Saturday 27th October 2018
North Premier League
LYMM 38 – 38 VALE of LUNE
Report by Andy Leach – Photos by Robert Shaw Photography & Stuart Watson
Honours shared in topsy-turvy affair
Lymm welcomed Vale of Lune to Crouchley Lane on Saturday for the first time since the 2009/10 season. It appeared that newly promoted Vale had found the step-up in leagues challenging as they had yet to register a win, however, a close inspection of their results suggested some near misses and improving form that was likely to make this a competitive fixture. Lymm for their part were undoubtedly keen to string some form together and get the “injury monkey”, which has dogged them so far this season, off their backs.
Fine weather greeted both sides, albeit the cold, northerly, chill had the spectators rummaging around to give their hats and scarves the first outing of the season. Again Lymm were forced to make changes with injuries and unavailability ruling out Chilvers, Higginson, McEvoy and Nolan from last week’s squad. Into the starting line-up came Horton, back from injury, Baldwin, promoted from the second XV, Lythgoe and Shard (both from last week’s bench), whilst Ashall and Josh Davies, making his League debut, were called into the squad. There also were several positional changes necessary (too numerous to list) but, suffice to say, only 5 players started in the same shirt they had been wearing at Kirkby Lonsdale the previous week.
Vale elected to start with the strong northerly wind at their backs, and had the better of the first 10 minutes showing glimpses of enterprise in their approach. On 13 minutes though, Lymm drew first blood. Following two penalties in quick succession, Lymm entered the Vale 22 and, after gaining ground as they moved through the phases, it was young prop Matty Hand who crossed the line 15m to the left of the posts, with Shard converting. 7-0.
Matty Hand en route for his try
Vale’s riposte was almost immediate. Re-gathering the ball from the kick-off (this wasn’t to be the last time that Lymm failed to secure the ball from a Vale restart), Vale moved forward purposefully with their powerful Number 8 barrelling over 15 m to the right of the uprights. The conversion was successful. 7-7
On 25 minutes with Lymm attacking in the Vale 22, play was halted for a nasty knee injury to young centre James Rooney who, although he tried to continue, was forced to leave the game shortly after. At about the same time the returning Horton was also forced out through injury. As a consequence, even more changes were needed to the patched up Lymm formation with Bray taking on the hooking duties and Ashall and Davies joining the fray. From the attacking scrum that restarted proceedings, Lymm registered their second try of the afternoon, purposeful drives by forwards and backs making progress towards the Vale line, allowing Captain Bray to score, 10m to the left of the posts. Shard duly obliged with the conversion. 14-7
Skipper Adam Bray touches down
After 33 minutes Lymm scored their 3rd try to put some daylight between themselves and Vale. This time it was Ashall who benefitted from strong forward play with Bray, Hand and Watson to the fore, which sucked in the defence to create an Ashall-shaped gap allowing him to barge over from 5m. Shard continued his sound kicking form. 21-7.
Unfortunately, the malaise of conceding just before the break, which has cost Lymm dear on more than one occasion already this season, reared its head again. As Vale battered their line, Lymm defended stoically but, eventually the dam burst and Vale, with some smart off-loading by their forwards, scored under the posts, making the conversion a formality. 21-14
Half Time: LYMM 21 – 14 VALE OF LUNE.
Unfortunately for Lymm as well as 7 points, the score before halftime had handed Vale both belief and momentum, which contributed to their positive, more expansive, back play at the start of the second half, which took them deep into Lymm territory. A penalty from a Lymm infringement was kicked to the corner and, a few phases later, sufficient space was created out wide to allow their right winger to score in the corner. This time the difficult conversion was missed. 21-19
After 50 minutes, Vale scored their fourth, bonus point, try getting their noses in front for the first time. The genesis for this try was a Lymm penalty kick which failed to find touch. Vale returned the ball strongly through a few phases and then broke a Lymm tackle in midfield before scoring 10m to the left of the posts. This time the conversion was successful. 21-26
Will Baldwin secures a lineout ball
Having leaked 19 unanswered points, Lymm now really needed to get the next score. However, on 55 minutes Vale had the opportunity to increase their lead as they were awarded a penalty 25m out directly in front of the posts. However, the kick hit a post and, although it rebounded into Vale’s hands, a few phases later they infringed allowing Lymm to relieve the pressure. It was now Lymm’s turn to apply the screw. On 60 minutes, it looked as if the bonus point try had been scored when Lymm crossed the line, however, the referee brought play back to deal with a case of “handbags” between two players who were some distance from the ball. Disappointed but not dispirited, Lymm then applied considerable pressure to the Vale defence, who suffered the referee’s ire on a number of occasions through offside and failing to release the tackled player. Lymm opted from scrum after scrum until, after 65 minutes, Sutherland (now playing at Number 8) powered over after picking up from the base of a dominant Lymm scrum. Shard maintained his 100% record and put Lymm’s noses back in front. 28-26
Ali Sutherland scores
Lymm’s ascendency in this period continued and after 72 minutes, following a strong burst from Lythgoe, Bray scored his second and Lymm’s 5th try, Shard making no mistake with the conversion. 35-26
Whilst Lymm were now more than a score ahead, Vale certainly did not lie down. Back they came and, on 76 minutes, were adjudged to have scored following a kick behind the Lymm defence. There appeared to be some doubt as to who, if anyone, touched the ball down but the referee’s decision was all that mattered. The conversion was successful, but Lymm still held a slender lead as the clock wound down. 35-33
Scrum Half, Andy Davies sets up another attack
With a handful of minutes remaining, a tense finish was in prospect – it did not disappoint. Lymm drew first blood when electing to go for the posts when awarded a penalty on 40m bang in front, with a minute or so remaining. The decision, which stimulated considerable touchline debate – surely it would have been better to have gone for the corner and kept play in the Vale 22? – looked justified as Shard once again faultlessly bisected the posts with his kick. Was that the end of play or was there time for a restart….. 38-33
Flanker Joe Watson
Yep, there was some sand left in Mr Lewis’ egg timer and Vale kicked high and short, a ploy that was aided by the strength of the wind they were playing into. Lymm were unable to secure possession and Vale came at the tiring Lymm defence (Vale had enjoyed the vast majority of possession in the second half) and appeared to make yards as easily as they had at any time in the match. Lymm’s defence was frantic and, unfortunately, during this period scrum-half Andy Davies suffered a dislocated shoulder which stopped play for a few minutes whilst he was treated before leaving the field. Last throw of dice for Vale now and after a few phases, sufficient space was created on the right to allow the right-winger to cross the Lymm line. He then tried his hardest to get near the posts, recognising that the kick would be the difference between a win and a draw, tiptoeing dangerously close to the dead ball line – maybe too close – as he got nearer to the posts. However, the try was awarded and his efforts had made the kick considerably easier – definitely kickable. Lymm heads were down, but, in a twist of fate, the kick passed to the left of the posts, the referee blew his whistle and a draw was the result – on reflection, probably a fair result.
Full Time: LYMM 38 – 38 VALE OF LUNE
Whilst this was a disappointing outcome for Lymm, most worrying is the continual string of injuries that their players are picking up – fate is certainly dealing some bad cards. On reflection, I can’t recall seeing the Vale physio on the pitch, yet the Lymm physio was never off it. As Oli Higginson, himself sporting a set of crutches following his broken leg at Kirkby Lonsdale, said “we should have given Chris (physio) a Lymm shirt to wear, as he was on the pitch so much….” Luck is bound to change and hopefully, some of the wounded will be back in action soon.
After the match Coach Fletcher, who must have broken a mirror or two back in August, said:
“Another tough day. All credit to Vale, they played some great attacking rugby and scored some superb tries. We need to up our work rate in defence and work hard on making our tackle height lower and more effective. We need to keep positive and keep working hard at training.
“It was good to see Andy Davies back at the club later in the evening. His shoulder has been put back into place, and we will know more after he visits the fracture clinic this week.”
Next week, Lymm face the long trip to Alnwick who, after a slow start, are now achieving much better results, amongst them some notable scalps.
Team: 1) Gav Woods, 2) Dan Horton, 3) Matty Hand, 4) Will Baldwin, 5) Zak Lythgoe, 6) Matty Connolly, 7) Joe Watson, 8) Adam Bray (c), 9) Andy Davies, 10) Tom Shard, 11) Luke Richards, 12) Ben Stansfield, 13) James Rooney, 14) Ali Sutherland, 15) Scott Redfern, 16) Jordan Widdrington, 17) Jake Ashall, 18) Josh Davies.
Referee: Mr Elliot Lewis