On Sunday the U18 Girls squad played in the Area 2 Semi-final of the RFU Girls Cup. With five pools in the first round of the competition, a total of six teams progressed to the next stage which meant that each semi-final was to be played as a triangular.
Scottish were drawn at home (for the first time in the competition) and were scheduled to host Gosford All Blacks from Oxfordshire and Ellingham & Ringwood from the New Forest at the Athletic Ground. Each of the games was to be spread out through the afternoon and to comply with total playing times, each match was to be 17 minutes each way. We were drawn to play in the first and third matches with a break in between.
With short games and a drawn out day, we knew that managing energy, fueling and player focus would be important so Jared Saunders took the squad through a steady and measured warm up with bursts of intensity thrown in. Followed by some careful run throughs of the shapes and patterns the team have been working on. Final chat was all about effort, commitment and starting well and finished with the girls having their own words together without coaches.
Our first game was against Gosford and having received kick off, the girls executed their plans and guarded possession well in the face of some robust defense and strong rucking from the opposition. Playing with the ball and keeping to established patterns allowed the team to run in three tries in the first half for a 15-0 lead.
The second half saw a fight back from Gosford who began to test our defense with a greater share of possession, but the Scottish girls held firm and worked their own opportunities. This resulted in a further try out wide for Scottish to lead 20-0 with little time left on the clock. However, there was time for some determined work by Gosford to earn them their own try and when time expired the final score was 20-5 to London Scottish. A good victory to get the day going but unfortunately at the cost of two front row players, one with a head injury and the other to a broken nose.
Managing the down time between games was going to be crucial and the girls were sent off to warm up and have some food and a hot drink. Meanwhile, the coaches stayed pitch side to watch the second game which saw Gosford take on Ellingham & Ringwood. A tough and close game that took some time before Ellingham managed to get some momentum ended with a 19-0 victory to Ellingham & Ringwood so they went into the final game against Scottish with all to play for.
Having had some down time, the Scottish girls focused well and ran through a short sharp warm up running into the final game. Needing another strong start, Scottish again received the kick off and with a solid catch and good support play began to but Ellingham on the back foot but their defense was holding strong and pushing back hard. A scrum Ellingham scrum was also putting considerable pressure on our scrum which had a make shift front row after the injuries of the first game. Finally, after going through multiple phases the Scottish girls were able to stretch the opposition to the point where there was space out wide to be exploited and this is what they did to score a good team try that was converted for a deserved half time lead of 7-0.
Unsurprisingly, Ellingham came back strong at the start of the second half and pushed the Scottish defense so that we were conceding territory. Excellent teamwork and effort kept the opposition at bay and with our own possession, the girls were again able to demonstrate their threat with ball in hand. Multiple carries from the forwards again allowed space to open for the backs to be able to find holes in the defense which resulted in a second try again converted and a 14-0 lead to Scottish with about a quarter of the game left.
Perhaps now with some tired Scottish bodies and another injury forcing a change for Scottish on the wing, Ellingham were able to force their way up the pitch and go over from close range under the posts to pull back to 14-7. More pressure came our way from the kick off and both teams were playing with huge passion, but equally on the edge of the limits of what the referee was prepared to accept. This cost us a series of penalties and conceded ground, which left us defending our line. In the final play Ellingham were convinced they had scored but with Scottish girls at the bottom of the pile the ruling was “held up” and the final whistle blown.
A deserved 14-7 victory against a strong Ellingham & Ringwood team that are clearly experienced and used to being successful. So, a good result to round off a drawn out day of huge effort, tough play and some injuries, with credit to the whole squad for working for each other and demonstrating the levels of commitment needed to achieve.
And so, we progress to the Area Final which will be held on Sunday 3rd March at the neutral venue of Aylesbury RFC.