A tough game on a hot day
By Ashley Brandon
More yellow cards given out than tries awarded...
Barnes ladies travelled north to Cuffley knowing that it was going to be a tough game having played against them earlier in the year at our 7s tournament – we knew they are quick and strong.
The whistle sounded the start of the game but Cuffley’s kick off didn’t go 10m, and the first of many scrums set up in the middle of the pitch. The opening 10 minutes of the game were evenly matched between the teams. Both forward packs were putting in crunching drives while the backs from both sides showed incredible pace as the ball swung wide to the wings. Strong tackling and pressure from the backs forced a few knock-ons by Cuffley and allowed us to gradually shuffle into their half.
Cuffley were dominant at the breakdown though, and piled in players to turn the ball over a few times. One of these turnovers allowed the Cuffley forwards to set up a series of crash balls down the middle of the pitch near their halfway line. They then swung the ball out to the right where the backs were ready to pounce, and despite some epic covering tackles from Fran and Circé, their backing up was too good for our defense and they powered down the right edge of the pitch to cross over the line.
Buoyed by being the first to draw blood, Cuffley came out of the blocks strong and fast at the restart and seemed dominant for a while, although their exuberance did cost them a few penalties, while our desperation to deal with them saw us making silly errors and giving away penalties too. Both teams racked up around 8 penalties in about as many minutes. The problematic scrums saw Cuffley punished for their continued early shoves, while we were penalised for being offside at the breakdown and eventually the ref had a word with both captains about discipline.
Barnes’ backs started to slowly draw Cuffley’s momentum back in, cutting them off with fearless tackling and solid rucking every time Cuffley attempted to swing the ball out to the wings. After a few turn overs in our favour, we’d settled again and were retaining more possession of the ball. Lizzie’s hooking dominated the shaky scrums and it felt as though Cuffley started to panic, which was evident when a yellow card was given to them for repeatedly going into the breakdowns off their feet.
We weren’t able to capitalise on Cuffley being a player down despite a few promising breaks from our backs which saw us edging up into the Cuffley 22m. Unfortunately, as the clock gradually ticked down to half time, a big double hit on Leah ended her game as she was helped off the field with a broken collar bone. The half drew in with another strong stab by Cuffley down the right wing which Dibs and Ice ended by ushering their player into touch and the ref blew his whistle to end the half.
Cuffley gathered in the kick at the start of the second half and immediately moved the ball through hands, first up the left of the pitch, then back down to the right, making their way into the Barnes Ladies half, only to be turned over by Fran who sniped the ball when Ice and Dibs put in another superb double team tackle!
The next 10 minutes of play saw number of line outs as both teams either kicked or ran the ball out near the touch lines, with Barnes being the more dominant of the two teams and Lizzie putting in an impressive shift around the set piece both in attack and defense. Mads was also firing off the scrums, with her ‘8 picks’ giving Barnes some good ground as she smashed into (and then powerfully through) the Cuffley defense twice at the start of the half.
Despite some strong defense against Cuffley, a few penalties in quick succession put us on the back foot, tight against our try line. We held Cuffley off bravely, their forwards pounding at our defensive line but it was too much and they managed to secure a try through a series of effective pick-and-go manoeuvres.
Barnes Ladies didn’t let our heads drop and we secured possession at the restart, working the ball to the left, then back into the right side of the field to make up some good ground. Lauren was fierce in attack, with three defenders hanging off her at one point as she steamed her way into the Cuffley half. Dibs and Fran almost managed to break through the Cuffley backs near their 22m but Cuffley knocked the ball on off a Barnes pass to effectively end the attack.
For the next 10 minutes or so, Barnes Ladies and Cuffley again seemed to exchange penalties, with both sides making jaunty runs off the tap-and-go. An accidental high tackle gave Barnes Ladies a yellow card - ironically made by possibly the shortest player on the pitch - but Cuffley weren’t able to make the most of our reduced numbers despite making life difficult for us.
Reacting to the pressure that Cuffley were now piling on, Barnes kicked up a gear, and made some good breaks with Lauren and Bethan both putting in solid drives down the middle of the pitch. Big shoves in the scrum meant Barnes Ladies were muscling Cuffley off their put-ins and providing the opportunity for our backs to push at the Cuffley defensive line along the edges of the pitch, with Ellie taking advantage of some open space ahead of her down the left of the pitch. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it beyond their 22m, although Cuffley seemed to unravel somewhat at this point and were given a second yellow card for diving into the rucks.
Despite being a player down, Cuffley kept the pressure up and made ground through a good kick to the left of the pitch off a penalty against Barnes near our 22m. Unfortunately they knocked the ball on in the lineout, allowing us to secure it and start moving it gradually out into safer territory, with Eleanor, Lauren and Hester putting in some outstanding carries. The backs got involved with some great hands out to Dibs on the right of the pitch who made good ground, followed by some solid smashing from Ruth and Nowikow down the middle of the pitch.
Cuffley seemed to revert to diving into the rucks, handing a number of penalties to us. Eventually, lazy running and failing to get back 10m forced the refs hand against them a third time, with Cuffley receiving the final yellow card of the day. This opened up an opportunity for us to attack Cuffley and some brilliant running by Lauren, backed up by Ellie, allowed Barnes to creep up towards the Cuffley 22m. Tracey swung the ball off the back of the breakdown near the right of the pitch, with Dibs taking it in, putting in a Sonny Bill-esque offload to Jen, who popped the ball out right to Fran who was running onto it at pace. She sliced through Cuffley's defenders to dot the ball down on the right of the goal area.
Again, Barnes ladies made good ground into the Cuffley half from the restart, but we never quite managed to make anything of the territory, with the ball being stolen at the break down a number of times. The last five minutes of the game were a grind on both sides, with some promising efforts from both the forwards and backs, but eventually Hellie secured the ball off the back of a breakdown near the middle of the pitch and kicked it into touch to end the game.
'Back of the Match’ went to Jen, ‘Forward of the Match’ went to Eleanor and ‘Player’s Player’ was awarded to Lizzie.
Our next game will be a home league fixture against Old Elthamians on Sunday 8th October at 2:30pm.
Starting line up vs Cuffley:
Tasha, Lizzie, Ashley, Nowikow, Ruth, Hester, Rosie, Madalena, Leah, Jenny, Iselin, Dibs, Ellie J, Fran, Circé
Eleanor, Bethan, B-T, Lauren, Tracey, Hellie, Lily,