Lymm Eagles 3 – 0 Knutsford 1st XV

Eagles Team Match Report | Saturday December 9 2023

Eagles Keep Cool in Victory Over RED Hot Knutsford

“How can you possibly write a 3 page match report for a game like that with only 3 points?” – Post game challenge issued to Pete & David Coon by Mal Pritchard in the bar after the game.

In cold, wet, wild, and windy conditions, Lymm Eagles emerged victorious with a gritty win against local rivals Knutsford 1sts in one of the lowest scoring Eagle’s matches this scribe has attended. This was a game that may be talked about for some time, but probably won’t be remembered fondly by both players and spectators.

This fixture saw the Eagles against Knutsford for the second time, with the Eagles taking a 33 – 13 win in their first game of the season played back in September on the hottest day of the year. Whilst the first fixture gave rise to moaning about the torturously hot conditions, the weather for yesterday’s game had us all dreaming of ever being that warm again. Driving rain, arctic winds and a soggy pitch all meant that the Eagles entered the game with little visible enthusiasm. Even your humble scribe, renowned for wearing shorts all year round, regretted his sartorial choice yesterday and admitted that it was a bit nippy.

Captain Olly Brown had a full squad to choose from today and once again kept faith with the players that had served him so well this season. 2nd team physio Matt Hill chucked on a shirt to line up in the back row to cover for the late arriving Craig Capewell.  Simon Beards moved to scrum half in the absence of Martin Henderson and Chris Kinsey. Olly Larkin returned at full back, whilst the back line had to be re-jigged to cover for the late arriving Alan Reddecliff, meaning back row Jim France got volunteered to start on the wing. He even had to ask for directions to the position! Knutsford also appeared to have a full contingent of players to call upon. At the earlier away fixture, the Knutsford lads had been keen to stress that half of their squad had been in France watching the World Cup and that Lymm would face a very different opposition in the return fixture.  Judging by the size and shapes of the players, the intensity of their warmup, their drills for the set pieces and the overwhelming odour of horse liniment, Lymm realised they were facing a much different Knutsford side who were keen to avenge their earlier defeat.

The game kicked off just as the intensity of the weather increased leaving Lymm facing a strong wind, driving rain and a motivated opposition. Knutsford were quickly out the traps, with great intensity at the breakdown and determination to pin back Lymm and establish dominance. This was led by their talented 9 and 10, who were orchestrating everything. The Knutsford 10, in particular, was making use of the strong wind and massive boot to hammer the ball downfield. Fortunately, most of these were dealt with extremely well by full back Larkin. Lymm were struggling to get anything working. The ball was like a bar of soap and attempts to control it led to numerous knock-ons and unforced errors. The shouted words “fumbling buffoon” was heard on more than one occasion from the Lymm dugout, but the culprit could not be clearly identified as there were too many candidates.

Despite several strong drives from Higgins, Ben Stroud, and centre Kieran Williams, Lymm found themselves stuck in their own half and unable to break out. Both teams were also allowing minor niggles and perceived slights get the better of them, which led to several scuffles breaking out and a lot of handbags being swung about. The Referee gave both captains a team warning to cut out the silly stuff. After 20 minutes and very little rugby having been played, Knutsford’s prop had to go off injured, meaning the dreaded uncontested scrums.  Prop Dave Coon came trudging off with a face that looked like Christmas had been cancelled. Knutsford did tell us that another prop was on route so it would only be temporary, but more on that later. On 25 minutes, from a scrum just outside the Lymm 22, Knutsford broke and fed the ball out to their winger, who went for the corner and got over the line but was tackled by the combined efforts of Guy Larkin and centre Reece Forrest. The Knutsford sub/linesman initially raised his flag to show that the player had gone into touch, then changed his mind and started signalling that a try had been scored. With no conclusive evidence that the ball had been grounded, the Referee could not award the try.

The niggles continued and neither side seemed to be able to hold on to the ball securely. Due to the number of stoppages for non-playing incidents, the clock continued well beyond 40 minutes elapsed time since the kick off. The Knutsford substitutes and coaches provided an almost continuous stream of unwelcome feedback from the sidelines on both the Lymm player’s and the Referee’s performance. Eventually at around 44 mins, the Referee decided he had enough of the comments and red card was shown to the injured prop on the sidelines, which was the first time this scribe had seen a red card for someone not on the pitch. Knutsford were becoming increasingly upset with perceived injustices. On 46 minutes the Knutsford replacement prop arrived and was sent straight into the action. A minute later, the Knutsford prop was shown a red card for stamping on a player at the bottom of a ruck. Then, a minute later, centre Kieran Williams got his timing wrong and hit the fly half with a tackle deemed by the Referee to be late, earning himself a yellow card. This caused another round of pushing and shoving with the Knutsford 2nd row particularly looking for retaliation. There was even a comical moment where the Knutsford coach came onto the field and demanded his team leave the field as he deemed that the game was unsafe. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as an abandoned game probably would have improved this dire contest), the Knutsford players remained on the pitch. From the resulting lineout, the Knutsford 2nd row was caught taking a swing at a Lymm player and the Referee showed him a red card. Lymm finally got up the field and a final attempt at a try just went begging, with winger Rick McEvoy just missing the tryline by millimetres. The Referee’s whistle at 49 minutes for half time was a blessed relief.

Half Time: Lymm Eagles 0 – 0 Knutsford 1st XV

The rain was torrential at this point and the temperature had plummeted. Olly Brown tried to rally the troops and the message was to try and make use of the additional players and concentrate on securing the breakdown and improve the defence. Some points would also be nice!!

The second half kicked off, with Knutsford down two players and Lymm now having the wind advantage. The forwards once again tried to get their game going, with good breaks from Craig Capewell, Jack Harper, and Ben Lloyd. Fly-half Alan Reddecliff was starting to dictate play and find the gaps that were starting to form in the Knutsford defence. Knutsford’s defence though was excellent, and any half breaks were quickly shut down. Whilst Lymm got close to the line several times, errors still crept into the games and the wrong options were taken when simplicity would have been a better choice. Knutsford were still dangerous even with the numerical disadvantage and looked to use their pacey wingers to get around the outside. These breaks though were stopped by several big tackles from Josh “Brick Wall” McKean, who is now making a habit of these stops. Lymm still couldn’t get any sort of fluency going and despite having virtually uncontested lineouts as well, couldn’t secure a platform to attack from. On 55 minutes, Lymm finally worked the ball to just outside the Knutsford 22. A Knutsford player was then penalised for hands in the ruck and Lymm opted to kick at goal. Whilst this scribe usually describes this as an act of cowardice, in this match, I was just happy for some sort of action to raise the spirits.  Despite the dire conditions, the ever accurate boot of Rick McEvoy successfully provided the points (3-0).

Knutsford battled back and 2 minutes later had their own kick at goal. However, although the kick was accurate, the strong wind meant that ball didn’t make it over the posts. Unfortunately, after a bare 60 minutes of play, the continuous barrage of unseemly criticism from the Knutsford supporters caused the Referee to halt the game for several minutes to speak to them. Following the restart, Lymm battled back up the pitch and were awarded another penalty in front of the sticks which, surprisingly they opted to scrum, rather than kick (Hoorah for Old School Rugby!). Knutsford managed to hold off the Lymm effort and were awarded their own penalty. This took them back up the field and provided them with one last scoring opportunity. A superb Crossfield kick found their winger in space, with only Reece Forrest to beat. Fortunately, Reece showed his great defensive skills to bring the winger down with a scything tackle, whilst the quick thinking Max Ure turned the ball over and got the ball off the pitch. Rather surprisingly, this was also accompanied by the Referee’s whistle for full time although (according to this scribe) there was still about 7 minutes playing time remaining on the clock.  A collective sigh of relief could still be heard above the howling wind. Phew!

Full Time: Lynn Eagles 3 – 0 Knutsford 1st XV

Well, not a classic game of rugby (quite frankly a dreadful game of rugby) but the Lymm players deserve a lot of praise for handling a difficult game and not giving up until the very end.  To keep a Knutsford 1st team scoreless and to go toe to toe with players who train twice a week takes a real effort. Thanks to Knutsford, hopefully we can all put that 1st half behind us and focus on the 2nd half, which was much more genial and good natured. Good luck for the rest of the season.

Back in the warmth of the clubhouse and wearing very fetching Xmas jumpers, the lads voted for their man of the match. Special mentions went to Olly Larkin, who dealt with some very difficult high balls and Jack Harper for his excellent defensive display (and no penalties either!).  Man of the match eventually went to Kieran Williams, for an all action display and several strong carries. Well done, Kieran. As ever, the charismatic Olly Brown was awarded Lymm Captain of the Match.

Even Tony Halford (father of Adam and Richard) graced us with his presence and was given the newly created Spectator of the Match Award (from a short list of three).  Tony is rarely, if ever, seen on the touchline at Eagle’s games as he is more usually seen extracting money with menaces from unsuspecting visitors to first team games. Tony was very generous in his praise and admiration for the great team spirit, camaraderie and skills shown by the Eagle’s players. Despite the poor conditions and dubious gameplay, he felt that it was a great demonstration of traditional grass roots rugby. As Tony said, “I really enjoyed that, you don’t get that sort of action and skulduggery in the 1st Team matches.”

Even with a 3-0 scoreline, we still managed to drag out this match report!! Apologies to all readers.

Next week, Lymm travel to Bowdon 2s in their final game of 2023, 14:15 kick off. All most welcome to attend.

Team: 1) Olly Brown (C) 2) Joe Higgins 3) David Coon 4) Ben Stroud 5) Ben Lloyd 6) Jack Harper 7) Matt Hill 8) Max Ure 9) Simon Beards 10) Rick McEvoy 11) Jim France 12) Kieran Williams 13) Reece Forrest 14) Josh McKean 15) Olly Larkin  REP 16) Ollie Chesworth 17) Jez Ure 18) George Harrison 19) Craig Capewell 20) Alan Reddecliff

Match Report: Peter & David Coon


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