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!