KUKRI SPORTS.COM ORIGIN SERIES - GAME ONE
LANCASTER 20 POINTS V's MORECAMBE 12 POINTS AT VALE OF LUNE R.U.F.C. 12.08.05
Lancaster pulled off a sensational victory with a gritty performance against the much-fancied Morecambe outfit. The win was built around a defence that just wouldn't yield even under severe pressure and the knack of taking the chances when they presented themselves.
The occasion seemed to affect even the most experienced players as the usually dependable Andy Helme dropped the ball straight from the kick off. This was all a fired up Morecambe pack needed. They relished the chance to have first use of the football making huge inroads into a shaky Lancaster defensive line. A retreating defensive line is always vulnerable to conceding a penalty and a holding down offence, in front of the sticks, was awarded to Morecambe. Young stand-off Ollie Austin coolly stepped up and took the two points.
Straight from the kick off Lancaster made another error allowing the dangerous Cambidge to hand off a weak challenge taking his side 60 metres upfield. Lancaster scrambled back but it was only a matter of time before their line was breached. Hooker Aldren intelligently utilised the blind side, sucking in the defenders, before centre Matt Craven found the gap and stride over the line. Austin again added the extras for an 8 nil lead in as many minutes.
A shell-shocked Lancaster side had yet to have possession of the ball and had to have a good look at themselves behind the posts. They at last regained possession of the ball and kicked deep behind the wings. The line moved up with more purpose and at last they were able to force Morecambe to kick themselves. This confidence was short lived as for the next 15 minutes Morecambe laid siege to Lancaster's line. They contributed to the pressure by spilling the ball due to some poor options and the ferocity of the Morecambe hits. Somehow they held out showing great resilience which eventually bound the team together to go on and win the game.
From looking out on their feet at one end Lancaster finally exerted some pressure of their own. A penalty was missed but a completed set close to the line brought the Lancaster side back in to the game. On the last tackle, scrum half Helme redeemed himself from his earlier mistake, by sliding a kick through. Ex-Lancaster Uni hooker Jimmy Dyson reacted the quickest pouncing on the bobbling ball, scoring the first of his two tries.
Although the conversion failed this was good reward for Lancaster having seen so little of the ball in the opening exchanges. Morecambe's captain Keith Hartlebury varied the play well using all his options available along with his own strong running style. Hall and McVernon worked well in tandem, although not making the clean breaks, at least sapping the energy, drawing two and three defenders into the tackle.
Lancaster visibly lifted when Atoms captain Gavin Helliwell entered the game from the bench. His strong defence and an ability to gain the extra yard with ball in hand gave Lancaster a timely boost.
Stand off Scott Telford brought the wide runners into the game for the first time in the match finding Rob Shaw in the right centre channel. The move looked to have been halted but he somehow got the ball away to centre Brooks who in turn fed winger Ledwick who finished in style. After a deliberation with the touch judge the try stood and Lancaster were back on level terms.
Lancaster's tactic of hitting close to the rucks was now paying off as a jaded Morecambe side found it difficult to keep a check on Lancaster's hooker Jimmy Dyson. He combined well with hard working second row partners - Russ Birkett and Mark McIntyre before a quick play the ball allowed him to jump out of the dummy half position. He saw a gap, put his head down and went for it being rewarded with a try close to the posts. Bowman converted taking the Lancaster side in at 14-8 at the break.
Morecambe had to re-organise as Raines and Hamilton withdrew with injuries. This did not deter them as they again started the stronger. Morecambe's loose forward Livingstone was getting his side on the front foot going close on a number of occasions. Gavin Winder at the back of Lancaster's line must have wondered what he had done to gain so much attention but everything that was thrown at him was dealt with in a solid full back display, that gave the men in front of him plenty of confidence.
The discipline of the two sides deteriorated as the game wore on bringing the referee more and more into the game which affected the fluency of the match. Dave McVernon didn't seem to be affected as he was able to pick up on the pressure-making break after break down the left channel. Somehow Lancaster were able to find that all-important tackle and stave off the danger.
Lancaster were finding it difficult to get their kicks away such was the pressure from the Morecambe players. Russ Birkett found himself with the ball, on the last, 15 metres from the Morecambe line. Instead of the kick he decided to take on the defence and jinked and shimmied his way past 4 defenders getting over the line for an outstanding individual score. After being swamped by his teammates knowing the relevance of the score Bowman added the conversion, and a 20 points to 8 lead.
Morecambe were getting their chances but just not nailing them. Chris Helme was put in a gap by Hartlebury only to be brought back for a forward pass and from here on in frustration got the better of the Morecambe team. Lancaster fared no better in the discipline steaks losing Telford to the sidelines after a high shot on Liam Hall.
Morecambe exerted pressure on Lancaster's line and Craven was held up a yard short. Cambidge moved into half back and picked up and charged for the line. He looked to have been halted but such was the strength and determination he forced his way over the white-wash. Bringing Morecambe within 8 points at 20-12. This proved to be the last score as Lancaster tried to kill the game off, keeping possession close to the rucks, keeping mistakes to a minimum. The relief and a sense of achievement was there for all to see, at the final whistle, for the Lancaster camp, but they can't sit back and gloat for too long as the Origin 2 kicks off next Friday at the Trimpell.
Lancaster: G Winder, S Ledwick, S Brooks, P Casson, S Graham,
S Telford, A Helme, R Shaw, J Dyson, S Tyson, M McIntyre, R Birkett, S
Player/Coach: Andy Helme
Morecambe: R Raines, M Pike, M Craven, B Cambidge, J Pyrah, O
Austin, K Hartlebury, J Hamilton, A Aldren, S Weed, D McVernon, L Hall,
Coach: D Crow
THE WATERWITCH MAN OF THE MATCH: R BIRKETT
KUKRISPORTS.COM ORIGIN 2 - FRIDAY 19TH AUGUST, KICK OFF 6.30 PM,
TRIMPELL GROUND, MORECAMBE
The Glorious Twelfth
By Rob Shaw
Rorke's Drift test, Northern Union Vs Australia, 1914. Wigan Vs Brisbane, World Club Challenge, 1994. Sheffield Vs Wigan, Challenge Cup Final, 1998. And now to that illustrious list of massive upsets in Rugby League, you can add Lancaster Vs Morecambe 2005.
Out of those people with inside knowledge of the local Rugby League scene, there can only have been 17 people who thought a Lancaster victory was possible. And those 17 were the players that took to the field on Friday 12th August. And what a Glorious 12th it was!
The Morecambe team have a massive advantage in this fixture, as the principle Rugby League club in the area, Heysham Atoms, mainly consists of players who are Morecambe born and bred. Lancaster's team on the other hand was pulled together from Lancaster based Atoms players, last year's conference side, the University club, and had a bench of players whose experience of the 13-aside game was limited to say the least.
Whereas Morecambe have had the luxury of full training sessions with an established base, the nomadic Lancaster team have been restricted to training on local playing fields, often with key players missing.
It was for these reasons - and with strike players such as Andy Garnett and Mark Squires unavailable - that very few gave Lancaster even a fighting chance of victory - and makes the triumph all the more remarkable.
As expected, the Morecambe team whose squad included no less than seven props, started like a house on fire with aggression aplenty battering the Lancaster line.
But in Rugby League, chances have to be taken when they present themselves. Morecambe were in attack mode for most of the first half hour, due to extra possession gifted from Lancaster errors. In this time, only one try was recorded in their favour, which strangely gave confidence to the Lancaster team as attack after attack was repelled. In attack for Lancaster, the trio of Andy Helme, Scott Telford and Jimmy Dyson kept Lancaster's options varied and fluent, the latter of whom pushed Russ Birkett all the way for the Man of the Match with his brace of tries. The Vale of Lune's hooker Phil Watson proved to be a valuable replacement with penetrating, tackle busting runs that demonstrated his worth in the league code too.
With a game plan remarkably similar to last year's fixture, as the match wore on the warm weather and fast conditions were always going to favour the lighter team, especially on the wide-open spaces of Powderhouse Lane. However, whilst the fitness side of the game came into play for some, the threat of Hall and McVernon's penetrating runs were never really extinguished and it was with some relief that Hall received his marching orders from the ref for retaliation.
The three cards brandished by the ref in the final stages of the game ensured the clash lived up to everything it was billed to be. No quarter asked for, and certainly none given. This was Origin rugby as it was meant to be, mate-against-mate, town-against-town, with a bit of biff thrown in for good measure to spice things up.
Its been a painful 12 months of taunts for Lancaster, and whilst Friday night earned a little respect perhaps, it will be worthless unless the magnificent victory, against all the odds, is followed with an equally impressive and committed performance this Friday at Trimpell. Directions to the ground and merchandise for the series are available on www.heyshamatoms.com and we will hopefully see you all down there to witness another pulsating contest.
Lancaster welcome back into their squad for next week's game Andy Garnett, Mark Squires, Chris Connaughton and Guy Richardson. However, with 17 players ahead of them in the squad, it's going to be down to injuries or unavailability before a choice place in this team is relinquished.
Lastly, many thanks to our commercial partners who have made this event possible: KukriSports.com, and in particular Ex Wigan legend and dual code international BJ Mather; Matt Jackson of C2 Investments, Core Utility Solutions, The Kings Own Royal Yorkshire Regiment, Rees Tiles and Flooring, GTS White Lund, Willis Florists and Thirteen magazine.
Gallery - Photos by Kristen Madden unless stated