added the extras from the touchline to take the score to 22-5 after 25 minutes. Soon after Lymm went over again for the bonus point score, forwards and backs combining well to deliver another walk over for that man Shard, who of course converted his own score to make it 29-5.
PGH ended the half camped on the Lymm line but the home side defence stood firm to see the half out and go into the half-time huddle with a 29-5 lead. All the talk at half-time was about how even Lymm could not let this lead slip?
Half-time: Lymm 29-5 Preston Grasshoppers
PGH now had the wind in their favour and following an audible and robust half-time dressing down the game was far from over. The half started scrappily as the biting cold meant the play from both sides became somewhat error strewn. On 50-minutes PGH struck the first blow of the half, going over from close-quarters to make it 29-12. At this point the PGH scrum-half was growing increasingly influential, and stirrings of a comeback were in the offing. This seemed to wake Lymm up and any comeback notion was immediately stubbed out as Centre Steve Pilkington benefitted from a charge-down to go over and, following the inevitable Shard conversion, the lead was stretched back to 36-12.
Along with the back row, Pilkington and James Kimber in the Centre’s, were relentless all afternoon hunting PGH down and putting in a mighty defensive shift. On 60-minutes and after good interplay PGH crossed in the corner to make it 36-17, but as before, Lymm responded almost immediately with Pilkington bullocking his way over, swatting off PGH defenders in his wake to score his second of the match, Shard added the extras and the score moved out to 43-17. To settle any lingering nerves Shard then slotted a penalty in front of the posts and at 46-17 Lymm were home and hosed with Shard bagging a 26 point haul.
Whilst any notion of PGH comeback was now over, the away team did not relent, in a much improved second-half performance, they recorded the last score, with an almost carbon copy of Lymm’s first, this time the PGH Centre caught the kick-off and went over unopposed to give the away team a bonus point.
Full Time: Lymm 46-22 Preston Grasshoppers
The referee’s final whistle saw everyone gleefully and speedily retire to the sanctuary of the warm clubhouse. Both sets of players should be congratulated for putting on a great show of rugby in the freezing conditions. In terms of Lymm this was a complete 80-minute performance with all 20 players putting in a great shift and finally getting the points the performance deserved. With other teams not playing, the five-points have moved Lymm up the table.
Next up, Lymm face old friends and foes Billingham away in what is always a close affair. Lymm will be hoping for a similar performance and result to maintain the upward trajectory.
Director of Rugby Adam Fletcher was in a confident mood after the game, ‘The task we set the lads this week was to start and end fast. The last few games we have seen teams come back at us in the last 20 minutes. It was really pleasing to see a positive impact from the bench and the boys take the game away from Hoppers.
‘Ralph gave us the perfect start, it was great to see him at full tilt and finish the try from 50m out.
‘I thought all the squad played well and positively impacted on the game. We are in good spirits and looking forward to the match Vs Billingham. Hopefully it will be a repeat result of the last time we went over to the North East.’
Team: 1. Ralph McEachran (6), 2. James Pitcher* (54),3. Matty Hand,* (93) 4. Ben Thompson (18), 5. Gav Woods (118), 6. Sean Callender (12), 7. Harry Martin (41), 8. Rhys Lilly* (43), 9. Cal Morris (25), 10. Tom Shard* (122), 11. Paddy Jennings* (38), 12. James Kimber* (97), 13. Steve Pilkington* (53), 14. Nathan Beesley* (56), 15. Jack Reynolds (11), Reserves: 16. Jordan Widdrington* (233), 17. Rob Makin* (50), 18. Joe Johnson* (10), 19. Joe Senior* (29), 20. Andy Williams* (11)
Referee, Jack Moorhouse
Assistant Referees, Tim Brown and Steve Halliday
Match Report: Neil Allen
Shard scoring his second touch down