Sunday 8th September saw Stockwood Huns having the pleasure of visiting Aylesbury RFC for a friendly match, hastily arranged after the first league game had been awarded as a Walk Over due to lack of numbers from Tabard.
Aylesbury had had the same thing happen to them so it was good that both teams could get a run out. There could be no excuses made around playing conditions, with Aylesbury’s tremendous facilities; a 4G pitch, and the sun shining down. They have a new side entering the league just this year, but as a club they are well established so no doubt they would have good coaching and numbers, they also ran an Inner Warrior session prior to our game which was well attended
and seemed to be a great success.
With Abbie breaking down (car) and Dara feeling stiff from training we had a pretty novice front row, with Claire and P having had one training session and some pre-match coaching as preparation. With Hazel and Shania both having experience at front row but not much game time, we should have enough cover to keep the game competitive from a scrum point of view. With Debs’ knee still hurting she was the other absentee on the day, but we still had 21 players: it never stops amazing me how we, as a group, manage to dovetail so well to always have a strong squad.
The game started well, we had good intensity and with lovely hands went wide and fixed players prior to passing, giving Sophie the space she needs to accelerate away and score in the corner; last time out we took a rest when this happened but today we maintained the level and to be fair were a constant threat. The ref seemed to like a scrum as there were rather a lot but we were generally in control of the ball, Aylesbury defended well and put numbers at the breakdown which sometimes meant it was a bit messy but generally both sides played with a good structure. We never moved out of Aylesbury territory for all the first half, as our scrum half Charli and backs Sophie, Fresh, Eleanor, Lisa and the other Sophie were all over Aylesbury forcing them to panic a bit and cough up possession.
Sophie and Hazel had to go off with a bit of a knock meaning Tracey took over at fly half and P and Claire H were on for debuts in the positions. With Kim at fullback doing very little it showed the general dominance of the ball, Sophie scored a second that was ruled out after being allowed to beat 6 defenders and run half the length of the pitch for a knock on, so to be fair we had butchered a few chances to score with a hesitance in the decision making after playing some really good rugby to create the situation. Some credit must go to Aylesbury who never backed down, but at half-time and only 5-0 it was tighter than it should have been.
With the instructions to use the ball in the wider channels, the second half started even faster than the first with a sublime backs move of passing perfection to set Sophie away again to score under the posts this time for Tracey to convert. You could see that Aylesbury were hit by this a bit and now was the time to push the foot down, again to Aylesbury’s immense credit, they defended with real gusto but in the end the strangle hold we had on the back line was complete. A fantastic drive-forward move coupled with off-loading kept the ball flowing for Fresh to get on to it to beat the fine three defenders to register her 1st try of the season. At 17-0, with Kim joining the line and Dais taking a rest it was time for Ellen to have her first run out, with Cath Swindell also getting on with 15 mins to go, this was possibly our most inexperienced side we had played in sometime. Once again we showed some lovely hands; Eleanor had been terrific all day with this to create an overload for Ellen to finish with aplomb. With Sophie having had another flowing move chalked off for a foot in touch (she swears not) we were now turning the screw.
We were pretty well holed up in Aylesbury’s 22 for the last 5-mins or so as they gallantly tried to come at us, but our own defence had been good all day and they were going nowhere, at the final whistle it was 22-0 and we’d had a good workout.
Aylesbury should take heart of the biggest compliment I can give them; they look like they have played as a team for some time, despite this being their first 15 aside run out. They are good in defence, and once they find some attacking verve they will be dangerous side. For us this has helped immensely improve the depth and strength of our squad; with cover at Hooker and Prop, Chloe and Ally playing longer than for some time, and doing well, and Tracey covering at fly half – if the other 2 are not around we will be fine.
But a special mention this week goes to our scrum half Charli who was everywhere causing them all sorts of problems and just being a nuisance, then delivering the ball out for the girls outside her to do their thing, it was almost the complete performance. When you consider that regular scrum half Katie was also very good when she played last, I have a headache and that’s a good place to be.
Another shout out to Hannah, as she plays her last game with us for a while as she heads off to university at the weekend. Your lineout jumping will definitely be missed.
Onwards next week is a big challenge; Old Northamptonians away, a long established high level club. It is imperative we have good numbers at training this week so we are ready, but today was very well done and a pleasure to watch.
Forward of the match: Pariese Roberts
Back of the match: Charli Bligh
Gnome one like you: Chloe Wrench
Keith Head Coach