Saturday 29th. September 2018
Northern Premier League
Wilmslow 31 – 59 Lymm
The Wolves are still learning that the game in the Northern Premier League is played at a pace, intensity and accuracy that exceeds anything they have previously encountered. The mistakes they could get away with at the lower level are now being ruthlessly punished. They simply cannot afford to give away possession of the ball 'cheaply' at this level. It will be fully exploited by their opponents. Lymm scored nine tries in all, four of them at least directly emanating from a lost lineout, a ball dropped in the tackle, a turnover at the breakdown because of a lack of support for the ball carrier and finally a wayward kick out of defence. Many of their other scores came directly from restarts which just were not sufficiently vigorously contested. Add a porous defensive line in the face of Lymm's speedy and skilful backs and it becomes easy to see why they had the game and five league points wrapped up by half time.
And yet if Wilmslow's players can adapt to these conditions and become more hard headed in their play, they do have players who will prosper in this league and could yet haul themselves away from the nether regions of the table. Maybe Lymm did go off the boil somewhat in the second half but the game was still taken to them by the Wolves forwards particularly, who scored all four of the Wolves' second half tries during a period which they edged by 26 – 21. It's to their credit that they were able to respond to the mauling they had received in the first forty minutes.
The Wolves were actually first on the scoreboard when after a series of early lineouts, centre Ethan Harding found the space to put left winger James Coulthurst in for a smart try after just four minutes. That though was as good as it got.
Lymm responded three minutes later with a crisp, pacey, multiphase handling movement which created a huge overlap on the right for their first try from No. 8 Oli Higginson, converted by Cormac Nolan. There was then nobody really chasing Bob MacCallum's restart to put the Lymm receivers under any pressure and with plenty of time to cross the gain line, they were soon back in Wilmslow territory where a huge gap opened up for one of their big men, Zak Lythgoe, to waltz through without any hand been laid upon him. A second try out on the right wing was the inevitable outcome. Worse from the Wilmslow point of view was to come when from the next restart, Lymm's full back Nolan simply skipped through the defensive line and then, cut back inside to put in a diagonal kick for his supporting winger McEvoy to run onto. That was three tries for Lymm in just six minutes.
Fortunately, their next attack ended when a scoring pass was dropped in midfield and there was some respite for the Wolves, led by their pack, until possession was lost in midfield on the half hour and Lymm capitalised yet again through centre Tom Bray and prop Matty Hand. Five minutes later, the Wolves lost a lineout in a promising position, then missed a tackle in mid field and Lymm had their fifth try from flanker Joe Watson. Once again the restart was not properly contested and Lymm ran away for their sixth try, Tom Bray, Zak Lythgoe and Oli Higginson all involved. It was just too easy for them. The Wolves then forced a lineout on the Lymm line but they were not clinical enough and managed to lose possession in the drive, Lymm broke out again from their own line and only a mistimed final pass prevented a seventh try. Mercifully Durham referee Morrison then blew for half time.
The second half started with Lymm making a rare error as they lost possession enabling MacCallum to break. He didn't quite have the gas to go the whole way but his offload to Danny Kennedy gave the Wolves the first of their second half scores.
The Wilmslow forwards were now exerting some pressure in the set piece but that wasn't enough to prevent Lymm from tidying up a scrappy heel and to penetrate a non existent Wilmslow line for a try from Aaron Rasheed. Their eighth try followed almost immediately from a lineout which they looked to have lost but the loose ball went their way and the Bray brothers combined to put Tom in.
At 12 – 52, it was understandable if their play now became less threatening. Danny Kennedy showed what could be done if you really got under the restart by grabbing possession from which the Wolves forwards eventually ground their way over the line for their third try, attributed to Alex Taylor. If they could get a fourth a losing bonus point would be theirs and there was still over twenty minutes to get it.
The next notable bit of action came when two Wilmslow players collided going for the same high ball, just symptomatic of a defence losing its shape and confidence. The Lymm scrum though was well defended and five minutes later the Wolves set up a catch and drive from which Alex Taylor got the touchdown and bonus point try.
A poor aimless kick out of defence then gifted the visitors their final score through Matty Connolly but the Wolves responded with some driving play from their forwards which led to Jack Masters touching down in the final play of the game.
It had been a fine early autumn afternoon for playing rugby. Lymm had demonstrated their ball handling and running skills. The Wolves pack had acquitted itself with some merit in the second half but the over whelming memory of the game, sometimes painful to watch for a Wilmslow supporter, was that thirty minute spell in the first half when the Wolves defence was absolutely shredded by Lymm's incisive back play. And yet, there can still be hope if the Wolves' players can adapt and show that they have learnt and taken on board some harsh lessons.
Photos: A snarling Matt Shufflebottom has a go, Bob MacCallum can’t escape his tackler and Robert Taylor has Danny Kennedy in support.
Match report by David Pike.