On their first game on the new 4G turf, Derby ran out expecting a much tougher game than their previous encounter, when Derby won by 42 points to 17 at Lichfield.
Dan Hymans and Jake Barker started in place of the injured Martin Kent and Luke Frixou. Louis Hicks made a welcome return playing at No.6 where his contribution proved vitally important. It turned out to resemble a relegation battle which saw Barker leave with an injured ankle after only two minutes. He was replaced by young Jack Bates, following in his father Matt’s footsteps. Blizzard conditions made things difficult for both sides but Lichfield seemed to cope better in keeping possession longer.
Playing against the very strong wind and snow, Josh Tzard got off to good start with a quick try, which Georg Castledine did well to convert from way out. Strong running by Lichfield forwards created a gap for fullback, Greg Massey to score under the posts. He also added the conversion. The Derby pack were getting the upper hand in the scrums forcing Lichfield to beef up their pack with a couple of subs. Two Yellow Cards for Lichfield prop and scrumhalf followed in quick succession. Derby took advantage with a push-over try scored by Tom Taylor-Dawes. This gave Derby a lead at the interval, when they could look forward to benefitting from playing with the strong wind.
Hymans and Manning were replaced by Moon and Martin and the talk at the break was for Derby to kick for ground and play in the Lichfield half. However, the wind carried the restart kick straight into touch, gifting Lichfield a scrum. Derby compounded things by giving away two penalties and had to defend their own line. Lichfield opted for a scrum in front of Derby’s posts and prop, Chris Milner, touched down out wide to level the scores. Another forward drive was finished off by Massey for his second try but crucially he failed to convert it. Just minutes later, Ben Marsden forced his way over in the corner and once again, George Castledine did well to convert with a long range kick in difficult conditions. For the last ten minutes, Lichfield stormed the Derby line but the defence held finally tackling the ball carrying Winger in to touch to signal the end of play.
Some felt that Lichfield could have won with their aggressive running and strong defence but Derby players, overcoming their self-inflicted pressure with a number of penalties, showed a dogged determination to prevail.
Next week, it is at home to Newbold, another team fighting relegation.
Match Report by Gerry Sherry
Photographs of the Derby v Lichfield game can be viewed on the e4creative photography website at www.e4creative-photography.co.uk/galleries/gallery/17032018-derby-1st-xv-v-lichfield-1st-xv