Royston Ladies 36 – 0 Biggleswade Ladies21st December 2017
Royston Ladies v Biggleswade Ladies (Friendly)
Royston Ladies 36 – 0 Biggleswade Ladies
After snow saw last week’s planned TASL-sponsored home match cancelled (although snowball fights still took place), Biggleswade Ladies were itching to get back into the fray on Sunday.
An away friendly against Royston – opponents who currently top the NCE3 league and who have been notching up some big scores against established sides – was always going to be a tough challenge for the newly resurrected Biggleswade team.
But if Biggy are to realise their ambitions of joining a league next season, this is exactly the kind of friendly they need to test their mettle: a physical battle against a highly organised, in-form team.
It was a rain-lashed, bruising encounter in freezing cold conditions, played with great intensity.
Royston started quickly out of the blocks, notching up an (unconverted) try after just five minutes. But Biggy massed ranks and withstood Royston pressure, putting in some big hits on their opponents at vital times, and holding up a try to keep the score 5-0 to the home side until the 20 minute mark – no mean feat with Royston notching up 64 points in one half in a recent league game.
With a couple of front row players missing through injury and unavailability, Biggleswade’s pack was rearranged at the last minute with two guest players from Hitchin (Flo Oatgen and Rachel Bailey) in hooker and tight-head roles. Biggy centre Claire Watson – who’d been geared up to join the forwards with only a few minutes’ training in scrummaging as a lock, but instead found herself thrown in to flanker position – took on the new challenge with typical determination, and getting in some full-on shoves in the ruck. Despite the shake-up of personnel, Biggleswade’s scrums proved consistently strong, with Biggy more than holding their own, and taking the ball against the head three times – once on their own 5 metre line, easing the pressure at a vital moment with a kick away.
Biggy forwards and backs showed courage and commitment in the tackle (often against bigger opposition players), with bruises being compared in the bar after the game.
No 13 Claire Huckle had to leave the pitch after 20 minutes when she took a crunching hit from a Royston player, injuring both her head and ribs.
This meant a switch around of positions, with replacement Claire Goldsmith – playing her first ever match – making a perfect debut tackle, the thump of which reverberated to the rain-sodden but enthusiastic Biggy supporters on the sideline.
A standout highlight of Biggy’s play in the first half was winger Jo Beard, the smallest player on the pitch, putting in a series of superb tackles on her opposite number, two of which prevented a clear run down the line.
Another highlight was captain and fly half Charlie Field – who competed tirelessly all afternoon – kicking and chasing her own ball and bulldozering the Royston player who had the bad luck to catch it.
Wing Ellie Reeve and scrum half Holly Crawford made some good breaks, and Amy Schiller and Rachel Poulson did some strong ball-carrying, but aggressive rucking and good organisation from Royston meant they had the lion’s share of possession and territory.
Despite Biggy’s brave efforts in soaking up a lot of pressure for much of the half, Royston’s greater game experience and attacking nous meant they broke through to score three more tries (two of which were converted) leaving the half-time score 24-0.
After the break, Biggy had to make more changes, with centre Teri ‘tackle machine’ Taylor taking over the fly half role while Charlie Field had a few minutes to recover from some big collisions. Amy Schiller, Biggy’s influential No. 8, had to be replaced by flanker Rachel Poulson, who had yet another great game, earning her a thoroughly-deserved Forward Of The Match award. It was Rachel who reacted quickly and chased down a ball to ground it in Biggy’s in goal area to prevent an almost certain try from the chasing Royston players.
Full back Anna Kolanczyk had to come off after a knock to the head, with Claire Huckle putting her body on the line yet again to return to the pitch for the last 20 minutes and cover the unfamiliar position.
Biggleswade could have gained more ground were it not for a tendency to get sucked into overcommitting at the ruck, and also not pressing their defensive line forward quickly enough – all areas to work on and which will improve with more game time (this being only their third match).
But the team did exceptionally well to limit Royston to 12 points (two tries and a conversion) in the second half, especially with several Biggy players out of their usual positions, and with Royston using their greater numbers to good effect by bringing on fresh legs.
Final score: Royston Ladies 36 – 0 Biggleswade Ladies
Captain Charlie Field said: “It hadn’t been an ideal build-up, with numbers light at training sessions due to Christmas commitments and injuries, and with uncertainty over the team sheet and last minute changes.
“But I couldn’t be prouder of the team. This was a tough match in tough conditions, and the scoreline doesn’t tell the story of the massive efforts our team showed today. The smiles in team photo says it all – in the mud and cold we gave it our all and had a blast.”
Coach Jimmy Caulfield said: “I like bacon.” (!)
Forward of the Match: Rachel Poulson
Back of the Match (joint): Jo Beard & Claire Huckle
Biggleswade Ladies hold training sessions on Mondays and Fridays between 7.15pm and 9pm at Biggleswade Rugby Club on Langford Road. It’s free to try – click on the link to find out more: http://biggleswadeladiesrugby.co.uk