A hard fought draw against East London
A tough game on the opposite side of London
Barnes ladies travelled out to East London RFC on Sunday for our last away game before the Christmas break. Weather conditions were fantastic, if not a little bit warm and both East London and Barnes Ladies were up for a good contest.
Barnes Ladies kicked off and despite having a lot of possession it was unfortunately mostly within our half for the first 7 or 8 minutes. East London Ladies eventually let us back into their half after a penalty and a number of handling errors, but an overpowering scrum saw them winning the penalty, with their fly half taking the tap and pushing up field along the right hand side of the pitch, catching Barnes Ladies a bit by surprise. Good cover tackling by our backs slowed East London’s attack, but only momentarily and with a few quick passes, some safe hands and a powerful run by East London’s tight-head prop, they crashed over the line for a try on the 10 minute mark.
Barnes Ladies chased hard at the restart and for the next 20 minutes there was a solid grind between both sides. Possession gradually equaled out and East London Ladies used their powerful forwards to muscle their way into Barnes Ladies’ half. Our defensive line was impressively strong, holding the East London ladies at bay every time they attempted to snipe down the sides of the pitch or rumble down the middle of the field.
East London Ladies contested well at the line outs, stealing a few from us but we managed to contain their attacks in open play and eventually a break by Taz down the middle of the pitch saw Barnes Ladies flying up to the East London 10m before being cut down just to the left of the posts. Eleanor gathered the ball in and almost managed to break through the defensive line with Tash driving her forward in support, but they were stopped just short of the whitewash. About half a dozen grinding phases of play ensued as Barnes Ladies inched their way closer to the line. The attempts to crash through eventually paid off with Eleonore collecting the ball from the back of the breakdown and diving over a pile of players to smash the ball down and secure the try right on the line.
Momentum definitely seemed to shift in favour of Barnes Ladies for the rest of the first half, with us spending more time near the East London 22m, testing their defense out on the wings but not managing to capitalise on the ground we had gained. A knock on handed over possession and effectively ended the half at 5 points each.
The Second half started with a solid gather from Barnes Ladies and a charge down the middle of the pitch with same the intensity as the first half. The next 30 minutes proved to be a war of attrition, with both teams putting in some blistering runs and bone crunching tackles. Our backs ran some fantastic lines, with our forwards working like a well-oiled machine to crash the ball up.
Tash and Eleanor ploughed through the middle of the pitch like battering rams, with Nowi, Bethan and Ruth putting in a solid shift of rucking and carrying the ball hard into the East London defensive line. Rosie’s relentless (and wizardesque) line speed and Lizzie’s tenacious tackling proved to be a real nuisance to the East London Ladies, with Tracey adding to the growing tackle count as she took on their fly half. Rhi's work rate was impressive and she was all over the pitch, bringing down attacking runners and shrugging off defenders as she carved between them. Superb covering tackles from Ice, Emily and Jen10 made it hard for the East London Ladies to get past us along the edges of the pitch. Caro and Taz worked well in the middle of the field, delivering some massive hits and setting up a number of good breaks down the pitch, while Jenny covered a lot of ground in both defense and attack, putting in an incredible offload to Lily who powered along the right wing to make some impressive yards.
Although big efforts were going in from every player on the pitch, East London were still proving to be very formidable, with some quality players of their own finding the gaps and putting in a good couple of nail biting charges downfield. Their loose-head even managed to teach Captain Taz how to do a neat rolly-poly as the East London Ladies fought to get out of their half. Some handling errors let us down though and East London Ladies definitely had the power in the scrums, although Lizzie didn’t shy away from nicking a couple of put-ins from them.
The game rumbled on with neither side letting up, but with around 6 minutes to go Barnes Ladies managed to secure the ball just inside the East London half and Emily, who had dropped in at scrum half, put in a box kick down the middle of the pitch. The ball ended up back in her hands a little further along the field and she proceeded to storm towards the tryline. The East London Ladies' fullback was close on her heels though and managed to catch her just outside their 22m, but Rhi was close in support and scooped up the ball before flying out to the right of the pitch to dive over the line for the try.
East London Ladies weren’t going to give up the game without a fight and for the next 5 minutes they gave everything they had. Barnes Ladies managed to hold them in their half for a short spell after the restart, but gradually, off the back of some handling errors we made under the pressure that East London Ladies were piling on, they started to gain ground into our territory. Eventually they made it up to our tryline and with a number of penalties called against us just inside the 5m area, East London Ladies drove over the line for the last play of the game to bring the final score up to 10 a-piece.
The determination from both teams was immense and the atmosphere in the clubhouse after the game was electric. We’re glad to see (although disappointed to have lost her) that our Zeb is being looked after by a fun bunch of ladies at a great club and we’re really looking forward to seeing East London Ladies again in the new year for the return fixture.
Well done to our 'Forward of the Match' Eleanor for her tremendous carries and 'Back of the Match' Lily for making a positive impact to the backs from the minute she stepped on the pitch, and to our 'Players Player' Rhiannon who seemed to be everywhere on the pitch and had a stormer of a game - it looks like she's really taking to her new role in the forwards very well.
Our next game is a league fixture at home against Cuffley Ladies and promises to be another great match. We'll be playing at the Barn Elms Playing Fields, with kick off at 2pm. Come down to the pitch and cheer us on, then join us in the clubhouse for a drink after.
Starting Line up:
Ruth, Lizzie, Eleanor, Eleonore, Nowi, Rosie, Rhi, Bethan, Tracey, Taz, Caro, Jenny, Jen10, Emily, Ice
Tash, Neda, Beth, Lily