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.

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