Mixed Day for the Girls at Peterborough Festival
By Jacquie Ladyman
The girls travelled to the Peterborough festival on Sunday, one of the biggest events for age group girls with 14 teams entered.
We played with Bedford due to depleted numbers, the squad being Jess, Amma, Ella, Eva, Mimi, Bethany and Molly, plus Emily, Daniella, Amelia, Amalia, Paige, Ellie and Cadey from Bedford. Two of the Bedford girls were new players, but once they got onto the pitch they looked very much at home. Having a mix of two teams is never easy, but the girls gelled during the day and produced some entertaining rugby.
That said, it was a frustrating day. We ran two good teams very close, but suffered heavy losses against teams that were no better. We finished with a big win.
First up were Eton Manor, from London and new to us. They have a strong reputation and had beaten some teams we’ve suffered from. Olney took the lead after a botched kick off, moving up the field and letting Ellie in. This proved to be tweaking the tiger’s tail and Eton Manor scored several tries in quick succession. Frankly we were still on the bus at this stage. There was no huge gap in quality, the opposition having two strong runners, but so did we. The issue was defensive line speed and first up tackling. We’ve relied too heavily all season on Mimi at fullback to get us out of jail. She’s definitely supergirl, but can’t do all the tackling for everyone all the time. Olney managed to pull a try back via Amma, who ran hard all day. We lost a couple of attacking scrums, which given the stand-in hooker and new scrum half combination was inevitable. Final score 9-2 against Olney.
Next up were Kettering, a team we didn’t play in the regular season due to the mismatch in experience and squad size. After a “mini hairdryer” from the coaches, the girls upped their game hugely. It was a performance to be proud of against a top team. Our line speed was excellent and we snapped into tackles. Ball in hand we used our quick backs to good effect, Bethany to the fore in the defensive shift. By this time we’d picked up a couple of injuries. New girl Cadey got into the action and Molly made some effective runs. Amma scored again, with Jess leading by example and distributing well. Emily continued her scoring run, showing pace to burn and excellent tackling. Ellie also got onto the scoresheet with some fine sleight of hand. Kettering eventually ran out 4-3 winners, but this was a victory of sorts for Olney.
Next up were ON’s, the giants of girls rugby. We had played them for the first time at the Saints the previous week, saving our best play of the day. This week featured a clash of the cousin-captains. Olney took the fight to ON’s, pegging them back each time they looked like pulling away. Mimi chipped through and was demolished late by the ON’s skipper. “I was committed to the tackle ref”... Olney backs pressed very effectively with Molly, doubling up on second row and centre duties and Paige forcing errors.
Revenge was sweet moments later when Amalia, new to rugby and one of the smaller players, put in the hit of season on the ON’s second row. David and Goliath had nothing on it. ON’s were definitely rattled, scrambling a try dubiously allowed by the (Olney) ref despite Mimi and Amelia’s efforts to hold it up. The final whistle saw Olney camped on the ON’s, desperately seeking the losing bonus point try, but it wasn’t to be. Final score 4-2.
There was then a break for photos, which played havoc with the girls’ concentration. We faced the old enemy in the placings game, with Towcester somewhat surprisingly not having reached the knockout stage. They brought their A game and Olney fell back into bad habits. Big strong runners need closing down quickly otherwise they reap havoc. Some highlights were Cadey showing serious wheels to make a break and taking a heavy knock from the cover tackler for her pains. Ella showed grit in the front row and filled in well at hooker. Amma delighted the travelling crowd of “AmmaFans” with a typical try. All in vain as we were well beaten by the better team on the day.
Our final game, at about midnight, was against Newark. To their credit both teams made a game of it, but Olney were in no mood to be beaten. Mimi and Emily linked well to both score hat tricks, old hands on the sidelines purring in appreciation. Ellie added to her haul and all the girls got into the match well. When Olney switched off Newark were right back on them, but the result was never in danger, Olney winning 7-1.
All in all a full on test of festival rugby. Some great play, some less so. That said, to run ON’s and Kettering close two weeks running was unthinkable even a few weeks ago.
Special mention to Jess who led from the front and Daniella, who brought some much needed bite at scrum half. Amelia also put in some very hard yards in the pack.
The girls have one match left on 27th April with the 7’s at the Saints followed by the Women’s premiership final.