Lancaster went into this Northern Conference fixture in superb form, with a run of four victories stretching back to the start of the season. Their opponents, Liverpool second’s had a solitary victory all campaign and Lancaster ensured this record would not improve with a commanding performance for the full 80 minutes.
The atrocious weather conditions made an immediate impact on the game. When the first opportunity to run with ball in hand fell to Lancaster it looked ominous for Liverpool; however, a long pass caught the wind and momentum was lost.
The Lancaster defence did come under early pressure as Liverpool took advantage of kicking with the wind, but they were quick to close Liverpool down and ferocious tackling forced the away side into numerous handling errors.
With flowing rugby at a premium, the first try after 16 minutes relied on the power of the Lancaster forward line. Sterling work from Dave Wrightson to secure turnover ball allowed the home team to gain 30 yards with a devastating maul. Although Liverpool managed to regain possession; a terrible fumble fell to TJ McCann, who showed exemplary handling to collect his own grubber kick and score the first try. Tony Coulson faced the daunting task of a left-wing conversion into the wind and, predictably his effort fell short.
The middle phase of the first half was a scrappy period, with both teams guilty of collapsing the scrum and committing basic errors. Neither side could supply their backs with a quality ball to hand as the forward lines battled in centre field.
Liverpool had the territorial advantage, they kicked accurately and forced Lancaster back into their 22, but the home defence stood firm and Liverpool repeatedly lost the ball when engaged in tackles. After absorbing significant pressure, Lancaster showed their class on 39 minutes; a left-wing break sent Cameron Ramsden free and the full-back crashed home under the posts. Coulson assuredly added the conversion to give Lancaster a 12-0 half-time lead.
The second-half saw Lancaster raise their game significantly; pinning Liverpool deep into their 22 and moving the ball with greater pace and accuracy. This was exemplified on 50 minutes when an expertly executed reverse pass from Coulson allowed Luke Flanagan in for the third try.
With a 17 point margin between the sides, Liverpool heads dropped under the continuous bombardment. In contrast, Lancaster were rampant, with Jack Stump adding another try just moments later.
Every Lancaster player threatened to get in on the act, with prop Max Singer somehow stopped only 5 yards out. With 65 minutes gone, the home side contrived to miss a guilt edge chance; two players ran clear, only to see an over-enthusiastic grubber sail over the dead ball line and save Liverpool further punishment. Lancaster were not to be denied however, as Tom Williams crashed over in the corner with the last play of the match to finish off a patient move and secure a 31-0 victory.
Lancaster’s inspirational captain Dave Wrightson was understandably jubilant at the final whistle;”We put together 80 minutes of good rugby in terrible conditions”. In what was a polished team performance, Wrightson praised the forwards as “Outstanding in all phases of play”.
With five consecutive victories; and having played over 160 minutes since conceding a point, Lancaster look well placed to achieve Wrightson’s ambitious target; “win the league, progress to the third round of the cup and win roses”. The next step towards achieving these goals is a knockout cup tie against Salford firsts, who defeated Lancaster’s second string in league action last week. Although Lancaster are the higher ranked team, Salford have made an unbeaten start to the season and must not be underestimated.