LIVERPOOL ST HELENS 42 WILMSLOW 39

This was a Christmas cracker if there ever was one. Liverpool St Helens won an enthralling point-a-minute encounter in which they led up until the 76th minute when Wilmslow went ahead 35-39 after steadily eroding LSH’s lead.

No one at Moss Lane was in any doubt about the significance of this last game before the three week Christmas break and the desperate need to emerge with winning points. LSH had spent a good deal of the second half on the back foot as Wilmslow ran in four tries but with the 80 minute mark approaching summoned up one last attack down the left flank. The ball reached Dan Filson 30 metres out only to find his route blocked by his opposite number. Running out of space he put in a kick ahead which must have been watched over by the Good Fairy as it bounced perfectly for the left winger to collect and run round under the posts. Smith converted, the referee blew for full time and LSH had delivered the Christmas win that sees them smiling into the New Year.

LSH dominated the first half although Wilmslow opened the scoring in the 7th minute when winger Tom Rayner ran through a mysterious hole in the LSH defence and scored from distance. LSH then scored three tries in twelve minutes, the first from Ian Stanley after good work from centre Jack Jones. Smith converted. The second try came from an interception by Jake Hodson sprinting 70 metres to score under the posts, Smith adding the extras. The third featured an excellent break from Greg Smith and a good finish from Dan Filson by the left corner flag. Smith landed the difficult conversion for a 21-5 lead.

Wilmslow replied with a penalty from Lawrence James before Filson notched his second and LSH’s bonus point try in the 38th minute with another long distance interception, Smith making no mistake. Wilmslow were in no mood to cave in and Lawrence James crossed for a crucial score right on the half time whistle, before converting his own try for a 28-15 scoreline.

The visitors picked up where they had left off when, after two minutes, hooker Max Harvey nipped over for a try. LSH responded immediately with a sustained attack bringing a try for hooker John Windle after a quickly taken tap penalty. Smith slotted it over.

The next 30 minutes belonged to Wilmslow taking full advantage of their massive superiority at the lineout by scoring three tries. Second Row Mike Clifford ghosted over from a lineout in 55 minutes; Harrison Lewis finished off a good move in 66 minutes, converted by James; and James himself ran in and converted an interception try after 76 minutes to give Wilmslow a four point lead. This set the scene for the final frantic few minutes and Dan Filson’s hat-trick and winning try.

Any report on LSH’s success should congratulate both teams for serving up such excellent festive fayre but in the final analysis the Moss Laners had two players who stood out. Number 8 Phil Kearns had a magnificent game both in attack and defence, ever willing to make extra yards for his team; and statisticians will have worked out that Greg Smith did not miss a conversion, including three that were not straightforward. It made a difference.

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