Date published: January 27, 2022
Photo: Bruce Myers
Tom Hesketh passes his man for Rochdale’s fourth try
After Rochdale secured a place in the Lancashire Cup final last week, there was no respite as they traveled to Lymm for a league game on Sunday January 23. Lymm is currently top of the league with Rochdale second, so it was another game up for grabs.
Lymm has a reputation for fast, open rugby, based on offloading the tackle and serious speed in his back line. Rochdale started the game strong, using his running backs to cross the win line, then moving wide to stretch the defense. After a few close calls, Rochdale got on the scoresheet after a tapping penalty 10 yards from the home side’s try line. Ben Sunderland danced a few tackles before unloading on Nick Wright who found Mitch Holt executing a hard line and breaking through the defense to score (0-5).
Lymm hit back almost immediately when, after good handling and a tackle offload, the full-back found the outside and ran 50m from the line (5-5).
Both teams were trying to impose their style on their opponents; Rochdale builds from set pieces and carries straight from their forwards before freeing their baseline and Lymm launching into the fast and loose offload, trying to put their speedsters through the gaps. Eventually Rochdale began to dominate the territory and after a long period of attack a blind break from Holt found Garrett Myers who clipped the wing and crossed the line beside the corner flag (5-10) finishing the score for the half.
Rochdale lost a few forwards to injury in the first half and, with no similar substitutions, was drafted into a wing and a center from their attacking pack, leaving himself without further substitution for the rest of the game. Lymm replaced five players during the break and almost immediately the cool legs made an impact and Lymm scored after a series of tight shots for the line (12-10).
The match was over and it was Rochdale’s turn to shine. From near the Lymm line, several drives were pushed back but served to reduce the home side’s defence. Spotting the overlap, the ball was moved quickly along the Rochdale back line where Tom Shaw received the scoring pass and pointed for a 7-pointer (12-17).
Matches can be won and lost on small moments and, from a scrum resulting from a short restart kick, Rochdale struck. A stray pass found Rochdale fullback Ollie Simpson, who repaired the winger and passed to clear Tom Hesketh. He in turn beat the first cover tackle, then made a desperate lunge from the back of Lymm before accelerating away from everyone to score under the post (12-24).
This prompted a reaction from Lymm and they redoubled their efforts, running the ball everywhere and at every opportunity. Rochdale held them and got the chance their efforts deserved when a crossing penalty in the Lymm 22 allowed Holt to extend the lead to 15 points (12-27).
Lymm replaced another group of players and picked up the pace again. With all their replacements, Rochdale was starting to tire and spaces were opening up for Lymm’s forwards. It was now a question of when, not if, Lymm would score and for Rochdale it was an all-around defensive effort that saw plenty of last-minute tackles. Lymm needed three scores to overhaul Rochdale and they got the first with six minutes remaining (19-27).
Rochdale was doing everything he could to manage the clock and finish the match but conceded again two minutes from the end (26-27). There was time for a final attack from Lymm and they came within five yards of Rochdale’s goal line before a turnover secured possession for Rochdale and they were able to clear to touch and end the match.
It was a terrific game between two evenly matched teams showing great skill and playing at a blistering pace.
There were a lot of standout performances; special mention should be made of Will Rawlinson, Will Simmons and Gabe Fraser who played out of position in forwards and all made fierce tackles in the defensive effort.
Myers, Alex Barry and Jacob Jackson were outstanding on offense and defense. Joel Rigby played the full 70 minutes of first-row grafting. Behind the scrum, Zac Baker, Holt, Ben Kershaw, Max Cooper, Simpson, Hesketh and Shaw all contributed to a rock-solid defensive effort. Nick Wright and Declan O’Loughlin had to leave the field due to injury, but are on the mend. Ben Sunderland was named man of the match because he was a constant nuisance to the opposition when breaking down, slowing and turning the ball over, strong in carrying and tackling and available as a link between forwards and full-backs.
Team: Jacob Jackson, Joel Rigby, Garrett Myers, Ben Sunderland, Nick Wright, Declan O’Loughlin, Zac Baker, Mitchell Holt, Tom Shaw, Will Simmons, Ben Kershaw, Gabe Fraser, Oli Simpson, Alex Barry, Max Cooper, Tom Hesketh, Will Rawlinson