Lymm Eagles 80 – 5 Village Spartans 1st XV
Eagles Team Match Report | Saturday January 6 2024
Eagles Get Into the Groove after Holiday
On the first Saturday of the New Year, Lymm Eagles kicked off 2024 with a comprehensive and high scoring victory against Manchester Village Spartans. Whilst the scoreline would suggest a one sided result, the match itself was highly competitive and both teams should be commended for the effort and entertainment that was served up.
First games back after Christmas are always met with apprehension. Could the Eagles carry on the momentum from 2023? Would the players have enough energy levels after so much food and drink? Would the front row still be able to squeeze into the playing shirts? Fortunately, Captain Olly Brown had an answer for all these questions and put together a strong squad for the fixture, whilst providing plenty of X-large shirts. The squad included a return to the team of hooker Joe Stewart, who played in the reverse fixture back in September. 2nd row Adam Halford took advantage of not having to sell Christmas trees to enjoy a run out (other Christmas tree suppliers are available “Nudge Nudge”). Centre Tom Baker made a very welcome return to a Lymm side for the 1st time in about a year since becoming a Dad and finally Liam “Sully” Sullivan made his 1st appearance for the Eagles on the wing, having spent most of his rugby career in rugby league. Regular scrum half Chris Kinsey was unfortunately absent due to the need to attend another training course, this time entitled “How to Survive in a Modern World”.
The Eagles were the only team at home this weekend and with all the rain that had fallen over the last month, it was decided to try and save damaging the grass pitches and instead play the game on the AGP pitch. Playing on the AGP pitch divides opinion in the Eagles, with some appreciating a fast playing surface for running rugby (Backs), whilst others prefer the soft landing that a muddy grass pitch provides (Forwards). One person who was particularly vocal in his feelings about artificial playing surfaces was the very experienced referee. He expressed his concerns about his ability to keep up with the speed of a high paced game which the AGP surface potentially afforded. If this proved to be the case, then completing the fixture might even be in doubt! However, any concerns he had about the lightning pace of the game were firmly laid to rest after he had watched the Eagles warm up for about 5 minutes when he said that that keeping up with play was unlikely to be an issue. How rude!!
By the kick off, the weather provided almost ideal conditions under a bright, clear blue sky with little if any wind. After losing the coin toss, Lymm were obliged to play into a blazing sun for the first half as the Spartans kicked off. The first 5 minutes were fairly even, with both sides sizing each other up and probing for weaknesses and getting used to the playing surface. Whilst the Lymm forwards were providing a good platform for some powerful breaks, handling errors prevented any build-up of momentum. Spartans were also playing a very clever kicking game and their defensive chase was very good, catching the retreating Lymm players several times to pin them back. Lymm finally broke through on 8 minutes, when quick scrum ball on halfway was supplied to fly-half Alan Reddecliff, whose subtle short pass found the onrushing Reece Forrest, who sprinted at full tilt past the grasping hands of the opposition almost half the pitch for a good opening try, converted by McEvoy (7-0). Lymm were starting to move through the gears, and everyone seemed to want to get their hands on the ball. The charge was led by several strong runs from the front row trio of Olly Brown, Joe Stewart and Dave Coon. Dave in particular appeared to have found his running boots and on 13 minutes, supporting a line break by number 8 Jack Harper, Dave “sprinted” 30metres up the pitch and was only hauled down just metres from the try line. Quick hands from scrum half Simon Beards got the ball moving and a few passes later, centre Tom Baker crashed over for an unconverted try (12-0).
Lymm continued this momentum with good charges from the second rows George Harrison and Ben Stroud which created a platform for flanker Kieran Williams to pick up and round several defenders to score another try on 19 minutes, converted by McEvoy (19-0). Lymm were threatening to run away with the game, but to their credit, Spartans forced their way back into the match, with several attacking opportunities stopped only by handling errors, forward passes and good Lymm defence. The Spartans kicking game continued to cause mischief, but thanks to the safe hands and quick thinking of wingers Josh McKean and Liam Sullivan, most of these kicks were well dealt with.
It took Lymm until the 34th minute to register their next score. A Spartans goal line dropout found touch, but quick thinking from replacement winger Stu Norman played the quick throw in to Rick McEvoy, who slalomed untouched through stunned Spartans defenders for a self-converted try (26-0). With Spartans desperate for half time, Lymm pressed home their advantage, firstly with Beards taking clean ball from another line break by Harper to sprint for over 50 metres in jinxing run to touch down for another try on 38 minutes, converted by the accurate boot of McEvoy (33-0). Not to be outdone, McEvoy then pounced on a loose pass a couple of minutes later to cruise over for a converted try on the stroke of half time (40-0).
Half Time: Lymm Eagles 40 – 0 Village Spartans 1st XV
Whilst the scoreline was flatteringly comfortable, the message at half time was to be more clinical and not to relax, as the Spartans were clearly more than capable of punishing mistakes. Olly brought on fresh legs and experienced forwards in Adam Halford and Jim France, whilst winger Lewis Ratcliffe provided some additional speed in the backline.
Straight from kick-off, Lymm recovered the ball through the impressive Harper, but unfortunately the ball was immediately knocked on by Dave Coon who was steaming for the line. However, he made up for this mistake by powering the resulting scrum forward and winning the ball against the head. The ball was shipped to Reddecliff, who glided under the posts for a converted try (47-0). This try then seemed to galvanise the Spartans into action. They quickly upped their game to provide a better attacking platform which coupled with strong running and lack lustre Lymm defence took the Spartans well up the pitch. A clever kick and chase by Spartans, pinned McEvoy in the corner of the pitch with only Sully for support in the ruck. The Spartans arrived in numbers and drove through collecting the ball for a simple touchdown (47-5). The next 10 mins were all Spartans, with their backs proving a real handful, particularly their full back with a red scrum cap, who was extremely effective for them.
It was clear that Lymm needed to up their work rate at the ruck, with several forwards possibly being guilty of hanging back and avoiding involvement at the coalface in the hope of a turnover and another chance for a break. Lymm finally wrestled back some control and some great tackling by flankers Capewell and Williams, coupled with the turnover prowess of Jim France, and got Lymm back on the front boot. On 51 minutes, Jim managed to rip the ball from the opposition and found Dave Coon who stormed up the wing before passing inside to fellow prop Brown. Ollie floated a wonderfully weighted pass to Halford, who showed soft hands to get the ball to Reddecliff, who rounded the full back for his second converted try (54-5). A great try and team effort. The Eagles forward machine kept rumbling forward and after several drives, the ball found its way into the hands of Joe Stewart hands who sprinted from 20 metres out, dummying the full back for a great individual effort and an unconverted try (59-5). Spartans tried in vain to stem the onrush of Lymm’s attack, but the pressure was beginning to tell. Excellent forward breaks from Ollie Brown and Adam Halford drove Lymm up field, but these were unfortunately either not backed up or followed up with several bizarre choices of exotic pass when simplicity would have suited.
On 60 minutes, Spartans tried to clear their lines but only found centre Forrest in the backfield. Reece carried strongly before offloading to winger Sully, who sprinted inside the defenders for his first converted try (66-5). This was followed 2 minutes later by an almost carbon copy try, when a Spartans clearing kick was fielded by Baker, who again found Sully who sprinted down the wing and dived in acrobatically in the corner for a try, expertly converted by McEvoy (73-5).
With both teams tiring, the last 10mins became a bit error strewn. 2nd row Ben Stroud was adamant that he had got the ball down on 72 mins whilst being tackled over the line, but the ref was unsighted and couldn’t award the try. The game ended with another individual run by McEvoy, who avoided all the attempted tackles to go over for his hat-trick try, with the conversion being the last act of the game (80-5).
Full Time: Lymm Eagles 80 – 5 Village Spartans 1st XV
A great performance from the Eagles, who apart from a 10 minute period after half time, were close to not conceding any points. As mentioned at the start of this report, despite the scoreline, it would be unfair to say that this game was completely one sided. Spartans were extremely competitive throughout this game and did not give up at any point. They remained competitive in the scrums and lineouts and played the game in a great spirit. Every bounce of the ball seemed to go against them, and they were unlucky not to score more. With an aggregate score of 165-5 in the two fixtures this season, I think Spartans will be glad to see the back of the Eagles! Thanks for a great game and good luck for the rest of the season. We also hoped you enjoyed the man of the match pint on the beam! For the Eagles, this result keeps them in 3rd in the league but face some tough away fixtures over the next few weeks.
There were a lot of candidates for man of the match in this game, everyone playing a part. Number 8 Jack Harper was absolutely everywhere on the pitch today. Tom Baker showed that class is permanent despite being out for a year. Captain Olly Brown definitely put his hand up this week for another man of the match performance, living up to his pre match predictions that his fast boots and the AGP pitch was his natural habitat. Man of the match was decided on the pitch by the lads and was award to David Coon, who not only made more metres in this game than his total for the season so far, but also anchors the scrum at tighthead for 80 minutes every week. Well done David, a very happy scribe (and proud Dad!!)
Next week, Lymm travel to Macclesfield 3s for the 2nd leg of the battle of the 3rd teams, 14:15 kick off. All most welcome to attend.
Team: 1) Olly Brown (C) 2) Joe Stewart 3) David Coon 4) Ben Stroud 5) George Harrison 6) Craig Capewell 7) Kieran Williams 8) Jack Harper 9) Simon Beards 10) Alan Reddecliff 11) Liam Sullivan 12) Tom Baker 13) Reece Forrest 14) Josh McKean 15) Rick McEvoy 16) Jim France 17) Adam Halford 18) Stu Norman 19) Lewis Ratcliffe
Match Report: Peter & David Coon