Our final match of 2017, full of muddy fun and Christmas festivities.
Despite being utterly freezing, the sun shone down at Barn Elms for the last game of the 2017 against Battersea Ironsides. There was a festive theme to the warm up with Santa hats, tinsel and Christmassy socks and jumpers being worn on both sides – augmenting the friendly spirit of our final development game of the year.
Jen10 kicked off to get the game underway, and we immediately made good territory. Barnes held Ironsides Ladies in their half for the first few minutes with some powerful tackling preventing Ironsides from capitalising on their possession. Wellie managed a clean steal at the breakdown out on the left of the pitch off a massive Hester tackle to give Barnes some time with the ball in hand inside the Ironsides' half. After some strong crashes by the forwards around the middle of the pitch to bring Barnes up to the 22m, the backs swung the ball out right and Wellie made good meters before being taken to ground. The forwards took over from the breakdown, inching towards the line but a turn over denied us from making the most of our territory and we lost possession.
With Neda, Hester and Lizzie tackling anything that moved with some punishing hits, it wasn’t long before Ellie had a chance to snipe at the breakdown to regain possession of the ball and allow us to crash back up to the Ironsides 22m. The backs had a go down the left wing but the Ironsides defence held until Tracey popped the ball up off a breakdown out left and Hester stepped back infield and powered at the try line, being brought down just meters out. Swift hands back out to the left gave Lizzie the chance to make good use of an overlap as she crashed over the whitewash to draw first blood.
Ironsides kicked the restart, with Emily clearing to put Ironsides back inside their half, where play seemed to continue for the next few minutes. Barnes defensive line held strong, not allowing them to break through, gradually pushing them back into their own half. A knock on by Barnes at the breakdown set up a scrum which hooker Neda poached from Ironsides like a pro, allowing Hester to execute a quality 8-pick and charge down the left hand tramline towards the line. Unfortunately her “40 yard curse” kicked in and she was brought down again just a few meters short of scoring, but Ruth was close behind and put in a crunching pick-and-go off the breakdown to drop down over the try line.
Barnes maintained possession at the restart, with backs and forwards both taking turns to rumble forward, until some solid leg-driving by the forwards brought Barnes back over the line into the Ironsides half. Neda secured another steal in the scrum following a knock on in, and we proceeded to bash our way deeper into the Ironsides half, the backs having a stretch down the right until an infringement for not rolling away returned possession to Ironsides.
A clearing kick from Ironsides sent us a fair way back into our own territory, though solid defending by Barnes quickly pushed the Ironsides into their half with a knock on handing us possession again. A penalty with a quick tap inside their 22m on the right side of the pitch allowed us to get the ball out to the backs who moved it through hands out to the left and up to the whitewash, only to be stopped short as two defenders closed in on Wellie. Hester worked her magic again off the back of a scrum 5m out from the try line, which Ruth was reliably nearby to finish off with another big crash over the tryline.
At the restart Ironsides kicked and then regained possession as we cleared the ball, but this time they were quickly driven back into their own half. A break in play allowed for the quick Christmas Sock exchange before Barnes secured the scrum and worked our way closer to the Ironsides try line through a combination of plays by backs and forwards. Hester again charged downfield off a neat lineout on the left of the pitch and was once more stopped only a few meters out from scoring. Rachel managed to get her hands on the ball for the first time off the breakdown and charged fearlessly at the defense but was also slowed just off the line.
Play moved back into the middle of the field with some incredible handling skills by both backs and forwards, with Hester, Emily, Jen and Wellie linking up superbly with little pop passes, but again we weren’t able to capitalise. Some more handy work by the backs got the ball closer to the try line with Lily making a solid run out left to take us up to their 22m but we just couldn’t break the Ironsides' defensive line again in the last few minutes and the first half drew to an end.
The ball was gathered in off the Ironsides restart kick, and was popped up to Rachel who powered into the defensive line like a champ, setting up the next few phases of big hits by the Barnes forwards as we worked our way into the Ironsides' half. Following a knock on which handed possession to Ironsides, Ruth put in a textbook steal off a ruck and we were back to inching towards the Ironsides' 22m down the right of the pitch. Another solid crash by Rachel followed by a defense crunching charge by Eleanor, gave Ruth a chance to stretch her legs towards the try line out on the left of the pitch before being brought to ground within a few meters of the line.
We swung the ball right towards the infield and up to the posts where BT almost managed to crack the defensive line, but was held up just as she crossed into the try zone. For about 5 minutes we were held just off the try line, with handling error counts rising on both sides, until Jen, Wellie and Ellie linked up to drive Ironsides into touch on the left of the pitch just 5ms out.
Beth’s debut lift in the lineout (as she’d swapped with Lizzie who was now out on the right wing) was impressive and she popped the ball down to Tracey who cleanly swung the ball out to the waiting backs. The ball moved swiftly through hands but the Ironsides defense held strong. Some aggressive charging by the forwards was enough to draw the defenders out left just long enough for Jen to pass the ball out to a waiting Wellie who dropped down over the line for the final Barnes try of the game.
Barnes had a rare moment of weakness at the restart with a few fumbles, allowing Ironsides to make good territory, but a quality bit of rucking by Charlotte and Ruth turned the ball over and gave Hester another one of her “40 yard curse” runs to get us back inside the Ironsides' 22m. Lily had another stab out on the left, but we were again held out by a determined defensive line.
The ball swung left and right through our hands, but a knock on by Barnes handed over possession to Ironsides and they took full advantage to move us back into our half. A few more handling errors and an offside at the breakdown gave them a sniff at the try line which they took without hesitation, darting through our defense as we were unable to get back into position as quick as the Ironsides’ lone attacker, and she powered down the middle of the field to score under the posts.
The last 6 minutes of the game continued without further event. Rachel proved her mettle by taking a few more carries up to the Ironsides defensive line, and despite winding herself trying to defend the Ironsides’ try, Wellie carried on putting in tackle-after-tackle. With the mud starting to make shirt numbers illegible (especially Hester's) the ref finally called the game to a close, and both teams retired to the clubhouse where the festivities continued.
Thanks again to Ironsides for answering our short notice request for a friendly, it was a great match and it was fantastic to get stuck in with the games back at the clubhouse afterwards, that wrapping paper dress was amazing, definitely worthy winners!
Well done to our 'Forward of the Match' Neda for relentless tackling and those steals in the scrum, and to our 'Back of the Match' Wellie for the fantastic lines she ran and her cover tackles. And a well deserved ‘Player’s Player’ nomination went to Hester for an absolutely superb game – crashing the ball like a forward and making running breaks like a back! Rachel really impressed in her first ever rugby match after only a few training sessions – you’re one tough cookie!
Our season kicks off in 2018 with a trip away to Bury St Edmunds for the next Intermediate Cup fixture on the 7th January. Training resumes on the 2nd January at 7:30pm at Barn Elms playing fields.
Charlotte Luckraft, Neda Chagleva, Eleanor Weston, Rachel Henry, Ruth Mottershead (C), Russ Buckley-Taylor, Lizzie Robinson, Hester (the beast) Odgers, Tracey Smith, Jen10 Fairfield, Emily Moran, Wellie Edwards, Ellie Jones, Beth O'Connell, Lily O'Hara