Saturday 25th November 2017
Northern Premier Division
PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 19 – 13 LYMM
Report by Simon Plumb
Lymm lose first league game with honour
On a cold day, at league leaders Preston Grasshoppers, as showers abated, and on a stunning artificial grass pitch, Lymm put their unbroken run on the line in an exciting and close encounter. Whoever won would be clear table toppers and a thrilling game was in prospect. It actually did not quite work out like that, as two good sides negated each other and the running rugby both play, and anticipated, never materialised.
Relegated last season PGH have built a formidable pack, both in size and their hardnosed approach, but from the off Lymm refused to be over-awed. A large crowd, no doubt used to Hoppers dominating the scrum were not disappointed, as the beast of a pack put Lymm under pressure time and again. No 8 Ollie Higginson had to be quick, on a number of occasions, to pick up and secure the ball, as his scrum moved rapidly in reverse. It was clear early on how PGH were going to play, in an attempt to squeeze the life out of the lighter outfit. After 17mins from an attacking scrum 5m out, PGH drove forward but were repelled time and again by Lymm’s mean defence. After one defensive shift Higginson, so prominent and classy this season, had to leave the field with a knee injury. This was a huge set back for Lymm and sustained pressure in Lymm’s 22 eventually led to the PGH No 8 forcing his way over near the posts, 7-0 after 20 minutes.
Now it was the visitors turn as Jake Ashall, on as replacement for Higginson in the back row, made one of his bullocking runs, giving Lymm an attacking line out in the PGH 22. This line out was lost but, after winning back the ball, a sniping run from scrum half Andy Davies created space for Captain and hooker Adam Bray to score under the posts. 7-7, after 22 minutes with full back Cormac Nolan’s conversion and game on. However the set piece continued to be problematic for the visitors and PGH relished the chance to shove the Lymm scrum backwards whenever they could, egged on by a vociferous crowd. However, this seemed to galvanise Lymm’s defensive effort as wave after wave of runners were relentlessly taken down at the knees in a bravura defensive performance. At one point the huge clearing kick of fly half Scott Redfern, making at least 50m, gave the defence some respite. It was during this rare foray in the Hoppers 22 that Nolan successfully kicked a penalty from 35m out, for Lymm to take an opportunistic lead into half time, 7-10. A late surge from the Hoppers deep into the Lymm 22 gave no reward as the half ended.
HT 7 – 10
Another penalty for offside gave Nolan a chance to extend the lead after 43 mins but it went tantalisingly wide. Lymm’s pack stabilised when the significant bulk of Jordan Widdrington at prop replaced Dan Horton but a stinger to his shoulder reversed that substitution after 47 mins. Hoppers knew the only way to win was up front and a series of perfectly executed rolling mauls eventually led to a well converted try on 51minutes, wide out on the left, 14-10. Still firmly in the game, Lymm put a number of phases together to win an attacking 5m line out. But, a quick throw to the front was judged not to have gone 5m and the opportunity was lost. Lineouts were an ongoing problem for Lymm as Hoppers attacked their throw in at every opportunity. Further disruption occurred when Centre Tom Bray had to move to blind side and Lucas Titherington moved into the centre. On 67 minutes Hoppers had a penalty chance but it was missed but the forwards continued to dominate, especially the No 8 who made a surging run into the Lymm half. Good hands eventually led to a try wide out on the left after 71 minutes, this time unconverted, 19-10 and a hill to climb for Lymm. As the clock ticked down, the first loss of the season was staring them in the face. Unbowed, Lymm made a final attacking surge into the home half and a last minute penalty from Nolan 40m out took the final score to 19-13, to gain Lymm a losing bonus point.
This was a valiant effort from Lymm and they will have learnt a lot from the game. PGH are a good side and on home turf they stuck to their game plan, especially in the 2nd half, depriving Lymm of good possession and attacking opportunities for their backs. Whilst disappointed, the large crowd of supporters from Lymm couldn’t fault the commitment and defensive display of their young team. Head coach Adam Fletcher was as pragmatic as ever as he performed his ‘Little Britain’ impression in his temporary wheelchair. “They won the set-piece and the touchline was their friend. The boys did well and we were in it for quite a while but size told. At the end of the day it was good to get the bonus point.”
Lymm are still 2nd in the league and next Saturday they are at home to 4th placed Harrogate KO 2.15pm
Squad: 1) Gavin Woods, 2) Adam Bray (C), 3) Dan Horton, 4) Matty Connolly, 5) Joe Watson, 6) Sam Mullarkey, 7) Ali Sutherland, 8) Oli Higginson, 9) Andy Davies, 10) Scott Redfern, 11) Joe Denman, 12) Tom Bray, 13) James Kimber, 14) Richard McEvoy, 15) Cormac Nolan, 16) Jordan Widdrington, 17) Lucas Titherington, 18) Jake Ashall.
Referee: Mr Matthew Riley – Northern Panel
Lancashire Evening Post report on the match, click on link below. They kindly give us 3 more points in error