Sandal run Lymm close
Scoreline doesn't reflect the performance
Photo credit: Robert Whyte
With an extended Xmas break under their belt due to the Harrogate game being postponed, Sandal returned to league action against a Lymm side that is pushing for the play-off spot. Sandal gave a starting debut to Ben Whyte in the back row. Ben is a product of the Sandal junior system, so it good to see the next generation of players being given a chance.
The transformation of Lymm who we beat home and away last season, is remarkable. They have a solid platform and exploit the flair of their back line. They base the majority of their attacking philosophy around a 'W' design, this invites the defence to be drawn towards the dummy runner, the flat pass or as Lymm prefer, fed into the strike runner emerging from deep. When used well this is highly effective, leaving defenders struggling to pick who the ball carrier is. When it doesn't work well (for example, when the pass is delayed or running lines clash), there is the chance that defenders will be obstructed. I do think that this played a part in the first try we conceded after 5 minutes. There were valid claims of obstruction here, but the result was that with a hole punched in our defence, the try was made easier than it would have been. However, I did see a couple of missed tackles earlier in the play which would have eliminated the chance for Lymm to implement their strategy.
If their first try was contentious, the second was well worked. A deft grubber kick through the Sandal defensive line on the 22 saw the Lymm winger slide over. This left Sandal in the familiar position of being two scores down within 15 minutes and having a mountain to climb.
A fantastic try from Steve Nolson was the result of Simon Frewin coming off his wing to take the inside ball from Greg Wood. Simon offered a soft pass for Steve who came on a hard, straight line to cut the Lymm defence apart. He turned on the burners to outpace the defence.
Playing with a good wind at their backs, Lymm declined two opportunities to add penalties preferring the lineout catch and drive. These were well defended by Sandal and I wondered if Lymm would regret this. Changing both locks (Luke Norbury suffering an injury) had a positive influence on Sandal and they maintained their foothold in the game. This also gave us the ascendancy at both the scrum and breakdown area. Unfortunately, our line out wasn't overly successful with Lymm identifying where the ball was being thrown, this led to balls being fumbled, launched back or good attacking opportunities squandered. We had multi-phase attacks in the Lymm 22 but couldn't find that final ball or coughed up possession when we needed to be accurate.
The second half saw Sandal dominate both possession and territory. Lymm were regularly penalised for being offside at the base of the tackle area much to the angst of the travelling support. Using the wind to our advantage, Greg Wood tried a 45m penalty kick, but I felt he just caught it a little heavy. This saw the very accurate kick fall the wrong side of the bar. However, when he had the opportunity to take another shot from 35m out, his technique was perfect and the ball sailed over. Intelligent game management brought us to 10-8 and I felt we were competing well but just needed to step up another gear to secure a win. The full length try from Lymm was perhaps a killer blow. We had a sustained period of possession in their 22 and had successfully compressed the Lymm defence. 15m out and with a 4 v 1, Will Morecombe fired the ball from the contact area but this was intercepted by the Lymm 10. He raced up the pitch and with some good support play, Lymm managed to score an unlikely try. I was unsighted as to the position of the 10, but speaking to players after the match, he was offside. These things happen in life and events such as this do balance out over time, however, this was a significant event that took Lymm away from us.
So, another loss. With both Kirkby Lonsdale and Birkenhead Park winning, we fall back down the league and are only 10 points above the relegation zone. January sees us play Morley, Billingham and Ilkley. We need at least 2 wins to create the gap and draw others into the fray.