A friendly and promising look at what our newbies can do
By Ashley Brandon
Playing rugby with your shorts on backwards...
Barnes’ friendly last weekend against Reading Abbey Nuns was a nice reminder of the good, clean fun that rugby can be, with fantastic camaraderie on and off the pitch and good spirited play from both teams.
The match was set up to allow both sides to put out new players, so we opted for a bit of a switch up in player positions to ensure our newbies got a good run out. Bethan O, Lily and Lauren all earned a starting position on the pitch, while we had a bit of a shake around with some of the more seasoned players. Juana and Charlotte B joined later on in the game, while Hellie made a storming debut at 9, with Captain Ruth slotting in at 8 for the first time this season, and Ellie E making her first start at fullback. Our very own Ice also managed to fulfill her lifelong dream of playing in the forwards in a starring role at openside flanker.
Nowikow took on the job of ‘Vice-Vice-Captain’ ahead of the game and did the coin toss – which she won ...and opted for us to kick off...playing into the wind…
The game got underway and we charged down the field, with some solid forwards play securing the ball in the middle of the pitch as we started to encroach on Abbey Ladies territory. Before long we were up near their try line and a sniping run from Hellie off the back of a breakdown from the rumbling forwards caught Abbey Ladies off guard, allowing us to open the scoring.
It didn’t take long for Abbey to respond though. Within a few minutes of the restart, they’d secured the ball, and after a bit of phase play by the forwards, they swung the ball out to the left wing where their resident speedster was waiting. As soon as the ball touched her hands she was away, stepping around our defense to score. A solid boot saw their try converted.
A smooth restart followed and Barnes Ladies again put in some solid work up front - Charlotte L was getting stuck in early on with a couple of big carries down the pitch. Gradually we crept up to Abbey Ladies' tryline and a big push from Mads put Barnes over the line out to the right of the goalposts.
Next up, Abbey Ladies put in some solid work around the breakdowns, using their powerful forwards to turn us over very quickly after play restarted. Another quick pass shot out to their left wing where we were burned off as the Nuns’ winger crossed the whitewash again. This time their conversion went wide.
The game settled in for a bit and the ball shifted territory a number of times. Abbey Ladies put in some impressive work around the breakdowns, rucking and clearing well. We had our jobs cut out, and despite giving away a few penalties in quick succession, we managed to secure the ball and push into the Abbey Ladies half. We crawled our way into 22m and following a bit of to-and-fro with both backs and forwards picking-and-going at one point, the ball popped up to Lauren who crossed the line for her first try in green and gold bands. Taz (wearing her shorts back-to-front) secured the conversion for us.
The half faded out without any further scores despite both teams attempting to crash through each other and trying to sneak out wide around one another.
The second half was not long underway when Abbey Ladies moved up into the Barnes half and some good pressure from their forwards at the breakdown gave them a good position to build up for their third try of the game on the left of the pitch. They converted to bring the scores up to 19 – 17 in their favour.
Still enjoying the buzz of having scored in the first half, Lauren was out to cross the line again. This time, following some hard work by the forwards in the Abbey 22m and some smooth handling from the backs, the ball was moved out to the left, where Lauren was poised ready to take it into contact. She smashed through the defense and dotted down for her second try.
Abbey Ladies were quick to respond to the our attack and had again managed to work the ball back up the field into Barnes territory. Another pop out to the wings saw them push over our line and secure a try and an impressive conversion.
Barnes Ladies put in a big charge off the restart and powered into the Abbey Ladies half, with intent. Again, we seemed hesitant in the breakdown and despite giving a way possession, Abbey weren’t able to make anything of the turnover as they knocked the ball on as we ran at their attacking line. We managed to secure the scrum and a good phase of play saw us back in the Abbey Ladies half, with our forwards executing some good pick-and-go play to bring us within reaching distance of the tryline. Hellie, not wanting to be outdone by Lauren with her two tries, put in another perfectly timed sneaky snipe around the blindside of the breakdown and dropped down over the line to notch up her second try, which Taz duly converted.
True to the format of the game so far, it wasn’t long before Abbey Ladies had skilfully muscled their way into our half and broken through our defensive line to answer back with a try and conversion of their own.
With about 12 minutes to play, Barnes Ladies managed to pressure Abbey Ladies into a fumble, handing us possession and an opportunity for us to rumble our way up the pitch. We momentarily set up camp just outside their 22m before a solid pick-and-go from Ice – clearly loving her time in the forwards – brought her a few meters off the try line with Mads tight on her heals. Abbey Ladies were just able to stop Ice from crossing the line but Mads took on the mantle and secured the ball off Ice to crash in our last try of the game.
Abbey Ladies were very determined in the last 8 minutes, and some impressive running by their backs saw them crossing the try line twice in fairly quick succession, converting one of their tries to bring their closing score up to 43 against our 34.
With the clock slowly winding down, Barnes Ladies made a really good push of it, dominating the scrums and giving everything to try and get at least one more try in before the whistle blew, but it wasn’t to be, and Abbey Ladies secured a comfortable win.
It was a great game that was played in good spirits, and we’re really looking forward to playing them again in March where we’ll be able to see how both teams have grown as our new players develop through the course of the season. Well done to all our new players who had a positive impact, of particular note the text book try saving tackle that Bethan put in on the left wing in the first half. Good luck to Abbey Ladies for the rest of their season too.
‘Back of the match/d*ck of the day’ went to Taz’ for running some incredible lines. ‘Forward of the match’ and ‘Player’s Player’ award went to Lauren who had an outstanding game.
Our next game is a home league fixture against Old Elthamians on Sunday 8th October. We'll be playing at the Barn Elms Sports Trust pitches, and kick off will be at 2:30pm.
Starting line up vs Reading Abbey Nuns:
Charlotte L, Rosie, Ashley, Nowikow, Eleonore, Lauren, Ice, Ruth, Hellie, Jennifer, Taz, Ellie J, Lily, Ellie E, Beth
Charlotte B, Madalena, Juana