Ladies vs Fullerians

So here we go again, the 2019-20 season is upon us…

With Stockwood Ladies finishing last season with a flourish (unbeaten since the Christmas break), the coaches and team are really looking forward to this season to continue to further our development. With the RFU swapping the leagues around, we do feel on the back foot with the majority of games now against unknown sides, however, we will always turn up with a strong mindset and play our game, home or away. With changes in personnel due to injury and ventures to university, we will view this season in terms of performance rather than results as it feels as though we need to redevelop, especially as some key positions have been affected by the changes. Nevertheless, we still have a large squad of good players and just need to gel into a team again, which I know will happen. The opportunity to play Fullerians under the lights on a Friday evening was a good one. Splitting the game into twenty-minute sections ensured every one of the 24-strong squad could get a run out and try different plays, with the added bonus of highlighting what needs tweaking.

The game started fast; we gained possession very quickly and passing through hands shipped the ball out to Sophie M, turning on the afterburners and running it in under the post. A great start albeit Sophie K couldn’t add the extras. We had started in those first 5 minutes with energy and aggression at the breakdown from Fran, Dara, Cathy, Tracey, Hazel, Daisy, Lee-Anne and Hannah, however, after we had scored, this dissipated. We were not helped by having non-contested scrums, as Fullerians were a much smaller pack and this would have clearly affected the game. By becoming passive we allowed Fullerians to get into the game and they had a decent 10-12 and 15, who suddenly found they had the ball and were not under any real pressure. Despite some brave tackling from Eleanor, Fullerians got back into the game with a try in the corner. The Huns kept giving possession away with some sloppy handling which was compounded by the fact that in the first 20 minutes or so Fullerians had no real shape. This was proving a bit of a mind bend to the girls and without our own discipline, Fullerians scored again and added the extras. The first 20 minutes showed our rustiness, and with the opposition having played two games already, they were a little ahead.

The next 20 minutes however, having been asked for more aggression and care of the ball, we had some real ‘go forward’. The truth is, we pretty well dominated this section of the game. The forwards were no longer watching, pushing Fullerians back, Captain Daisy started to make ground with every carry and with the team in close support, possession was good. Handling improved, and off the back of a scrum, Daisy went blind and crashed over, coupled with Sophie M out wide resulted in an unanswered 10 points for the Park in our best passage of play. Katie marshalled well, Sophie K settled in at 10, and with Charli and Kimberley making important tackles; it was looking so much better.

The final 20 minutes: Sometimes it is easier to leave things as they are as this creates a better continuity, but what we needed was for everybody to play and have a go. So, the changes were made. Aimee; for her first game in 18 months after injury lay off, Claire; never having played a game in her life, and Chloe back after a short sabbatical. Fullerians had a smaller squad so made little changes, which is less disruptive to play, which in the end proved crucial as they started to regain possession, whereas we were getting tired. I had an urge to change it up with 5 minutes to go, but held off as we are a squad and all 24 needed to have the time. Fullerians were kept at bay for quite a while, however, we had the odd decision not go in our favour when in attacking positions. Fullerians managed to score twice more and with one conversion, took the score to 24-20. Despite a finale burst where we looked like we might score to snatch it, there was a knock on and the final whistle blew.

What we needed from the game I felt we achieved, Rugby is not an easy game and you do need to be match ready; we were not quite. But that’s the point of it as we will be ready for the next game which is more important as the league season begins!

Finally, as I move into my 3rd year of coaching this wonderful group, we have faced every challenge that has come our way with grit and determination and more often than note, come out the other side smiling. The group has been hit hard by injuries to players and others moving to different stages in their lives, but we are still here and we are still giving 100% and that’s all I ever ask for. Looking around the leagues, it appears some teams are struggling for numbers; we have picked up new players that will keep our story going, and having a great time on the way, we should be grateful.

Mentions:

Kimberly Grant: 1st time at Fullback – great job

Claire Hawes: 1st ever game – great job

Aimee Aslam: Back from injury – great job

Sophie King: 1st proper run out at 10 – great job

Charli Bligh & Katie Stapleton: Scrum half’s, giving me a headache! – great job

Daisy Casemore: 1st game as captain – great job

There’s a theme here, I could probably go through the whole team but the above are some highlights. If I haven’t mentioned you, that’s because you did a ‘great job’.

Training continues, ready to build for our first league game. Bring your gum shields and your attitude: OWTP!

Keith Standring

Head Coach

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