Lancaster Vs Liverpool 12th June 2004
TOTALRL.COM RUGBY LEAGUE CONFERENCE
Welcoming back leading try scorer Mark Squires as well as Matt Craven, Lancaster were confident of building on the strong display against Bolton. Liverpool, on the other hand, needed the points in their quest to qualify for the end of season Harry Jepson trophy.
Still smarting from their reverse at Liverpool three weeks ago, Lancaster found themselves 16-4 up after only 25 minutes. It appeared the new jerseys were bringing more luck than the old! Andy Garnett, having just been named Heysham Atoms Players' Player of the Year, demonstrated outstanding finishing after an offload from Liam Hall beating five men to cross out wide for a try. His conversion gave the team a two point lead, all this after Dan Hodson had opened the scoring for Liverpool.
Garnett replicated his score moments later and fired another accurate conversion from the touchline. Squires broke sixty metres into Liverpool territory but the visitors were able to break up the next play forcing the ball to ground. From the scrum, Craven drove to the posts and Keith Hartlebury linked with Greg Sykes. Simon Ledwick came into the line and with great footwork once more, Garnett beat the sliding defence to cross the line.
Five minutes after this, the home side further extended the lead. Craven, Dave McVernon and Hall provided the metres and on the fourth play Russell Birkett ran across the Liverpool defence, found the lazy defender and accelerated through the gap. The remaining thirty metres provided no obstacles and Birkett registered one of the tries of the season.
Then came one of the turning points of the game. Phil Casson intercepted a Liverpool offload and began to race unopposed to the try line. The referee however called him back on a charge of ball stealing and from the resulting penalty Mark Pickering scored by the posts. This was a perfect example of a "twelve point turnaround" where the home side could have been 22-4 ahead but instead the deficit was cut to a mere six. And when hooker Matt Edwards had to be taken from the field with a nasty facial injury, Lancaster were forced into playing the remainder of the game without a key playmaker.
Ironically the Liverpool fightback began with the sin binning of one of their players. Mark Yates threw a number of punches in the direction of Matt Craven and after the scuffle died down Lancaster appeared to lose some concentration. A Daryl Lacey kick fooled Ledwick and although the video demonstrated that the referee missed the ex-pro Lacey being in an offside position after Dave Webb had touched the ball, the visitors cut the gap to only two points as Mike McPartland scored in the corner.
Shortly after half time, Mark Pickering levelled the scores with a penalty goal. Garnett, now playing at loose forward, then saved his side with his cover defence. Martin Pike and Squires made strong attacking forays into Liverpool's territory but with tension at a peak given the deadlocked scoreline nerves dictated that a lot of tackle sequences were not completed. It became increasingly apparent that the team who began to control the ball would win the game. But before the handling improved lady luck smiled on the visitors when a misplaced pass landed at the feet of Lacey. Unable to believe his luck, he picked the ball up and placed it over the line. The comeback was completed and Liverpool held the lead.
Lancaster were unable to hit back. Star performer Hall found himself sin binned after a scuffle on his own line. The tape shows that he didn't throw a punch but the referee indicated differently and with a man advantage Liverpool turned the screw. The man that had been sin binned, Mark Yates, was the player who did the damage crossing for two tries in only five minutes. .
The home side still tried to come back. Searching for his hat trick, Garnett made a break and appeared to be heading for the try line but that man Yates stopped him with an exquisite covering tackle. Then after James Hughes and Rob Shaw had given him the required territory, Keith Hartlebury scored his second try in successive weeks by burrowing his way over from dummy half. But the joy was short lived as, incredibly, Liverpool scored straight from the kick off. Lacey collected a high kick and was tackled just short of the try line. The stunned Lancaster defence could only watch as scrum half Pickering waltzed his way to the posts to complete the scoring; 20-36 in the visitors favour.
Liam Hall was the winner of the Walkabout Inns Man of the Match award closely contested by another outstanding display from Russell Birkett and also Matt Craven.
LANCASTER: 1 Simon Ledwick, 2 Andy Garnett, 3 Phil Casson, 4 Matt Craven, 5 Mark Squires, 6 Greg Sykes, 7 Keith Hartlebury, 8 Dave McVernon, 9 Matt Edwards, 10 Liam Hall, 11 Pete Edwards, 12 Liam Butterworth, 13 Russell Birkett. Subs: Martin Pike, Rob Shaw, Graham Shaw, Colin Bebington, Chris Helme, Nick Roberts, Brian Birkett, James Hughes
TRIES: Andy Garnett (2), Russell Birkett, Keith Hartlebury
WALKABOUT INNS MAN OF THE MATCH: Liam Hall
MATCH SPONSOR: Walkabout Inns
From the Axe Lancaster Vs Liverpool
Despite the reasonably narrow margin of defeat, this result was perhaps our worst performance of the season.
We had on the pitch one of the strongest line-ups that we have fielded and we faced a Liverpool side shorn of its star players who were away on amateur international duty.
Rightly so, despite the respective league positions of the two clubs, on paper Lancaster were deemed the favourites.
Even at 4-0 down it only seemed a matter of when, not if, would Lancaster take control of the game.
Indeed, we appeared to do so. Andy Garnet stepped forward to register a brace of tries to set Lancaster on the right path. At 16-4 up after 25 minutes, we should be looking to turn the screw. We failed miserably.
The video shows the ref was a little harsh on us a couple of occasions, but more importantly shows up some very sloppy defending, especially close to the line.
Valuable possession of the ball was turned over far too easily as too many players strayed from the game plan and white line fever set in. Scoring three tries so early on in the game was perhaps our undoing.
Whether the team thought the hard work was done after 25 minutes is hard to say, but was probably the case. Too many people sat back and basked in the victory that never happened. The Liverpool team, all credit to them, had certainly not given up on the game and fought for every scrap of possession they could get, which ultimately proved worth fighting for.
Its one thing giving 100% against a quality team, (of which there are many in the North West Conference) and losing - you can walk off the pitch with your head held high. There were not many players walking of the pitch proud of their performances on Saturday.
Next week we face the former champions Chester Wolves. We certainly wont
have the chance to bask in a comfortable lead against them and then blow
it. The former Harry Jepson Cup winners will, as ever, prove a tough test.
I just hope we can raise our game to match them.
The view from Lancaster
Lancaster 20 v 36 Liverpool Bucc
LIVERPOOL BUCCANEERS came from 16-4 behind to snatch the points in a thrilling game against LANCASTER at Giant Axe. Andy Garnett scored two self-converted tries for Lancaster, both from out wide and when Russell Brikett crossed after a sensational dummy it seemed the home side would claim the points. But game breaking performances from Daryl Lacey with two tries and full back Mark Yates with one saw the visitors claw their way back into the game. Mike McPartland started the revival just before the break and Liverpool's other second half try went to Mark Pickering, with Keith Hartlebury responding for Lancaster.
BOLTON LE MOORS maintained the division's only unbeaten run with an eight try success over BLACKPOOL SEA EAGLES. Gary Gooney was their star performer, topping the tackle count and hit ups and adding a try for good measure. Touchdowns to Dave Peel and Simon Briggs - who both finished with a double - either side of the interval swung the contest; Peter Kain with a brace and Mark Brindle were Bolton's other try scorers.
Richard Smith gave CREWE WOLVES the perfect start at home to WIDNES SAINTS with a try after three minutes, Paul Flannery, Paul Grant and Smith again making it 22-8 inside the first quarter with Kevin Buck and Danny Yates Saints' scorers. Darren McKinnon and Peter Forrest cut the gap to two points by the break and in the second half Forrest completed his hat trick and Andy Benson and Buck finished with two tries each.
NORTH WALES COASTERS put in their best display of the season but
just failed to down a three try Paul Curphey inspired CHESTER WOLVES.
Stephen Curphey crossed twice, John Williams and John Rawlinson also adding
four pointers for the visitors.