First Saints Tournament for Girls
By Jacquie Ladyman
The girls were invited to the first U13 girls tournament held by the Saints, followed by the Saints vs Gloucester match.
The tournament featured 6 teams and we linked up with Bedford for the day. Our squad was Lottie, Amma, Mimi, Charlie, Ella, Eva, Molly, Bethany and new girl Issy, along with Megan, Emily, Ellie and Grace from Bedford.
This was a tough day out with three of the regional powerhouses playing, plus two teams with whom we’ve shared the honours in previous matches. 5 games of 15 minutes is a lot of rugby and thanks to an early injury all 12 girls had to play all matches.
We started against Kettering and, as normal, seemed to have left our concentration on the bus. That said, the girls fronted up and held the line for some time. Kettering started to pull away but Olney then scored two great team tries in quick succession via Megan and Amma. Kettering came back but some brave defence from Mimi and Issy stopped a couple of potential scores. At the end, size and squad depth told against Olney.
Next up were Peterborough. This was the only game in which Olney failed to get on the scoresheet. The excellent foundation laid in the first game disappeared and the team fell off a few tackles. We really missed our usual grit in this game, although Ella and Charlie did their best to get into the opposition’s faces.
Game 3 saw us play Buckingham and storm away to an early 3-0 lead, courtesy of two from Amma and one from Emily. They were ably supported by some hard yards in the pack by Megan and Grace, who had to retire injured. There was some excellent support running from Eva and Issy, who showed great promise. Then we took our foot off the gas, with some wayward kicking and poor scrummaging handing the advantage back to Buckingham. They levelled the scores with a couple of minutes left, but Olney staged a last attack with Amma held up desperately short. There was also a try not given after an excellent kick chase from Mimi, who in the view of many touched down first but was denied.
Our kicking in general was good throughout the day, with Lottie, Mimi and Megan sharing the duties. We introduced a few chip throughs for the first time which worked well.
Next up were the old enemy, Towcester. Last time out we beat them, but this time we lacked our enforcer in chief, Jess. Tows are a big team and play abrasive rugby. This was evidenced by an illegal hit on Ellie that took her out of the game. Fired up by this Olney sprang into action and Emily in particular caught fire, running in three tries. Molly also stepped up, picking a nice line and angles to run. Despite this, we squandered three great attacking positions in the Towcester 22 and were made to pay by some opposition hard running. A 6-3 loss might not sound too good, but on another day it could well have been a win.
After a quick break to refuel it was onto the final game against ON’s, who spanked us at the East Midlands tournament in early March. The girls were out on their feet, but to their huge credit they took the fight to the opposition in their best match of the day by far. This was exemplified by Ellie who shook off her injury to score a classic back row try, twisting and reaching for the line through a thicket of despairing defenders. Mimi took her revenge with a kick chase try that was given. Our defensive line had real snap and Bethany cut down the opposition winger in full flight twice to save our line. We shipped a few tries towards the end as opposition fresh legs came on, the match finishing 4-2 to ON’s. This is a team we couldn’t live with a month ago, kept at bay and harried to the end.
It was interesting and hugely positive to eavesdrop on a team talk by Lottie during an injury break (of which there were many, no quarter asked or given). The girls were able to analyse the mistakes and positives, and plan for the rest of the game. Real game sense and progress.
Once again, a big step forward for the girls with all contributing. Most of the opposition squads are year 8 heavy, whereas we are year 7 biased. Next season, the boot will be on the other foot. We have plenty of interest from new girls and the squad remains an absolute pleasure to coach. Thanks also to all the Olney members who were kind enough to congratulate the girls during their lap of the Saints pitch during half time, it really means a lot to them.