Chorley Panthers 40-42 Heysham Atoms

Billy Livingstone.
Billy Livingstone.

The Heysham Atoms moved to the top of the North West Men’s League Division One with a pulsating win at Chorley Panthers on Saturday.

The visitors came out on top by the skin of their teeth in this nerve-jangling encounter between the sides second and third in the table at the start of the day.

Both sides scored seven tries but it was the accuracy of kicker Billy Livingstone, whose 100 per cent conversion rate, ultimately separated the teams.

Chorley caught the Atoms a little cold and were first on the scoreboard as their danger man at prop made a break right down the middle of the park.

The support was good and a penalty for trying to slow down the attack down set up the score with the visitors soon 6-0 down.

The Heysham side forced a goal line drop out straight from Stuart Lacey’s restart however and set up a sustained period of pressure that brought three tries and an 18-6 lead.

Mark Walker scored the first in typical, powerful style then Jason Short took over Liam Hall’s mantle scoring straight down the middle of the ruck from close range.

Stand off Lacey then made it three with a chip and chase that he recovered on the bounce before forcing his way over the line for an excellent individual score.

The two hookers were then to the fore as Chorley’s number nine brought them back within a score after spinning out of a number of tackles before Matty Humpage made an impact off the bench, bravely diving to restore the two-score advantage at the break.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first with Chorley’s prop wreaking havoc down the right side of the Atoms’ defence and the period of territorial advantage brought Chorley two tries and right back into the game at 24-22.

The game was to be tit for tat from here on in,as the contest turned into the close one everyone had predicted.

Al Crookall was held up over the line for the Atoms before Humpage scored his second under another hail of bodies as he crossed from the dummy half position.

Chorley then scored a converted try under the posts after more sloppy defending from the Atoms was punished.

Jack Edmondson, who has been waiting for a chance to impress in the senior side after starring for the under 18s, was soon in the action as he set up a great attacking position and the try of the game.

Dan Helme showed the ball to a couple of dummy runners across the middle of the field before finding Crookall running a perfectly timed line to split the Chorley defenders and go under the posts without a hand being laid on him.

It seemed as if the Atoms thought that one try would be enough but Chorley wouldn’t be shaken off.

The Atoms had problems dealing with the number 13 all afternoon and he again put his side in the lead at 40-36 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

The visitors had to respond and did just that with Andrew Collins and Jamie Cottle putting them within striking distance.

Livingstone saw a little gap and propelled himself towards the tryline showing just enough determination to get there and score the crucial try.

With the game locked at 40 points all Livingstone then had to compose himself and take the vital kick to seal victory.

And from a difficult angle he did just that as the Atoms survived some Chorley pressure in the final two minutes to pick up two big points in the context of their season.

The win, coupled with Hindpool losing at St Helens Wildboars, saw the Atoms go top of the table for the first time this season.

The next two league games look set to go a long way in defining their season with trips to fifth in the table Wigan Spring View and second-placed Hindpool to come in consecutive weeks.