Close call for Chapel as Linley take strong matchplay right up to the whistle.
A beautiful day for rugby, blue sky, little or no wind and a dry but soft pitch saw Holmes Chapel – without their influential Captain and Vice captain – entertaining Linley at Station Road on Saturday afternoon with the touch line full of supporters from both teams. The Chapel line-up was also notable for the return of Mark Darlington at scrum half, back in the 1st XV for the first time in over 5 years.
Linley were coming into the match on the back of defeating the current league leaders Ramsey at home in their previous league game, so Chapel knew that they would be in for a stern examination and only by playing at the top of their game would they be able to repel the team two places above them in the table. Chapel welcomed back talismanic centre Matt Bowdon to take the captain’s armband with Dom Moss given his second successive start on the flank.
Linley, defending the road end, kicked off but it was Chapel who had the better start. The visitors conceded a penalty and Andy Fyffe kicked the ball into the opposition half. A clean lineout catch by Dom Moss and drive from the forwards provided the momentum for the backs to attack as centre Matt Bowden powered though. He was tackled but Linley killed the ball at the ruck giving Chapel a first chance of points with a penalty kick from the 10 metre line mid-pitch. Unfortunately the kick was missed and the score remained 0-0.
Linley kicked the 22 drop-out deep into Chapel territory, and following some ariel ping-pong, won a lineout 5 metres from the Chapel try line, Linley secured good ball and drove the Chapel forwards backwards and over the line for the No 8 to ground the ball for the first score with 15 minutes gone. The try was converted to give the visitors a 0-7 lead.
From the restart Chapel chased hard and excellent tackling by Jack Baskerville gave the forwards a chance to produce good quick ball for the backs. They ran a pre-planned switch move, which led to Fyffe parting the Linley defence like the Red Sea. However, he was unable to hold onto the return pass and the opportunity was lost.
Following comments made to the referee, Linley had a player sent to the sin-bin. This gave Chapel an extra man for ten minutes, however, it also galvanised the Linley defensive effort which, coupled with some lack of accuracy by the home side, meant that Chapel were unable to capitalise on the advantage. The return of their sin-binned player was the impetus that Linley needed to up the tempo and put the pressure back on Chapel.
As the half drew to close, a scrum 5 metres from their line saw the Chapel front row of Lightfoot, Almond and Watson, dig deep into their energy reserves, and they were just able to win the ball against the head and clear their lines.
Linley began the second half well, disrupting the Chapel scrum with a good drive to regain possession, which their impressive scrum half kicked deep into Chapel territory. Full back Doug Canavan collected the ball and ran it back, linking up with the back row to continue the progress until they were eventually stopped 5 metres from the try line, Linley’s defence were penalised for slowing the ball down as Chapel were awarded a penalty, but rather than taking the easy points Chapel tried to run for the corner. Unfortunately their lack of accuracy remained as a knock on curtailed the move, and Linley, solid in their defensive scrum, cleared the danger and the ball up to half way.
After 53 minutes, Linley were awarded a penalty and kicked to the Chapel 22. From the lineout they launched their strong running second row who broke through four tackles before releasing the ball to the backs. There was huge relief for Chapel when they knocked on only metres from the line.
The relief was short-lived, as Linley won a penalty following some good work from their outstanding full back and their lead was increased to 10-0.
Showing greater urgency, Chapel began a sustained attack from forward pick and drives and some good interpassing to take the play deep into the Linley half. Following a back row break the Linley No5 was yellow carded for killing the ball in the “red zone”. On this occasion captain Bowden pointed to the posts and Canavan converted for Chapel’s first points with 65 minutes gone.
With a man advantage Chapel were able to keep up the pressure on the opposition, and nearly scored when Kristian Clowes charged down a clearance kick but was inches short as the rebound rolled over the dead ball line. Soon afterwards, Chapel were back over the line from a lineout catch and drive with Mike Cottam grounding the ball, but the referee was unsighted and disallowed the try. However, Chapel were awarded a penalty for offside, which was converted by Canavan to cut the deficit to 4 points with 10 minutes to go. Chapel took this opportunity to bring on some of their replacements so they had fresh legs to finish the match.
Chapel began a final push as Fyffe’s kicking pushed the play back into Linley’s 22 and pressure on the defence gave Chapel a lineout on the 5 metre line. With pinpoint accuracy Almond found Mike Cottam at the back of the line, quick ball was passed along the backs, and Canavan joining the line from full back flew over in the far corner to score a well worked try. The conversion was just short but Chapel had now taken the lead with only added time remaining.
With time running out, Linley mounted one final attack when they stole a lineout close to Chapel’s try line before giving the ball out to the backs. As Chapel’s backs raced up to defend, Linley knocked on, and the referee blew for full time.
Holmes Chapel 11 – 10 Linley
This win was reward for a great team effort from the home side, and puts them right back in the promotion race. Chapel travel to Parkonians next Saturday for a crucial league game against one of the form sides in the league.
Holmes Chapel RUFC thank sponsors Wyman Construction, Hopwiser Systems, Pochin & AUF leasing for their continued support,