1st XV Match Report - Hoylake v Anselmians
Butty Signs off in Style
The weather was gloomy but the mood was extremely positive in the Hoylake camp, despite the pre-match announcement that prop and club stalwart, Steve Butterworth, was to retire from 1st XV rugby at the end of the match versus local rivals Old Anselmians.
The team from Eastham arrived at Melrose on the back of two impressive victories against Wirral and Sale, sides who had inflicted heavy defeats on the hosts.
However, Hoylake welcomed 17 year old fly half Jack Lavin into the side, releasing Steve Young to play in his more effective role of 13. This combined with the return of hard-hitting winger, Matt McClaren and big man, Ian Griffiths, meant that Hoylake were as near to full strength as they had been all season. The only notable absentee was back row dynamo, Guy Byatt, but the performance of veteran 2nd XV Skipper, Jason Pell, meant that his presence wasn't missed on the day.
The hosts started like a train and raced into a 6-0 lead via the boot of Skipper, Stephen Young. Anselmians looked dangerous on the break but Hoylake's back 3 of Dan Baldock, Tom Selby-Milic and McClaren were up for the challenge. Eventually though, ex-Ireland International and European Cup Winner, Simon Mason, slotted a penalty to remind Hoylake that any penalties conceded in their own half would be harshly punished.
The pivotal point in the match occurred after 15 minutes. With the Hoylake pack firmly in the ascendancy, Rob Kurton took the opportunity to sack former Hoylake Skipper, Paul Kay, as he went for a pressure relieving box kick. Although the timing of the tackle wasn't called into question by the referee, he did harshly brandish a yellow card for a high tackle on the 4ft 5 scrum half....
With the man advantage, even the most optimistic of the Hoylake faithful would have expected an Anselmians backlash, but it was the home side who turned up the heat and poured through at every opportunity on the would be Anselmian attackers. Eventually, excellent young prospect, Jack Lavin, slotted a 30 metre drop goal to extend Hoylake's lead.
With Kurton back on the pitch, Hoylake's pack continued to dominate, resulting in a strike against the head by Mark Wylie. Kurton and Joe Lavin linked up before his cousin, Jack, released Hoylake's pacey back line. Quick hands by the Young brothers in the centres, eventually put Selby-Milic into space and he timed his pass to perfection to put McClaren in for the opening try.
Not long after, a rare Hoylake win in the lineout resulted in Jack Lavin launching a long miss pass to Stephen Young. The Hoylake Skipper did the rest from 35 metres. With the conversion to follow, the hosts were taking a healthy 23-3 lead into half time.
Before Anselmians could begin a comeback, Stephen Young was harshly sin binned for a high tackle on his opposite number. However, this again prompted the hosts to turn up the heat and somehow manage to work an overlap in the backs. Richard Young found himslef in acres of space after quick hands by the backs and just about managed to squeeze in in the corner, after a 40 metre gallop.
There then followed the expected onslaught from the visitors. The heroic defence from the likes of Matt O'Neill, Tom Corkhill and Matt O'Hanlon looked to be holding out, until the Anselmians forwards eventually forced the try which was converted by Mason.
At 28-10, Hoylake were still well in the clear and weren't in the mood to throw this one away. They worked their way upfield with some excellent tactical kicking by Jack Lavin and eventually broke through with a mesmerising run by Joe Lavin. The resulting scrum was won against the head again by Wylie, leaving Kurton the relatively simple task of dummying his way over the line from 10 metres out.
At 33-10, the game seemed beyond Anselmians but to their credit they came back at Hoylake and scored another try through their forwards which was again converted by Mason. However, with the light fading and tempers fraying, the referee soon called a halt to proceedings.
At 33-17, Hoylake were good value for their victory. The difference being the aggressive defence, rucking and slick handling in the backs, all of which have been absent on several occasions this season. Remarkably, Hoylake's usually reliable lineout didn't fire and Anselmians limited their opponents to just 2 clean takes all day. Something to work on in training this week....
Man of the Match was a tough one to call so the sponsors (Revolution FS Ltd) opted for a joint award to the Lavin cousins at half back. It was great to see the 17 and 18 year old come out on top against their vastly experienced counterparts.
All in all though, a satisfying and long awaited team performance.
Finally, well done to Steve Butterworth who signed off in style with a great performance in the front row. Are you sure we can't convince you to play against Glossop next week?? And then maybe against Wigan the following week?? I know....'F**k off!'.
Photos courtesy of Colin Watson