Hackney Ladies vs Barnes Ladies (11th October 2015)
Barnes Ladies emulate the Welsh Elite Men’s Squad…
Barnes started with a full compliment of 15 players and a sub to spare, but finished with just 12 players on the pitch when the final whistle went. It was a tough game, Hackney looked to be in fine form even during their warm up and it turned out to be a really physical match, so-much-so that scrums went uncontested during the second half of the game for safety reasons.
Scoring opened with a beautiful trot through Hackney’s defence by Em who was performing Captain’s duties for the day. Shortly after that, Hackney used sheer momentum to muscle the scrums and run some straight lines through our defence, answering back with four tries – three of them in fairly quick succession. The scrums were brutal, with the first two set pieces dealing a heavy blow to the Barnes pack. This only spurred our forwards on, and although Hackney’s pack was still putting us on our heels, it became more about the size of Hackney’s looming forwards than a lack of strength and determination from Barnes – by the third scrum we were still going backwards but not quite as far as before, allowing Tori to hook the ball out with more time for Iyata at 8 or Leah at 9 to play the ball off the set piece.
With our work around the breakdowns starting off a little sloppy and uncoordinated, a constructive team talk from the Little Ginger B*tch settled the nerves and Barnes gradually began committing more to ‘being a nuisance at the breakdown’ as instructed by Andy. This forced some errors from Hackney through not releasing or knocking the ball on as they fumbled to get it away from the breakdowns. Spirits picked up and we managed to retain possession well enough to allow Em to pin her ears back and skip around the defence for another try, while some solid hands from the backs allowed Rhiannon to smash through two defenders and over the line for another 5 points. Just before the half time whistle, the last scrum of the half managed to crumble into a ‘Pile On’ with Ian and Tori pinned awkwardly at the bottom of it. Hackney went on to score one more try while Ian sadly bowed out for the rest of the match – although she carried on contributing to the game from the side line by disagreeing loudly with some of the touch judge’s decisions on Em’s alleged step into touch in the second half…
Honorary nurse duty was in full swing during the last 40 minutes with a number of crushing (and occasionally high and sometimes off the ball) tackles coming in, resulting in injury blows to Barnes and a sin bin for Hackney. A brutal move on Rhiannon as she powered down the wing saw a change in the setup for the backs as she was forced off the field. Joyce managed to put in one last impressive try saving tackle despite seeing stars (an probably unicorns) after taking a heavy knock to the head a little earlier and she too was ordered to the side line with about 13 minutes of game time left. In spite of the injuries and tiredness creeping in, the nerves were gone and Barnes started to look quite formidable at times towards the end of the game.
When we had the ball in hand the backs worked their magic, with the ball gliding from player to player with silky precision. There were some beautiful link-ups on the right wing with Laura and Rhiannon darting through defenders to make up good ground. Equally, Fran and Amelia executed some beautiful pop-ups and offloads out on the left wing that would have had last Tuesday’s guest coach Claire Purdy smiling from ear to ear. Although Em did her best to disorientate and draw in defenders with some pretty impressive zig-zagging across the breadth of the pitch (I’m pretty sure watching her was what made Joyce dizzy) Hackney’s defence held tight as they started to rotate their bench and bring on fresh players. Emma took a massive tackle which ended with her landing on her head, a ruck forming over her left knee immediately afterwards and saw her shuffling painfully off to the side line too - fortunately only three minutes were left on the clock. Although we came close a few times, we didn’t manage to score any more tries, but we did hold our own and even though our bodies were weary, Hackney only made it through our defence twice in the second half even with a compliment of substitutes at their disposal.
Stand out moments were definitely the tries from our Captain and a solid, powerful push over the whitewash from Rhiannon following some great hands from the backs. The line outs were relatively well executed and we managed to win one off Hackney, while only losing one to them. Our two newbies shone brilliantly, both deservedly earning their pints at the game presentation – Eleanor showed herself to be a powerhouse and tackling machine throughout the game, while Ruth made a massive impact (literally) by smashing Hackney players backwards off their feet after subbing on in the second half.
It was a fantastic game and despite the initial nerves, the determination of each player to push on with such spirit and heart against a team as solid as Hackney’s ladies only bodes well for the rest of the season. Next up, Hammersmith and Fulham Ladies on the 25th October.