Category: Ladies Match Report

Wellingborough Ladies v Stockwood Park Ladies

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

Stockwood Park Ladies 1XV v Royston Ladies 1XV

With the 6 Nations starting and England’s men being put to the sword in France, once again it’s left to the Women to lead the way and with the Roses starting their 6 Nations with a positive win, it was time for the Huns to return to the field hoping to avenge a pre-Xmas defeat away at Royston.

It’s a true testament to the ladies that even with a few players unavailable or sick that once again a solid squad of 18 were available and ready to go. This has stood us in good stead this year and a positive result, albeit temporarily, would take us to the third spot on the table. Royston, holding 2nd place, must’ve felt a sense of De Ja Vu as we chased down them down once again to alter the league positionings. Royston are 2nd for a reason as they are well coached, tough to break down and hold a similar spirit to our own. This wasn’t going to be easy, especially with Lisa, Dara, Lee-Anne, Eleanor and Fresh unavailable.

Sophie and Hannah had made the trip from university, but we were struggling with filling inside centre. Whilst it not being ideal for the back row forward, Hannah stepped up and undertook the role at 12. T had to go at fullback, having never played there before, so whilst having a decent squad, there were some potential headaches. In our previous 3 meetings I have always felt that the forwards were evenly matched, but that we were slightly more physical that should give us the edge. The game started at a real pace and intensity which Royston clearly matched and whilst spending a lot of time in Royston’s half, we couldn’t finish the opportunities we created due to some off colour passing and the pressure Royston were exerting – albeit in defence.Royston’s tough 15 managed to create a couple of breaks but these were stopped dead by  T  with some immaculate positioning and fearless tackling.

The experiment with Hannah at 12 wasn’t quite working due to her instinct to take the contact which was resulting in a continued arm wrestle. The counter rucking was starting to prove fruitful as it was disrupting the flow for Royston with Daisy leading from the front and smashing girls out of the way. This led to the forwards’ competition being quite ferocious. Charli was doing a great job moving the ball and tackling their 9 and 10 to stop anything developing. We had talked about moving the ball wide and at last we started to do this; with some good wrap around play Chloe and Aimee combined to drive us forward only to be stopped 5 metres out.

Finally, with the ball having been half cleared, P drove into contact and the ball was won and set back for Shania who was on hand for the second phase. The ball was again won, and this time shifted out through hands to Sophie who had the space to get in the corner and give us the points the domination deserved. Making a change, Tracey and Hannah swapped and this clearly had a positive effect both at the breakdown (Hannah’s favorite area) and with Tracey able to ship the ball on – which made us function slightly better.

This score picked us up a bit and again we dominated possession and whilst not completely on it was posing a real threat to the try line with the forwards again making the ground. Abbie and Kristie were combining well and with the rest supporting, created the space again for Sophie. She had a bit more to do this time but cutting back inside cut through to score under the posts, with Aimee converting at 12-0 and 25 mins or so gone perhaps we could push on a bit.

However, Royston had other ideas. From a knock on, again at the KO, we had gifted Royston field position and for the next 5 mins or so they were knocking on the door. Excellent tackling from Tracey, Charlie, P and Daisy kept them at bay but they were close and continued to attack. With half-time approaching a penalty to Royston 5 meters out under the posts saw Royston’s tough fullback look to score. However, I don’t think she was expecting to be hammered backwards faster than she came forwards by Abbie and Kristie for a truly crunching tackle that stopped that attack dead and the half was done at 12-0.

With Cathy now on to give Shania a breather as she had something in her eye, it left just Kim to get a runout and for all to be used. We needed to be bright in the second half and to be fair we started well, and the counter rucking went up a level. We again spent the majority of the time in Royston’s half and with a lot of probing and keeping the ball moving Daisy got on the end of a move 5 meters out to crash over and score. At 17-0 perhaps now was the time to push on. However, Royston were not lying down, and with getting a bit of possession they pushed us back with the fullback driving them on. It became us who had the odd flurry into their half as with the wind behind, and ever so slightly downhill, Royston were keen to get on the board. Most of the second half was spent in midfield with possession changing hands and both sides thinking they had opportunities – 3 times Sophie was caught by her shirt more than anything else – and we just couldn’t finish them off.

With 10 minutes to go Royston finally had dominant field position and attacked with real gusto, but Stockwood’s defense was immense as on 2 occasions they were held up over the line for us to turn the ball over and clear our lines. We were stealing lineouts and pinching scrums; it was really very good. Daisy was making some crunching tackles and we were giving some penalties away in our eagerness to stop them. Finally, with 1-minute left, Royston managed the first real quality move – slinging it out wide and the never say die fullback had enough room to avoid T for once and although she was tackled, she was over the line to score. With the conversion missed, time was up, and the Huns had won a bruising encounter. The 17-5 score reflected the game in more ways than one – the right team won but it wasn’t easy.

That makes 4 on the bounce now and confidence is rising with the return fixture at Wellingborough being the next league game. The Huns have set themselves up well to finish the season with a real flourish.

For me it is becoming harder and harder to pick out players of the match. Aimee has really settled at fly half and is giving us great control, P is giving us a real go forward all the time and her tackling is great, Shania is just playing great… I could go on and on (like I do) about everybody. I would like to give a Coaches shout out to Abbie; a calming influence who is so consistent it almost becomes unnoticed – just so you know it isn’t.

T won back of the match with a sensational performance and Daisy was given forward of the match for her constant go forward and serious counter rucking – particularly mentioned by the ref. Kim won the ‘Gnome one like you’ award for being told she was going on and 5 minutes later was still taking off her tracksuit bottoms…

Next week sees a friendly at home against long-standing friends of the team, Kilburn Cosmos.

Stockwood Park Ladies v Wellingborough Ladies

Normally the sun shines on the Huns, but this Sunday was a bit damp to say the least…

The ladies were hosting Wellingborough in the re-arranged fixture from before Christmas and were hoping to continue their excellent run of form. It was a bit disjointed at the start, with the opposition only having 10 players and 2 on the way – in this league you have to match at the start of a game so with 19 players it was going to be difficult to give everyone a proper run out. In fairness to Wellingborough, they made the long journey arriving with excellent spirit and commitment that can only be applauded. As much as we don’t like these small-sided games; it’s about playing rugby.

We started poorly as we knocked on from the kickoff and quickly found ourselves defending our 22. However, upon winning the ball back we were quickly upfield and putting Wellingborough under pressure. Eleanor was everywhere and the structure we had spoken about was trying to be implemented – albeit we were holding onto the ball a bit too long. The pressure was building, and we were moving the ball well, from 5 meters out Kristie came crashing through to score the first try and her first for us – who knew she could play 10s! From the re-start we were straight back into it and with her dancing feet it was Eleanor who avoided the tackles to score under the posts and with Aimee converting this one, it was 12-0 with not a lot of time gone.

It needs to be said though that we had to work for the openings because Wellingborough were spirited and not going to just lay down. After some more phases it was Cathy Edmunds who gazelle-like sprinted through a gap and looked to be odds on to score, however a decent covering tackle meant she needed to off load to the supporting Chloe. The pass was low and Chloe caught it but unfortunately tripped with the try line beckoning – fortunately she had the presence of mind to pop the ball to Charli in support for her to score her second try in as many games.  At 17-0 Wellingborough swapped to the players who had just arrived, after having a bit of decent possession they utilised a really good move which was finished by a rather speedy winger who made it  look very easy, with the conversion made it was 17-7 and interesting.

Unfortunately, Wellingborough had few subs and with a few getting hurt but continuing, our intensity started to prove to be too much. With Aimee taking a rest it was Tracey’s turn to get on the end of a good move and converting her own score meant it was 24-7 at half time.

The second half was a bit stop start but we started to express ourselves a bit and with Daisy pretty much driving everybody out of the way we had a lot of the ball. Lil got on the end of a great move to score her first try for the club and Eleanor’s quick feet got her her second try. With Aimee scoring and converting her own try (not wanting to be outdone by Tracey) we were out of sight. The ref rightly looked to finish the game 5 mins early and with P rounding off a decent performance with her first try for the club the whistle went.

At 46-7 it was decent run out for us, and we played some good supporting rugby. Shania showed some excellent touches; Charli was consistent again and Katie M got a good 15 mins for her first ever game. T and Kim also got a little bit more of a runout which is really helping the strength of the squad which is developing brilliantly. Finally, thanks to all the girls as it was difficult on Sunday for game time – 5 mins here 10 mins there – thank you all so much for your understanding.

Big thanks to Wellingborough as it can’t be easy.

Royston next week girls !

OWTP

 

Another week and another revenge win away from home!

In the 2019/20 season, The Huns have reserved their best performances away from the park, and here it was again, against Cuffley. Cuffley appear to be playing some home games away from home, so it was a trip to Cheshunt RFC in leafy Hertfordshire for the return fixture in the league and the chance to reverse a 27-5 home loss earlier in the season.

Not getting into the changing room until 1.30, with a KO of 2.15 wasn’t ideal preparation, but the ladies were focused and what we did do in warmup was excellent. We always talk about looking at our surroundings and pitch conditions and today this was particularly relevant as we were playing on a grass pitch which genuinely sloped from one corner 45 degrees to the opposite corner. With a stiff breeze blowing straight down the slope, not even Edmund Hillary or Sherpa Tenzing fancied playing up the hill, but we decided if we won the toss to play uphill first, as the second half would be easier playing downhill. The plan came to fruition and although kicking off we were playing uphill, we felt that the first half performance would be key, especially with a top corner quagmire of standing water – refusing to flow downhill – truly the strangest pitch we’ve ever played on.

However, to say the start was disastrous was an understatement. We kick off and their no. 6 catches and runs dead straight at the on-rushing Huns. Hannah (you know I think you’re brilliant) unusually misses the tackle and suddenly leaves the on-rushing player with only Lisa to beat and running downhill, she had got some pace up. Lisa always make her tackle attempt, and this was no different, but with her size and pace (I think Elliot Daly would have struggled to stop her) Lisa is bounced and they scored under the posts. She converts her own try and after 30 seconds and with Mount Everest to climb, we are 7-0 down.

Without feeling sorry for ourselves, our reaction to this was excellent. We played with maturity and structure and started to force our way up field. The forwards were winning good ball and the backs were using it well to keep Cuffley going backwards. When we did lose the ball, our defence was good and for the next 10 mins we were in and around the Cuffley 22 probing. Cuffley were defending well and with a clearing kick managed to get themselves down to our 22 with the ball just rolling and rolling. This gave Cuffley a bit of momentum and it was now we needed to be strong. After a few attacks with Hannah, Abbie, Kristie and Daisy all standing firm and Charli, Fresh and Katie stopping the attacks when they went wide, Cuffley finally felt like they had scored only to be held up. Winning the scrum against the head, we exited well and eased the pressure of the last 5 minutes.

With Daisy making ground every time we had the ball and Kristie and P in support, we really started to push Cuffley back again. With wave after wave of attack from 5 metres out, Cuffley were standing firm. We managed to get the ball wide to Sophie who beats the defence to score in the corner, only for our own linesman to flag for a foot in touch. We win the lineout and return to our attack, by this time Aimee was off having had her hand stamped on, and we were down to 14 as we had to match the numbers of Cuffley. Tracey had returned for Aimee and this white line fever continued. We must have charged down attempted clearing kicks at least twice to keep the pressure on and finally, creating some phases which sucked Cuffley in, the ball was released through hands to the backs where Chloe has the overlap. She had to sprint uphill and with the defence closing in on her, she dived over to score under the posts – a tremendous roar goes up as this is her debut try and a real lesson in determination to keep going. Everybody, and I mean everybody linked with Stockwood Huns were over the moon for Chloe – shame her first team boyfriend decided to miss this one – bad from Kyran…

With the conversion missed it was 7-5 with a few minutes until half time. I cannot tell you what a great performance that first half was, whilst there is an element of fun in the description of the pitch, to come off at 7-5 was incredible. Nothing is won until the final whistle blows, but the opportunity to really put pressure on Cuffley was there if we could play in there 22. It would be hard, but our forwards were stronger and fitter. With Kristie being replaced by “Yorkshiiiire” Dara, Lee-Anne on for Cath and returning to 15-a-side allowing Shania to come on, we were left with Cathy, T and Kim looking to get some game time. The next 5 minutes were almost as incredulous as the first 30 seconds, the ref had been pretty good all day, but we got a few strange calls from the re-start – a knock-on that clearly went backwards and in the ensuing scrum, the second row helping the ball back with her hand. This wasn’t good and suddenly found ourselves defending our 5-metre line. Cuffley put some phases together and moved the ball well, keeping it alive and then going wide followed by an inside pass, they found the space to score. 5 minutes in and 12-5 to Cuffley.

The ladies are made of stern stuff and from the re-start we caught them in their own half and that’s where the rest of the game stayed apart from a couple of forays into our half, which were met with excellent kicks from the returning Aimee. Putting them back in their 22 with excellent kick chase, we were putting them under immense pressure, using our phases, we sucked in and moved the ball wide for Sophie, at long last, to get the space she needs to ease away and score just to the right of the posts. At 12-10 it’s a two-point game. With wave after wave of attacking intent, surely it was only a matter of time. It looked for all the world that quick hands had put Fresh in the corner at Base camp, only for the ref to blow for a very high tackle. The yellow card game with greater pressure, with us pushing them back and back. They tried to run the ball out of their own try line, but Charli was there to put Cuffley under pressure and instead of touching the ball down, she tried to pass – losing control allowing Charli to pounce and score her first try in the corner to put us in front – a thoroughly deserved try after an all-round excellent performance. At 12-15 there was still 10 minutes or so left to go, and by this time T and Cathy were on with Kim debuting a new position of second row.

Again, the hill was now at its strongest as Cuffley couldn’t really go anywhere and were being dominated by the Huns. Credit must go to them though, because at no point did they roll over and every score we got we had to work for. Finally, again the pressure told as phase play followed by some lovely hands and a late run by Fresh left the gap that she always finds and was through and scored to take us further out at 20-12 – it would be difficult to lose from here. Creating more space, Fresh was through again and for all the world looked like she had scored again but a great tackle stopped her. Falling awkwardly and twisting her ankle, this was the only real down on what ended in such a positive day. Still on the attack when the whistle blew, a really professional performance got all it deserved. Cuffley are a good side and not easy to beat which makes the results better.

There were some incredible performances, P was great, Abbie so consistent and Daisy playing like a captain. Katie was revelling in her new position, Dara and Kristie enforcing all over and the backs linking well together. The forward of the match went to Lee-Anne for coming on at half-time and making a real difference with getting her hands on the ball and always going forwards and looking after the ball. Back of the match could only go to one person; “shirts in or out” Chloe.

Finally, a big thanks to Hannah, Sophie and Eleanor; Stockwood girls to the core and you know why!

OWTP

St Neots pipped by Ladies

After the Xmas Break it was time to return to the rugby field…

With only one training session prior to the next match this was always going to be difficult on the body. Prior to Xmas the Huns had put in a couple of decent performances against the top sides in the league and not really got what the efforts deserved, this was the return fixture from earlier in the season where Daisy had been injured and we went down quite heavily in the end which wasn’t really a true reflection, but as I always say scoreboard never lies.

Travelling to St Neots on a mildish morning with a bit of nip in the wind we had a good squad of 20 with the boost of our Uni girls still being around. We warmed up well and I thought we seemed pretty focused. The backs have been a bit of a problem with changes in personnel meaning we haven’t been consistent in this area. With Aimee away, Eleanor went into Fly half and Katie playing only her second time at outside centre we had a different look to us. With Sophie and Chloe on the wings and stonewall Lisa at fullback we were ready to start.

We started brightly in the first 5 minutes carrying well and pushing St Neots back. With the forwards Abbie, Kristie, 2 Cath’s, P, Tracey, Shania and Hannah all combining pretty well to keep possession – In fact St Neots never really came out of their half and all was looking good – we were working hard but not creating much, there seemed to be a few times we would give the ball away only to regain it to lose it again. St Neots’ No 10 was everywhere, very good at being the 2nd person into any ruck and was either turning the ball over or disrupting our flow. However, I did think she can’t do this all game as she will get tired quickly.

When St Neots did try to move the ball themselves our back line was up fast, and everyone was making their tackles and smothering any opportunities, in fact St Neots when in possession either maintained field position or went backwards. Katie and Fresh were particularly to the front with this and Eleanor was starting to look really dangerous with her elusive running. From a tiny break we managed to use the forward momentum, and with excellent support and hands from forwards and backs created the overlap that Sophie needs, and without being asked twice accelerated away to score the first try; one which our possession had deserved. Trace couldn’t quite land the conversion but still 5-0 up away from home was a great start.

St Neots’ Coach was quick to instruct his girls not to get into an arm wrestle as he felt their opportunities lay out wide moving the ball quickly and using the 10 as she was a good player. We needed to disrupt that as much as we could. With a few stoppages for injuries, mainly to St Neots girls, play continued in a similar vein the only difference was that St Neots had a better field position just inside our half. Managing to get quick ball for once and with our back line not quite as up as they should have been just gave the 10 a sniff to get up some pace and with the tackle missed for the first time they were in behind us and she finished it, with the conversion making it 7-5 to St Neots kept to them right in the game.

We came back hard and whilst still losing possession a little too often we managed to defend well enough to force the error and get scrums, getting that little bit of go forward again time for Eleanor to step up jinking her way through to find an open run to the line. With St Neots scrambling back to get to her it was too late as she crashed over to score what is her first try for us which seems incredible for such a competent player and in her 3rd season. With the conversion close but no cigar we came to the last 5 minutes of the half at 7-10 The game continued in a similar vein and you could see that St Neots forwards were tiring badly, and you could sense an opportunity; they had made a few enforced changes; the 10 had been looked at a couple of times as well – in the previous game we had the same thing happen and we didn’t capitalise, would we make the same mistake again? With half-time coming we were up by 3 and with an opportunity as the wind was behind us.

By this time Capt. Daisy was back on the field and with both Cath’s needing a break, P switched to Hooker and Clare crawling out of her sick bed at 10 am to come and play went in at second row, Hazel slotted into prop and T replaced Chloe on the wing. The scrum seemed to lose a bit of its strength and the ball was not particularly clean off the back, but Charli was doing a good job at getting it out and Dais with a couple of pick and goes was making some ground. It was St Neots that struck first with the team dropping its level a bit we came under pressure and despite some sterling defence they forced themselves over in the corner and at 12-10 it was all in the balance and it looked as though we were committing the same errors as in previous. St Neots had a boost and had a little more possession and a couple of times looked to go around us only for Lisa and specifically T on two occasions making superb tackles to keep us in the game.

St Neots had lost their front row, so we were now uncontested, this galvanised us a bit and we forced them back to their own line and with excellent maintenance of the ball and good hands and support it was Hannah who next crossed the line for us to regain the lead. Hitting the post with the conversion left the score at 12-15 and a real tit for tat game. There was 15 minutes to go and we had regained our levels but to my frustration we switched off again and with St Neots scoring again to lead at 17-15 with 10 minutes to go it looked like we were letting history repeat itself. With both Coaches “asserting” themselves about effort not being quite good enough, Chloe returned for T who had gone off injured, Kristie was back on for Hazel and we had to give it one final big effort.
By this time St Neots’ 10 had left the field and we had a lot of possession. We always talk about building phases as this will create space and with a few minutes left that’s exactly what we did with St Neots defence sucked in and some lovely passing the ball is wide to Sophie who given space will out run anybody in this league of that I am sure. From just inside their half she accelerated away to score under the posts, not realising how close to the end of the game this was at 20-17 receiving the ball from the KO in the last play it was fitting that Eleanor should catch it and boot it into touch for the win that our play has deserved for a while.

What set this out was the fact we did learn from our mistakes of the past and raised ourselves as a team when it was needed. Everybody played pretty well, and a great deal of heart and soul was bared, and the coaching team were immensely proud, and it was great to see smiling faces again.

For me Eleanor was outstanding, Katie and Fresh also close to her. Abbie has been very consistent over the last few months and Kristie is returning to her best. P just gets better and better and a special mention for Chloe, who’s game is going from strength to strength.

This weekend another chance for revenge and with Dara and Aimee returning to the fold only adds to a really strong line up.

OWTP!

Ladies vs ONs

The latest fixture for Stockwood Ladies was an important day in many ways and for lots of reasons. It was against Old Northamptonians; a long established, BIG club in the East Midlands with players representing at that level too. This was the return of the early season fixture, but this time, having drawn them in the East Mids cup, this was a double header…

Soft underfoot, bright and dry, conditions were pretty good apart from a brisk wind. This season has been a strange one for the Huns with a lot of changes disrupting things a bit, but today we had the Uni girls back in our side and a big thanks to them for making the effort to travel from Birmingham, Leeds and Plymouth to bolster the squad to our more normal 22. The pre-match warm up was pretty good, I felt everybody was focused and the pre-match talk centred around heart. We may be many things as a group but when we put our hearts on the line I believe we are a match for anybody.

From the start, ONs came fast and with their excellent 13 cutting lines we were on the back foot. Stopping them at our 5-metre line, we defended pretty well from there, counter rucking and challenging the ball. ONs were retaining the ball well and have very good handling in the back line, finally the 13 found some space to go and score in the corner: 5-0. From the restart we managed to hold onto possessions better; we were rucking well with Kristie, Abbie and Dara at the forefront, Hannah and Shania on hand to take the second phase and Claire, Tracey and Cathy keeping the possession. It was a real to and fro, with ONs occasionally turning over the ball and then Tracey doing her thing to get it back. ONs managed a couple of line breaks but getting past Eleanor and Fresh was proving difficult, to then find Lisa who provided a stonewall and on several occasions made incredible tackles to thwart the advances. Hannah made a couple of clean breaks to get us going forward, Eleanor looked like she was through only to be caught but the support was there to maintain the ball and for the next 10 minutes of the game we were camped in ONs 22. We recycled the ball well and kept challenging the line, managing to move it wide, committing players by offloading in the tackle. The final pass came from Eleanor to Sophie, who had the overlap, and cut back inside to score by the posts, only for the ref to blow for a forward pass, and for us to keep possession because of a previous offside infringement. We had the ball turned over on the line and cleared and the rest of the half petered out in the midfield.

If we our honest with ourselves, we should have levelled it up. We had the possession and the opportunity, we just didn’t take it. If we had been level at half time that would have been a fair reflection on two sides going at each other hard and not giving and inch either way. In the second half we had the wind on our backs and the setting sun behind us, could this push us towards and amazing win…The efforts of the first half were showing, Katie was changed for Charli, Shania was off, and Daisy was returning from a long lay-off with injury, but still the strength was there.

From the KO we knocked on and this gave ONs another chance to put us under early pressure, sensing that from the 22 they threw everything at it, switching directions but being met with stoic defence. Eleanor, Hannah, Abbie, Tracey, everybody pretty much putting their bodies in the way. ONs kept possession though and eventually crashed in the corner to go 10-0 up. It was the next 10 minutes which would define this game, we overturned the ball and pushed ONs back and as in the first half we laid siege to their line phase after phase of attack kept out. Daisy looked to have crashed over to be held up. From the ensuing scrum we again attacked, Hannah, Daisy and Abbie all trying to get over, Dara, Kristie and Shania also. We lost possession and ONs cleared, from the ensuing lineout we turned over the ball in midfield and attacked again. Finally go a little wider, Daisy and Hannah together to crash and score, but the whistle had gone. A yellow card was issued to ONs for deliberately fowling to stop a try, however we were only awarded a penalty. The consensus was to allow advantage as we still had possession for a score or a penalty try for deliberate offending, but we had neither. Losing possession as we tried too hard allowed ONs a little space to breathe. Their exceptional 13 found some tiny space to sprint away, managing to avoid both Sophies who valiantly tried to stop her before she could score under the posts and with the first conversion of the match, a huge moment. Instead of 10-7 it was now 17-0.

I can’t deny it was disappointing and understandably shoulders sagged a bit. The rest of the game was played with the Huns not getting enough possession and when their big forward managed to charge through and crash in the corner at 22-0 our opportunity was gone. Sophie as it turned out broke her thumb trying to stop this try and with some other adjustments, Tian was on to finish the game with Fresh dropping to fullback. ONs had one final attack and although T got her tackle in she stretched and reached for the line and with the converted score the final whistle blew.

29-0 the loss possibly not a true reflection but credit to ONS for their defence. There were two crucial periods in the game where their defence and experience was enough to see them through.

For me I hope we can gain the confidence that seems to be lacking. We have gone toe-to-toe with the 2 teams at the top of this table, and if we had taken our opportunities then there may well have been different outcomes. As a forward outfit when we are switched on nobody is better, we more than compete in this area and as a back line again we create opportunities but don’t always take them. To ONs I would like to thank their Coach for the nice words, he said that at half–time his team talk was about the potential of losing the game, and they possibly upped themselves by a small percentage to see them through, but he felt they had never been pushed as hard all year.

The returning Hannah was everywhere and deservedly got forward of the match but that shouldn’t take away the efforts of the other 7 because I thought the forwards were magnificent all day. Lisa received back of the match for the incredible performance at full back until she was injured in the second half. But Eleanor, Fresh and the 2 Sophies gave all they could, both our scrum halves did a great job and all the finishers tried their hardest.

Today turned on fine margins and I had asked everybody to put their heart on the line and I got what I asked for and couldn’t be prouder, the more we play together like this the more we will take the opportunities when they arrive, and then the results will change.

Believe Huns. Belief and brave hearts, each and every one of you!

Ladies vs Royston

Stockwood ladies travelled to The Heath at Royston in their latest league outing. Royston, who had beaten league-leaders Old Northamptonians last time out, were now joint top and using social media to let us know they were looking to settle the score from the previous meeting last season.

Our last game against Royston was the defining moment of last season, securing second place with a fantastic display of grit, determination and skill. It’s relevant to mention that from that day we have had a change of 12 players, which is a lot and makes a massive difference today. Our recent injury troubles have been well documented, whilst not wanting to dwell on it, as every side has their issues, it does feel like we’ve been hit particularly hard. We have been working very well in training, with lots of players in new positions or inexperienced players getting greater opportunities with the injury count, all in all, it’s coming together.

A new pre-match structure seems to be having a positive effect with the Huns, with the need to switch themselves on. We wanted to kick into the sun first as later in the game it would be very low. Abbie: on-pitch captain, as Daisy is long-term injured, won the toss and we got what we wanted.

Royston are always a well-drilled outfit, but they rely heavily on their 10-12 axis and their fullback, we discussed shutting them down as best we could. The forwards had worked massively on the breakdown and support play and the early skirmishes were very encouraging, as ball retention was excellent and counter rucking brilliant also. The scrum was functioning well and even the lineout was on point. We were trying a little too hard and rushing a little, and whilst on the front foot, gave Royston some possession. The aforementioned 12 pushed us back into our own half for a while. A slight criticism was that we were not coming up quick enough as a defensive unit and once 12 had got some speed up she was always making ground of offloading at the right time. Charli, Fresh and Sophie were doing a great job with a scrambling defence, and Lisa at fullback looked like a brick wall. From an attack of our own after good handling from Abbie, Dara and Claire, there was a breakdown on Royston’s 22. I then heard a call for a change, as Ally had hit the ruck with her forehand, with a golf-ball sized lump appearing, she had to come off and Lee-Anne was on.

Royston started to get a little possession, we missed a couple of tackles and found ourselves defending our own 5 metre line. No. 12 was trying to knock the door down, finally scoring and converting. At 7-0 it was a little disappointing, because we made an error and they scored. This is where these games are won and lost, and I think this disheartened us a bit. Again, after some excellent play, we managed to lose possession and once more the 12 broke the line and pushed us back again. By this time Cathy was on for Lee-Anne as she would be needed in the second half, as with Ally off, we only had one sub. With 12 scoring again and converting, at 20 minutes gone it was 14-0. We had had a lot of possession and played with excellent structure, so possibly not that reflective or our performance. Royston, however, had taken advantage of their opportunities, where we had missed a couple of ours. With a couple of minutes left of the half, Royston kicked for territory, won back possession from a knock on and scored once more. Half time score: 19-0.

The half-time discussion was around the effort and structure which had been exceptional, but we needed to defend coming forward. Royston had some strange rallying call which suggested they knew the second half wouldn’t be easy. I thought we had better forwards and should look to dominate that area. We started the second half well, with Royston only getting out of their half 2-3 times. Once, unfortunately, was for 10 to pretty much run the full length to score. From a scrum she tried to go blind, Abbie had read the move and shut it down, where she ran back the other way. With Katie getting blocked from tackling, which the ref missed, she ran through the space. She possibly could’ve been stopped twice but did enough to get herself over. At 24-0 this was a long way back. I saw something return from last year, the belief in themselves. The Huns started to grind Royston down and with wave after wave of attack and numerous penalties, it looked like we couldn’t get over. But with excellent ball retention, we finally had some space wide and through hands to Aimee who cut back inside, she forced her way over and converted her own score. 24-7 and no more than was deserved.

Once we had the ball again, we drove forward. It was clear that Royston were struggling, and we were really growing in confidence, with Dara having an exceptional game, Shania driving at the line, P and Tracey securing some awesome turnovers, we had the lions share of possession. From a scrum, Katie picked and went blind, and for all the world, Sophie looked like she was in. But Royston scrambled her out of play. Again, as the pressure built, Royston were giving away penalties in the danger zone. Fesh, Charli and Claire all being forced off the line. Somehow, Royston turned the ball over and went to pass their way out of trouble only for Sophie to intercept and score in the corner. 24-12 and definitely in control. However, this proved to be the last play of the game and albeit another loss, this was a very good performance and without 4 or 5 errors, may well have been a different outcome.

At 24-0 it could have been easy to give up, but that’s not what this group is about. In the 3 years I have been here, there are only a couple of times that you could say we have “dropped off”. It was a great game, fiercely contested and in good spirit. We are growing and coming again, with 18 fit and ready, we have our challenges but with some new players shaping up nicely, and the core staying together we are in a good place. If we continue like this, the results will come.

Katie and Charli, who rotate scrum half duties, had great games. P, Abbie, Dara, Tracey, Shania, Cathy, Cath, Lee-Anne, Claire and Ally were, as a group, awesome. Not forgetting Aimee, again in controlling form of the undeniable talent that is Fresh. Stonewall Lisa, firewoman Sophie, and of course Chloe, who whatever happens, always has a smile on her face.

Well done Park, well played!

Forward of the match: Pariese Roberts

Back of the match: Aimee Aslam

Gnome one like you: Sophie King

Ladies vs Cuffley

On Sunday the Stockwood Ladies welcomed Cuffley Ladies to the Park, another new team to the league, with the Ladies not having played them for quite some years. Following the previous loss to St Neots, the ladies and coaches felt a switch up the warm up was necessary to create a solid focus for the game ahead. The warm up looked great and everyone was switched on. The aims for this game were ultimately to enjoy ourselves, get back to playing rugby as a team and to build upon our already strong structural style; especially following the loss of so many players through injury and changing life circumstances! We had players covering new positions, with Cath S debuting at second row and Lisa moving back to full-back after a few months on the wing. 2.30pm arrived, and it was time to put all of our aims and hard work into practice…
We started well, but unfortunately conceded a try quite early on. In previous games, this could have dampened the team’s mental attitude but instead we came back with a determination to put our own stamp on this game. After the restart, the ladies found themselves solidly defending on their own try line. Tackles were being made left right and center, and we were competing at the rucks (one of the main areas of focus from the previous game). We managed to turn over the ball and hold onto possession. Using our strong forwards, Kristie and Abbie made some great runs to keep gaining the extra ground. We pushed up to their 22 in the corner, again Kristie and Abbie pushed forward. Following an excellently timed offload, Shania managed to break through and hop, skip and jump over players to score her first ever try! With Aimee having spent a lot of time practicing her kicking, it was time for her first conversion. The kick went over and the scores were equal at 7-7.
We continued to excel in our defence, with scrum half Charli tackling everything that moved, full-back Lisa stopping the last-man breakthroughs, and Katie (playing inside center for the first time) taking the opportunity to hit the breakdowns and get right in Cuffley’s faces. With the defence attempts from the whole team a step-up from previous games, it wasn’t long before the likes of Pariese managed to turn over the ball and get us the all-important possession. We began to attack but struggled to turn it into scores, with Sophie and Ellen trying to break their defence but being stopped short. Our pressure in both attack and defence forced errors upon Cuffley, resulting in penalties being awarded to us. Unfortunately, this upset Cuffley and saw sportsmanship dwindle and the ball get thrown away to stop the quick penalties. However, Stockwood ladies held true to themselves and did not drop down to the opposition’s attitude, but focused their energy into playing an enjoyable game of rugby. Just before half-time, the ladies conceded another try after some decisions not falling in their favour, With the whistle blowing, the scores stood at 14-7 to the visitors.
The second half started and despite the efforts of the ladies, looking like Cuffley were about to topple, they managed to break through and score again, the scores reading 19-7. In true Stockwood style, the ladies never gave up, but with the final plays of the game looming, Cuffley managed to score again, final score: 26-7. As usual, “the score didn’t reflect the game”, however, on this day, it truly didn’t. The ladies had a different attitude and came together as a team. They displayed some excellent skill and determination, but just couldn’t turn it into a win. We have moved leagues this year and with 3 or 4 teams being relegated from a higher level, the league is a lot more competitive. We have been as good as every team we have faced, but just scuppered on the crucial moments. We look forward to regrouping at training, with 6 sessions before our next game away to Royston. We look to continue our efforts and coming back together as a team, something that has taken precedent after a lot of personnel change. A massive congratulations to all of the ladies on Sunday, a well fought game that just didn’t go our way.
• Forward(s) of the match: Catherine Swindell and Shania Mulvihill
• Back of the match: Lisa Morris
• Gnome one like you: Charli Bligh

Ladies vs St Neots

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

Ladies take the heat

So, with the second week of the league campaign upon us Park had a trip to Northampton; traditionally a strong Rugby town, with ONs potentially one of the strongest clubs in the area. The changes in the league this year with new oppositions, and ONs being relegated from the division above, it was never going to be easy. Park are developing and improving week on week but today in what can only be described as conditions like playing in the Transvaal (hot and rock-hard ground), this would make the challenge even harder coupled with potentially 4 or 5 East Midlands players to contend with this could prove daunting.

So, the game really took part in two halves, (doh! I heard you say, but bear with me), especially as the pitch was sloped and the wind was blowing down it. The key was to take advantaged of the conditions when we could. We kicked off and the ball was knocked on just outside of ONs 22; we stayed there for the next ten minutes or so. A very competitive forwards competition was brewing and our backs line speed was quick enough to force errors in handling. We were comfortable at the scrum, with Katie feeding Aimee (her first competitive league game in 2 years), who shipped the ball well to Eleanor and Sophie, who were always a threat with Ellen also on the wing. If we could move it fast enough we would have a chance. ONs however, had a solid defence and were particularly good at the breakdown, with the second person in very quickly onto the ball. From one of these steals practically on their own line, they managed to break away and their elusive 11 got them up to our 22 before she was caught by Sophie M.

From here ONs kept possession well but we were keeping them at bay. However, working hard, they finally managed to overlap for their fast 11 to get over the whitewash for the first score of the day. At 5-0 with only 15 minutes or so passed, it was disappointing, especially as we had probably hashed a couple of our own opportunities prior to this, with the first real possession for ONs ending in a score. However, this galvanised us as we had some confidence from being toe to toe with this experienced team. Finally, putting some good passes together, Sophie M had enough space to sprint away and score under the posts, with Tracey adding the extra 2 points. With 20 minutes gone it was 5-7 to Stockwood.

Stockwood’s efforts were beginning to have an effect as ONs didn’t seem to like the fact that we were being competitive, and there was a bit of an arm wrestle beginning to happen. The game was mainly in the middle of the pitch with thrust and counter thrust being thwarted. Unfortunately, we were just not using our possession well enough and were starting to drop off a bit. ONs managed to create a bit more space again for the 11 to run in and score behind the posts the conversion making it 12-7 to ONs at half time.

The heat and the ground had had an effect, with Daisy off just after half time with a knee injury, and a few others suffering. But we had a squad of 21 so could swap about, the only thing being that a few people were slightly out of position. Whilst it is a credit to us to be able to do this, it can be a bit destabilising, especially under pressure. The opposition were also changing with injuries, but it appeared like for like. Tracey had come out to fly half as Aimee had come off to protect her knee; we have a long season and need to get through it with everyone intact. This year, more than the past two, the whole squad will be stretched as the league appears to be the most competitive we have played in.

The first 10 minutes of the second half were back to something of a competition, even though ONs had managed to get over again, at 19-7 we needed to score next to reassert ourselves. However, we were coughing up possession and defending by letting them come at us rather than going to them. It was getting a bit feisty, with the RFU protocols on concussion and protection of the head, I am not sure why they are yet to stop hand offs to the face which are always contentious as if the arm isn’t dead straight it’s either a punch or a slap. We have hearts of lions, and whilst not necessarily helping ourselves, we never give up and in the heat and with another score converted, at 26-7 the game was gone; there was no doubting that we appeared out on our feet. With two more scores from ONs to finish the game completely, in the end it looked a comfortable victory; I would say it was anything but and the fact that 19 of the 36 points were scored in the last 10 minutes points to that fact.

Despite the victory for ONs, I feel another big learning curve for us, our structure was pretty good and the lineouts and scrums were good all day. With Chloe and Catherine sharing wing duties for potentially the longest league game time, Kristie playing her first game in ages, along with Aimee. Claire H had only her second game ever, against a team of this standing, and was truly excellent. We never took our opportunities when they arrived and ONs experience told in the end. Hopefully by the time the next game is around, Fresh, Debs, Fran, Charli, Lisa, Emma and Sophie K will be fit and available; add these seven to any squad and we have just got stronger. We are becoming a strong squad and sometimes just need days like this to grow, and that is what will happen.

Forward of the match: Shania Mulvihill – tackling left, right and centre; she was everywhere
Back of the match: Sophie Maddock – the fastest person on the field, with the compliment of 2 people marking her
Gnome one like you: Catherine ‘Swing’dell – showing an alternative tackling style, effective, nonetheless

A rest on Tuesday then 5 Training sessions before next game. We are shaping up well despite changes going on.

OWTP!