Newport (Salop) 11 Lymm 30
Report by Simon Plumb
ON a warm, spring day in sunny Shropshire, Lymm faced Newport Salop in a season-defining match that could have significant consequences, deciding which team would stay up and which could face relegation.
The Newport club have excellent playing facilities in rolling countryside close to the Staffordshire border.
A large group of Lymm supporters had made the pleasant journey down and were encouraged by the attitude of the visitors who, with the wind in their faces, took the game to their hosts.
This set the tone for much of the first half as Lymm, following good forward play, moved the ball wide to the left for wing Cormac Nolan to score in the corner.
He could not covert his own try but the signs were good 5-0.
Another attack, initiated by number eight Ollie Higginson, and taken on by centre Tom Bray, then passed to right winger Richard McEvoy but it was deemed forward for what would certainly have been a try.
Continued forward pressure from a scrum turnover eventually facilitated a dummy move in the backs, a great pass from number 10, Joe Knowles, releasing full back Andy Rowley, who crossed unopposed near the sticks, which Nolan converted, 12-0.
Newport refused to accept this early domination and as they began to look threatening, gained a small reward with a kickable penalty, 12-3 after 20 minutes.
However, this early success was not repeated and their kicker went on to miss a further three shots at goal which would have given his team much-needed encouragement.
Second row Tom Darbyshire came on for James Yates after 30 minutes.
The Salop second row was then carded for holding on and subsequent pressure following a scrum five metres out, enabled Higginson to get very close to the try line, only for scrum half Tom Baker to finish the job by diving over despite close attention. 17-3.
Yellow cards were coming thick and fast now as the Salop prop was deemed to be boring in.
Then Newport made ground into the Lymm half and were awarded a penalty.
Their full back failed with that penalty but got another one shortly afterwards which he converted from halfway as the half came to an end, 17-6.
Lymm felt disappointed that two other tries had been disallowed in the first half, deemed to have been held up over the line.
Three minutes into the second half it was Higginson's turn to be sin binned for an alleged illegal tackle.
Once more the penalty was missed but Salop seemed determined to take hold of the game at this point.
Lymm were penalised again for not releasing but yet again the kick was missed.
Pressure was building on the visitors especially when hooker Adam Bray was binned after 57 minutes but it became clear Lymm's defensive approach would determine the outcome of a very well-contested, and at times, desperately-fought match.
It is worth noting that fly half Joe Knowles continued to bring his centres and back row into the game with short passes to great effect.
His confidence was high throughout the fourth quarter and the team responded accordingly.
With a strong wind behind him Cormac Nolan was offered the chance to kick a penalty from 40m out.
If there has been any consistency this season it has been from Nolan's reliable boot.
He did the same thing from a similar distance a few minutes later making it 23-6.
Tim Oakes, who had been at the coal face all afternoon, was then penalised for holding on and the Salop scrum half, seeing the opportunity for a quick tap, broke blind and touched down in the corner making it 23-11.
But Lymm, intent on finishing with a flourish and wishing to widen the points difference for the end-of-season league tally, went for an attacking line out.
Left wing Richard McEvoy joined the rolling maul and eventually emerged beaming from the mass of bodies, having scored the bonus point try, which Nolan converted.
The final score, to the relief of the away supporters stayed at 30-11 and was a fair reflection of Lymm's dominance with both the boot and ball in hand. Captain Sion Williams noted the level of support that had travelled.
“We saw how many had come to watch today. It was a very important game and we wanted to win it for them,” he said.
Scrum half Baker gave an emotional response during his interview: “There was great desire and a great team effort today.
“It was a privilege to play for Lymm today.
“One job down, two to go”.
This pivotal result puts Lymm sixth from the bottom; five points clear of the relegation zone but not out of the woods yet.
With two games to go against top three sides, Lymm must keep winning to ensure they remain at this level next season.
Lymm play third-placed Nuneaton on Saturday for their final home game of the season.
It promises to be a cracker as Lymm, at virtually full strength, are showing real form at last.
John Ashton, father of solid prop Nick Ashton, was delighted with the result: “I don't get to see that many games but this was a real treat today.”
Team: Nick Ashton, Adam Bray, Jordan Widdrington, Sion Williams (c), James Yates, Tim Oakes, Sam Mullarkey, Ollie Higginson, Tom Baker, Joe Knowles, Cormac Nolan, Tom Bray, Dave Williamson, Steve McEvoy, Andy Rowley.
Subs: Williams, Tom Darbyshire, Matthew Barnes-Smith.