On Sunday the Park saw the visit of St Neots; a team we hadn’t played previously and an unknown quantity. This was the 3rd fixture of the season after a brave loss at early pacesetters Old Northamptonians, and a chance to get back on track.
It’s worth mentioning that at this point since last year’s campaign Park have lost 10 players to injury/pregnancy and university. This is a large number and can affect any team, but here we are with a squad of 22 for matchday: an exceptional statistic that we must be rightly proud of. With league debuts in certain positions, we talked about starting with intensity and defending going forward. On a much better day than forecast, we are set and away we go.
Early exchanges looked good and we hit the breakdown hard and won the ball convincingly, with Katie shifting the ball quickly to Aimee at 10 she was looking to release Debs and Fresh and ultimately Ellen and Chloe. St Neots were up enough to disrupt the flow, just about stopping 2 or 3 really promising breaks, to be honest, we should have scored in that first 10 minutes or so. From deep in their own half and under pressure, St Neots’ 15 found some space, with 2 or 3 missed tackles, she found herself clear. Kim did enough to slow her down but she had the support and St Neots were first to score, with the conversion made 7-0 after 12 minutes and a little against the run of play. Swapping a few things around, Charli was on for Katie who’s 10k run was taking its toll, she harried and chased and pushed us forward and we all started to defend on the front foot, putting on the pressure really started to tell as St Neots starting making errors. This galvanized us a bit and we pushed St Neots back and with the forwards working hard, pretty much the rest of the half was stationed in St Neots’ territory. From a penalty we had several attempts at getting over the line, only to be thwarted or make the wrong decision. Finally, Abbie cutting a line back in, managed to crash over and get Park on the board, and at 20 minutes the score was 5-7.
We began to push a bit more with Debs and Fresh running hard at their back line, St Neots never backed off but it was at this point they looked to be getting very tired and this was our opportunity, but we never took it. The 10, 12-15 axis was their strength and we were giving them too much time, as perhaps, we were tiring ourselves. Again, from another deep position, the 9 managed to get free and run full length and score. At 5-12 things weren’t going quite right, they had had 2 attacks and scored, but we were camped in their half but couldn’t work the space. Credit to St Neots for their defence, albeit they got away with playing the ball on the floor rather a lot.
From a penalty, Daisy took the ball in, with four players on her she went down and heard the infamous ‘pop’ of a knee, an ambulance was called due to not knowing if there was another injury too. Fortunately there is nothing broken but the full diagnosis is not yet known. The referee called half time 5 minutes early and we moved pitches. It’s never easy when a team mate gets hurt as your mind is with them, but we did start the second half where we had left off, and, under pressure, St Neots were panicking a bit. We managed to move the ball to Debs who twisted and turned to dive over, with Tracey converting, the scores were tied.
At 12-12 the feeling was of dominance as we continued to have pressure, but all of a sudden there was a collective drop in intensity, this lead to St Neots being allowed to play a bit, we were almost immediately punished, with another score close behind leaving the score at 12-26 – we needed to reassert ourselves quickly. Some 50-50s went against us, and for the second time we seemed to lack something in the last 15 minutes, especially after another score was awarded even though the line judge flagged for a foot in touch.
I don’t like saying it as it is not a true reflection of the Ladies, but perhaps with the Captain’s injury playing on minds, we seemed to have no energy left. With another score, at 12-26 the game was gone. However, we were to have the final say and returning to domination. Fresh forced her way over for a thoroughly deserved try, as the last play of the day, it was a 17-36 loss.
There were huge positives from some of the structure and play, I could point at something positive for every player. We just switched off as a unit, falling off tackles; which proves vital in a far more competitive league than last year. Although we have lost players, we are re-inventing ourselves which Steve, Gary and I are confident in. We have a small break before the next game (20th October), so plenty of time to put things right.
Forward of the match: Pariese Roberts
Back(s) of the match: Aimee Aslam and Faye Anderson
Gnome one like you: Ellen Walsh