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Lancaster Rugby Union men’s firsts extended their impressive undefeated streak to ten victories in a row with a 14-0 victory over Liverpool John Moores firsts.
A dominant display by the Lancaster forwards, which also led to the only try of the game and some comfortable kicking by centre Antony Coulson in windy conditions, ensured Lancaster a win in a hard-fought game that was plagued by penalties.
Lancaster opened the scoring in the early running with an Antony Coulson penalty. This was closely followed up by a period of Liverpool pressure from a poor clearance kick leading to an opportunity for Liverpool to close the gap. The Liverpool kicker found himself unable to capitalise.
It was not long before Lancaster were able to turn their early pressure and domination in the scrum into a try. The opportunity came when a Liverpool knock-on near the five metre line rewarded Lancaster with a scrum in which the powerful pack were able to drive over the try line for number eight Tom Williams to score. However, Coulson was unable to add the conversion.
An injury to flanker Michael Walker in the 25th minute forced an early change from Lancaster, with Huw Marsden coming on as his replacement. It was not long before Lancaster were able to add to their lead with Liverpool being caught offside in their own half, allowing Coulson to bring the score to 11-0 from the resulting penalty. Following this, Liverpool stepped up their game, but a series of penalties ensured this came to little effect. Their attack was hampered when a cross field kick was easily gathered by winger Eduoard Whyte, who called for the mark. Further Liverpool attacks were cut down when they were penalised for wheeling the scrum and holding on to the ball. A break by full back Tim Holloway put the pressure back on Liverpool at the end of the first half, but his pass was unable to find anything but the touchline.
The second half began in the same spirit as the first, with Liverpool’s ill discipline allowing Coulson to extend Lancaster’s lead to 14-0. The first penalty marked the beginning of a half plagued by penalties and errors in which attacking flair was lacking and open play was bogged down. Sloppy play led to a series of turnovers and changes in possession with Liverpool being turned over at the scrum in the opening phases, only for Lancaster to be turned over shortly afterwards. Liverpool were unable to capitalise on this, and a knock-on gave possession back to Lancaster. The curse of the knock-on continued when Lancaster themselves did so, giving Liverpool the scum – which they won. Liverpool gave possession away cheaply when a poor grubber kick through found no one but a Lancaster man, who was back to retrieve it.
An error by Liverpool gave Coulson the opportunity to extend the lead, but he was unable to find the posts. Following this, the game became bogged down with an increase in penalties and errors on both sides. Poor performance in set pieces made Liverpool favour the tap and go which increased the tempo of the game, but vastly reduced the ground that Liverpool made. Frustration became apparent around the 70 minute mark when tempers boiled over. The last real chance of the game came when the Liverpool centre made a huge break from the Liverpool 22 to the Lancaster 22, but another costly knock-on ended any chance Liverpool had of scoring.
The final whistle blew with a 14-0 victory for Lancaster. Captain Dave Wrightson hailed Lancaster’s “brilliant defence” in what he described as a “tough game”. He admitted there was “still much to work and improve on”, but with a beaming smile, pointed out the fact that Lancaster are “still undefeated”. Next week, Lancaster travel away to Liverpool John Moores for a rematch. After such a dominant performance this week, Lancaster will be going into the game with high hopes.