The Under 18 Girls squad have just finished the first phase of their season in the happy position of being undefeated.
The start of the season back in September saw the usual transition of changing players in the squad (which covers a three-age bracket of U16, U17 & U18) with some long-standing players turning senior and welcoming some new faces moving up from the U15s. This season we are also delighted that 1st XV hooker Jared Saunders has joined the squad as head coach and the first few weeks training were focused on getting to know each other and working out where on the pitch to best utilise our players.
Off the back of solid work on the training field, the team went into their first friendly at the start of October against strong rivals Cobham, a team the girls had never beaten before. Played in pouring rain both sets of coaches and parents were impressed with what they felt was the most hard-fought and competitively physical game either team had played. So, to come out of that with a one point victory was a massive boost to the new squad and credit to them for executing what they learned in training.
Next up the team hosted a novice team from Ealing at the RAG and with only 15 players available on the day it allowed for some creative selection decisions and the chance for a few players to test themselves out of their comfort zones. Given the changes, it was pleasing that the players were still able to keep the structures learned in training and showcase their ability in a convincing win. We look forward to seeing how Ealing have progressed when we play a return fixture in a few weeks.
From that game, we moved on to the start of the RFU Girls Cup, which in the absence of leagues is the girls’ national competition. In a regional pool for the first stage, we went away to Hitchin in November. Not knowing what to expect, the team had to be focused and disciplined against a persistent opposition that never gave up, but by keeping their shape and sticking to their game plan the girls were able to rack up a 48-12 bonus point victory to get the Cup competition off to a flying start.
Before the second Cup game we had a return friendly away to Cobham which, with points to prove on both sides, promised to be a cracking game. And we weren’t disappointed. Both teams played with excellent attitude and commitment and the scoring was tit for tat for most of the game. Midway through the second half Scottish suffered injuries to a couple of key players, one temporary and one permanent and went behind on the scoreboard at the same time. This could have had a decisive impact on morale but with great spirit, the team came back to score four unanswered tries to run out more comfortable victors than in the previous game for back to back wins against great local rivals.
As Christmas approached spirits were high and we were scheduled to play our second pool game at home to Havant. Sadly, Havant were unable to field a team and conceded the game for a regulation 25-0 win on the books for Scottish.
So, off the back of a missed game and Christmas festivities, the squad had to quickly prepare in the new year for their final cup pool game on Sunday 13th January. We were scheduled to play Welwyn who have a track record of nurturing junior talent to go on to play internationally and who were sitting top of the pool on points difference which brought the prospect of a very tough game in a must win situation.
Having warmed up well and heard the squad leaders speak about the attitude needed from everyone, the team took to the pitch optimistically. Unfortunately, a strong start from Welwyn and a couple of unlucky breakaway tries in quick succession left Scottish three tries and 17-0 down after 10 minutes. In a position from which other teams might have collapsed, it is a massive credit to the girls that they were able to calmly fix the errors and keep executing their training ground structure to pull themselves back into the game which resulted in them reversing the position to end the half with three tries of their own and a 19-17 lead.
Both teams fought hard in the second half but Welwyn had the better possession and scored first. This was then quickly reversed by another score from Scottish to go back into the lead. Sustained pressure again from Welwyn resulted in them taking the lead once moreby one point from a further try. Then, determination from the Scottish girls got them into a good position in the opposition 22 and with good hands out wide a fifth try came (unconverted) to leave them four points up with minutes left. Solid passionate defensive play allowed them to hold out to seal an impressive 31-27 victory and guarantee progression to the knockout stages of the competition.
Credit for the achievements this season and progression from last year goes both to the excellent coaching from Jared teaching them new attitudes and patterns of play so they are better prepared for matches and to the players themselves for taking on board what they are coached and executing under pressure in some tough match situations.
And so, we plan for the next phase of the season over the coming months with the next round of the cup mixed in with some friendly fixtures too.