First round of the RFU Women's Intermediate Cup done and dusted
By Ashley Brandon
Bad singing - better rugby
Having not performed very well in our last game against Old Elthamians, Barnes Ladies were all a bit nervous heading into the first round of the Women’s Intermediate Cup last weekend. But, despite the dodgy anecdotes about chili beef, cringeworthy singing (apologies to the driver) and almost having to repurpose some Café Nero coffee cups on the long bus journey there, we made it safely to Ashford Rugby Club and warmed up in the sunshine. It was good to be able to welcome back players returning from injury, with Neda resuming duties in the backs and Russ in the forwards.
The game was a slow burner at the start. Barnes ladies kicked off and it was immediately clear that Ashford Ladies’ powerful forwards were looking to make it a solid contest at the break down as they hammered their way up the pitch and into our 22m, but they weren’t able to gain much from the territory and we slowly managed to regain some ground.
It took a few errors and some scrappy play before Barnes Ladies were properly in the zone, but gradually the team started to settle in and defend well against the Ashford Ladies’ attacks on our defensive line. We held well in the set piece and Lauren started to come into her own at 8, making some blinding runs off our strong scrums. Our backs were fantastic in support, looking for any chance to snipe around the wings or for our centres to crash through the middle. Ellie was working well at fullback and put in some good darting runs at the Ashford Ladies’ defense.
Territory and possession seemed fairly even for the first 30 minutes, with both sides occasionally making silly mistakes which prevented either team from clearing those final yards to cross the try line. However, it was Ashford Ladies who struck first with an interception just outside the Barnes 22m from sloppy handling off the back of a scrum. Their open-side flanker took full advantage of the high, floating pass, running onto it and powering through our defense before offloading to a supporting player who crashed over the try line just out left of the posts.
Barnes Ladies managed to hold a lot of the possession off the restart, forcing a number of errors from Ashford Ladies which allowed us back into their half and just outside of their 22m. A strong contest at the breakdown (which saw both an Ashford Ladies player and Ellie W leaving the field with injuries) ended in a knock on by Ashford.
Barnes Ladies had the put-in at the scrum and as the last minute of the half was ticking down, a sweet hook from Lizzie brought the ball cleanly out to Lauren who attacked off the back of the scrum with a blinding run into the Ashford 22m, batting off the defense as she powered along the right of the pitch towards the line. Ellie M secured the ball when Lauren was finally brought down, and Rosie put in a good pick-and-go back infield off the breakdown to rumble up a few meters closer to the try line. Quick ball off the ruck swung it out left to Jen-10, then to Taz who stepped the Ashford Ladies’ defense before dotting the ball down near the posts for a try which she also converted. A few more phases of play followed the restart, but it wasn't long before the Ref's whistle drew the first half to an end.
Both teams started the second half with intent, putting in some stabbing runs and solid defense right from the off, with the first 15 minutes being a bit of a stalemate. We made some good ground a few times, with the ball moving really smoothly out to our backs. Ashford Ladies were tenacious though, and kept us at bay out wide so we weren’t able to capitalise on the possession or territory we were making. They also punished us for our mistakes with some long and accurate penalty kicks, pushing us back into our half. But we were dominating at the scrums despite the power of the Ashford Ladies' pack, and the fitness work we’ve been doing early in the season seemed to pay off as our forwards managed to keep up their head of steam and we started to spend more time in the Ashford Ladies’ territory.
Taz was breaking the gain line well and making some really impressive yards. Lauren was definitely adding to the meters and some storming runs on the wing out left were proving a bit too much for the Ashford ladies’ defensive line. A penalty was given against them for not rolling away just outside their 22m and allowed Barnes Ladies to set up for a charge. Lauren smashed through the defense off the tap-and-go to cross the try line and crash down just to the left of the posts, setting up a perfect conversion for Taz.
It was as if we’d caught our second breath, and the team stared to swing the ball through our hands like a pendulum, from the left of the pitch out to the right and back again. Taz was relentlessly testing the Ashford Ladies’ backs, putting in some quality clearing kicks up field as well as taking them head-on with some attacking runs. The forwards were steady and consistent as we rolled through the phases, while the backs hands were sure, with Dibs clocking up the meters as Barnes Ladies pushed upfield.
The last score came just as the game was drawing to a close, with the forwards once more rumbling the ball up the middle of the pitch. The ball came out quickly from the breakdown again and opened up an amazing attacking run from the backs. The ball was shipped out to left Wellie who slammed down just under (and probably quite a bit into) the posts, setting up another clear conversion for Taz to bring the final score up to 21-5 for Barnes Ladies.
Well done to our ‘Back of the Match’ and top points scorer for the day, Taz – insert witty pun here - while ‘Forward of the Match’ for a successive week went to Charlotte for some solid tackling, great scrumming, fantastic running and taking that hand-off to the face like a champ. The ‘Player’s player’ this week was Lauren who carried the ball an impressive number of meters during the game.
It was a great day out and the Ashford Ladies and coaching team were incredibly welcoming – even sharing their water with us in the dying minutes of the game when our hydration technicians seemed a little (very) slow off the mark. We’d like to thank them for their hospitality and wish them the best of luck for the rest of their season.
Our next game will be a double header against Battersea Ironsides Ladies at Barn Elms as part of our Supporters Day on the 22nd October. We’ll be playing a League game and a Development game, with the League game starting at 1pm and the Development game starting around 3pm. There will be fun activities pitchside and at the clubhouse during and after these games, including raffles, a quiz and other tests of skill and concentration! We’ll also have a bake sale on the go so please come down and support us!
Starting line up vs Ashford Ladies:
Charlotte, Lizzie, Ellie W, Nowikow, Ruth, Eleonore, Rosie, Lauren, Tracey, Jen, Taz, Dibs, Beth, Neda, Ellie E
Alex, Russ, Ashley