Preston Grasshoppers 2nds 38 – 17 Lymm 2nds
2nd Team Match Report | Saturday November 19 2022
Set piece dominance not enough for Lymm
On a Saturday where most clubs and teams across the land enjoyed a break from the demands of league rugby, it was peculiar scheduling from NOWIRUL that could have defeated Lymm before this game was even started. Rather than a week off this week, both Preston and Lymm 2XVs are granted their due rest next week. This fixture misalignment clashing with preplanned holidays, England hosting the All Blacks at Twickenham and the Rugby League World Cup Final. With so many players otherwise engaged, numbers were low and a concede looked possible. A stressful week ensued for the coaching staff.
Fortunately, thanks to some noble acts of heroism and clubmanship, at the eleventh hour a team was confirmed. Notably, Nick Ashton travelled by train from Milton Keynes and Ryan Brown giving up his ticket to watch the RL World Cup Final.
In the end, the named side looked decent and a competitive game against established outfit Preston was to be the order of the day. Lightfoot Green, home of famous old club Preston Grasshoppers is unrecognisable from yesteryear due to significant housing developments in the surrounding confines. Nevertheless, there was some familiarity for the travelling Lymm side as a 4G fast track pitch is also ran at Preston. Bright blue skies with little to no breeze present, promised a great day for running rugby befitting of the excellent surface underfoot. The low lying golden sun, gently setting behind the grandstand beautifully augmented the tan of free spirit 2nd row Gavin Down, but made for perilous aerial bombardment which Preston would later employ on more than one occasion.
The Lymm team was led by Arch Deacon Woods who nears his 100th 1st XV appearance, in a career that is already well in to the several hundred of national league appearances. To feature in what was a planned rest week, is testimony to his remarkable durability and commitment to development of young forwards around him. At the other end of the spectrum, Lymm were able to hand a senior rugby debut to current Colt Alex Mukherjee. Playing out of position at full back and opposing a strong Preston backline, such a tough introduction to senior rugby failed to disrupt the young prospect who would go on to have an excellent game.
After recent tough losses against Wirral and Chester, ahead of kick off Director of Rugby Adam Fletcher spoke of trying to return to playing the Lymm way. A motivated Lymm side kicked off towards the new housing developments. The early exchanges were even, with both sides jabbing the other and a competitive 10 minutes unfolded. The Preston backs would be the first to breach the Lymm defence after some missed tackles in the wide channels. Cover defence managing to extinguish any further damage.
After a Preston handling error in midfield the first scrum of the game was packed down. The experienced front row of Woods-Pitcher-Ashton managed to gain the upper hand and put their opposition under significant pressure, gaining a penalty for their efforts. George Anderson provided a superb touch finder for a Lymm lineout 10 metres out from the Preston line. Lymm’s catch and drive began effectively but was eventually nullified in good maul defence by Preston. Further infringements from Preston would give Lymm another attempt from a similar position but again Preston were up to the task.
The next 15 minutes belonged to Preston. Strong counter attacking and broken field running proving a difficult task for Lymm to contain. A quick succession of tries resulted as Lymm failed to deal with a loose ball and Preston executed some neat blindside handling.
After some determined forward carries, the ball was fed to the backline where Mukherjee chimed in and threaded a well timed pass to the onrushing James Pitcher. Travelling at pace, Pitcher bisected the initial defenders without a hand laid on him but with work to do, managed to fend away the Preston sweeper and outsprint the chasing back three to score a fantastic try.
This Lymm resurgence was short-lived as Preston notched up further tries of their own. Solid Preston defence and Lymm forcing silly offloads prevented the away side capitalising on periods of possession and growing set piece dominance. The first half came to a close with the scoreboard reading 24-7.
The second stanza would play out as a much closer affair with both sides being level scoring two tries apiece. The opening few minutes saw Preston score two identical tries. Despite their scrum being marched backwards Preston were still able to move the ball through simple hands and subsequent miscommunication and poor reads allowed their midfield to ghost through unchallenged.
The final half an hour was an arm wrestle of epic proportions, Lymm showing a refusal to give in and increasingly frustrating their counterparts. Quinn Peers, James Pitcher and Gavin Down worked tirelessly carrying in the close quarters, Sohail Kakaie and Ryan Brown carrying accurately off the line out platform. This foundation allowed Lymm to develop their two layered attack and half back brothers James and George Anderson were able to create ball and space opportunities for Mukherjee and fellow debutant MacDonald to make inroads behind the Preston wall.
Preston would continue to attack but customary line speed from Ed Morris, as well showing a different string to his bow with multiple defensive lineout steals, spoilt any endeavours from the home side. Solid defensive shifts and a series of pens rewarding the aggressive Lymm pack for scrummaging straight and true, allowed them a 5 metre attacking lineout. Unlike the first half, the Lymm pack made no mistake and James Pitcher steered the maul over the line for a much needed 5 points.
A further close range attacking lineout was quashed by the home side and Preston would regain possession. Unable to exit effectively and being forced into uncharacteristic errors, Preston remained firmly under the cosh. After battering away at the line without joy, James Anderson showed a well refined right boot to place an outstanding crossfield kick into the arms of Alex Mukherjee for a fantastic try.
With less than ten minutes remaining, Lymm were chasing a 4 try bonus point and Preston sought to emerge from an extended spell in their own red zone. Preston rediscovered their attacking prowess from the first half and began to make some worrying incisions. It was now Lymm’s turn to have their red zone compromised. A well worked handling sequence looked to have given Preston the closing score but for a last ditch try saving tackle from Sohail Kakaie to hold up and force his opponent into touch in goal.
The game ended 38-17 with Preston worthy winners. That being said, it was a gutsy performance from the Lymm side who stuck to their assignment well. Early defensive lapses were costly but the younger squad members should take some belief and confidence after seeing what they can do when they build phases against strong outfits such as Preston.
Next Saturday 26th November, Lymm 1st XV are at home to Manchester, KO 3pm. The Eagles 3rd XV are away to Liverpool Medical School. There is no 2nd XV game.
Team: 1. Gavin Woods (C), 2. James Pitcher*, 3. Nick Ashton, 4. Sohail Kakaie*, 5. Gavin Down, 6. Quinn Peers*, 7. Titus Jones*, 8. Ed Morris, 9. James Anderson*, 10. George Anderson*, 11. Ash Freeman*, 12. Ed Dobbs*, 13. Ryan Brown, 14. Jorge Reynolds*, 15. Alex Mukherjee*, 16. Joe MacDonald
*denotes former Lymm M&J/Colt
Match Report: James Yates