With the latest edition of our league quest upon us it was time for the annual Coach Trip. Once a year a game is selected for the ladies to travel together and celebrate their successes, and Wellingborough away was a good one due to its distance. Having had a disjointed week with various storms and floods all around, training had literally been washed out. And with availability light for once, it was a chance for newbies and returnees to have a go. However, the strength of this club, which I have said before, is this ability to still put out a squad of 18 even with half a dozen regulars missing.
On the way up Steve and I were discussing the formation with a brand-new second row, returning props after 1 and 2 yrs out – possibly having to play flanker. A flanker at inside centre but not having a lineout jumper so she would have to join the line out and somebody else go to outside centre to cover. It wasn’t going to be straightforward and with Wellingborough finally getting a squad of 18 themselves this wasn’t going to be easy – in fact we both predicted a 5-10-point game.
Having arrived separately to the girls it was nice to see everybody in good spirits, pretty chilled but switched on. The pitch was heavy and had some standing water on it but was playable. There was a stiff breeze blowing downhill and we again decided to play against the elements in the first half.
We started brightly and had a really good structure, probing at Wellingborough and making them defend. As we thought, Wellingborough were full of spirit and with some new faces were being competitive, but I felt we had the upper hand. Having created a few opportunities, unusually our passing in the back line was just a bit off, and promising positions became knock ons and scrums – the one thing Wellingborough did have was a solid scrum which was difficult to move with the weight they had. This meant that they were getting possession and opportunities of their own but to be honest, Charli was all over the 9 and 10 and they just could not get it out. We would then compete at the ruck and turnover or force a knock on and get the ball back that way. Daisy created mayhem in the last game we played, and I think they were trying to stop her from doing that but with Dara, Abbie, Shania and Hazel contributing greatly the workload was spread. Forcing Wellingborough back onto their line, moving through phases and looking after the ball, Daisy gets over to put the first points of the day and with Aimee converting it was 7-0 after 15 minutes and deserved.
Now I don’t know what it is about restarts, but Wellingborough kicked it long we let it bounce, and bounce and bounce and then under pressure pick it up and touch it down in our goal area. A 5-meter scrum to Wellingborough, who have a couple of big forwards who are not particularly mobile but crash well and retain possession. Now for the next 5 mins we are defending well but not getting out and eventually their no 7 gets it a bit wider to score. With the conversion missed it was 5-7 to us but talk about shooting yourselves in the foot.
With 10 minutes left in the half, it was time for Georgia to make her debut. We see it out having made a few other opportunities but just starting to fall off the intensity a bit, so half-time was a welcome chance to regroup. The wind was quite strong so to turn around in front was good, albeit it could and should have been better. At this time Katie M deserves a mention as this was really her first proper stint and she was fantastic! And Georgia clearly bought some aggression and punch which was great. We discussed the wind and the slope – the odd tactical kick would be great as playing in Wellingborough’s 22 would be ideal.
Knocking on from the re-start gave away field position and the first 5 minutes or so was a bit of an arm wrestle. A few highish tackles were being missed and Wellingborough were counter rucking and disrupting us a bit as we were short on numbers at the rucks. Finally, creating a bit of space, Aimee kicked deep, and we were playing where we wanted. With a few exchanges of penalties: in at the side, off our feet etc, we kept breaking the rhythm a bit. But Wellingborough were trapped in their 22 and pressure would eventually tell with Dara crashing over to score what turned out to be her first try. At 5-12 a little bit of space.
We started to dominate territory a bit now and the forwards were creating good platforms for the backs to have a go and you could see it coming. Lisa, Chloe, Tracey and Fresh nearly getting through. Finally, a lovely move which left Fresh mismatched with a forward in midfield, allowed her to dart through to score just aside the posts. With Aimee converting, 5-19 seemed a good platform to push on. In fairness to the opposition though, they weren’t about to lie down and with their 10 making distance with some good clearance kicks, finally they found a bit of field position to have a go and moving hands nicely with good support play the 7 scored again just to the left of the posts. With the conversion hitting the post, at 10-19 and 10 minutes to go – this wasn’t a done deal.Returning to the original plan and having a lot of possession in Wellingborough’s 22, by now Shannon and Iqra were on making debuts, as Daisy had given her all and needed the break. We were putting real pressure on and with the penalty count rising we had a lot of the ball and were keeping it well and with a sweeping move involving nearly all of the team from one side to the other through 8 or 9 phases, Aimee got on the end and scored again to the right of the posts. Possibly the best try of the game due to the whole team effort taken to produce it.
It turned out to be the last play and with Aimee also hitting the post it finished 10-24, in what was a very competitive game. We may have left a few points out on the field but the consensus was that it was a real team performance and everybody did their bit be it as a new starter or more long standing member.
Wellingborough will only get better if they can keep those numbers up, as it is, they always play to the end and should be congratulated for their determination and persistence. For us we remain unbeaten since Xmas and with 2 games of the league season left, we have an opportunity to consolidate 3rd place and finish the season on a high.
Big well done to everybody but a personal thanks from me to Charli, Abbie, Daisy, Dara, Aimee, Fresh and Tracey for galvanising everybody together which allowed Georgia, Katie, Iqra and Shannon the freedom to play in their first real games. Thanks to Shania for playing hooker when she doesn’t really want to and Lisa, Claire, T, Kim and Chloe for their consistency. Finally, the last call to Hazel, who has taken herself on a personal journey through injury and managed to play more time than in the last 2 years. I was very pleased for you.
Forward of the match: Katie Murphy
Back of the match: Charli Bligh
Gnome one like you: Dara Cornwall