Biggleswade Ladies battle hard against high-flying Swans10th January 2018
Biggleswade Ladies 0 Buckingham Swans 55 (Friendly)
Biggleswade Ladies latest friendly (sponsored by TASL) saw the home side put up a valiant fight against opposition that was far stronger than they were expecting.
Buckingham Swans, currently topping the RFUW National Challenge Midlands 1 league, were due to put out a development squad to give newbies game time, but Sunday’s team actually included seven county players.
This meant the relatively inexperienced Biggleswade side had a tough battle on their hands – but the team kept their heads up despite the unflattering scoreline, improving as the game went on.
Biggy’s scrum was rejigged for this game, with several players out of their usual positions (Leigh Frost having to switch from loosehead to tighthead and back again as replacements were needed as the game went on, and Zaria Bettles moving up from second row for her first game as hooker).
It was a baptism of fire against a tight, powerful, well-drilled Buckingham pack. The Swans’ dominance in this area gave them faster, cleaner ball, and their size and strength sucked in Biggy players to the tackle. This gave Swans the room to pass quickly and cleanly through the backs, running in several tries.
But Biggy were no pushover. No 8 Amy Schiller was in typical combative form, making that all important big first hit, keeping up the intensity all game, battling and ball-carrying with power and aggression, as did flanker Rachel Poulson, who made – and took – some crunching tackles, in the thick of things as always.
Other first half highlights were full back Vicki Marshall taking down a fast, powerful opposition forward with a textbook passive tackle; centre Claire Huckle storming across the pitch to bundle a Swan player into touch before she could get to the try line; and wing Ellie Reeve (who played a blinder of a game) running from deep in her own territory, shrugging off one tackle on the sideline and gaining valuable ground, before taking a big hit and a mouthful of mud, shaking it off and getting straight back into the fray.
But Swans’ experience and well-organised tactical play meant they were finding and creating gaps in Biggy’s defence. The disappointing half-time scoreline was an unflattering 38 – 0.
It could have turned into a cricket score if Biggy had lost heart. Instead, they came out fighting in the second half, pressing forward with some sustained pressure for the first time. Swans couldn’t add to their total for 20 minutes, thanks to Biggy’s more aggressive pack work, and some strong ball carrying from Amy Schiller and replacement flanker Sarah Ashby. Sarah, returning to rugby from a long break, had an excellent game, making some good carries and a chargedown that almost led to a Biggy try.
Guest player Lou Crombie, from Hitchin, on as replacement hooker, made her mark with some powerful breaks. Beth Cooke from Royston also put in an impressive performance when she came on to lend Biggy some valuable experience in the backs.
Biggleswade’s tighthead prop Drea Lee deserves a commitment award for turning up after flying back into the country in the early hours and playing despite feeling under the weather – and when a warm bed must have felt so much more inviting than a freezing cold rugby pitch.
The always effervescent winger Jo Beard – having delighted supporters in the first half with some terrier-like tackling – gave spectators on the other sideline their own entertaining treat when she was hoisted up and off the pitch by one of the biggest players on the park, all whilst maintaining a huge grin and mouthing: “I can’t do anything about it!”
Teri Taylor (playing in the number 9 position for the first time) had a cracking game, with Swans’ relentless forward pressure forcing her to make decisions and passes quickly.
Forward of the match went to lock Claire Watson – only very recently stolen from Biggleswade backs to be introduced to the dark arts of the forwards – who had a gutsy game, rucking hard and breaking through Swan’s strong defensive line.
Anna Kolanczyk, in as replacement full back, made a strong case for the back of the match award, topping an excellent performance by tackling a flying Swan who was about to break through for a certain try.
But it was captain and fly half Charlie Field who earned the honour, with her most accomplished performance at no 10 so far, making numerous vital tackles and kicking Biggleswade out of trouble when under intense pressure.
All this meant Buckingham were limited to 17 points in the second half – a greatly encouraging achievement in what was a testing game for Biggleswade.
Huge thanks to all the spectators who turned out in the cold, and to Technical Authoring Services Ltd (TASL), who sponsored the match and provided a free buffet for supporters.
Final score: Biggleswade Ladies 0 Buckingham Swans 55
Forward of the Match: Claire Watson
Back of the Match: Charlie Field
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
Featured image photo courtesy of David Kay