With an ever-growing injury list and some players unavailable, selection for this cup game showed that the Hoppers ladies do have strength and depth by coming back to win 17-15 in what was an captivating game of rugby.
By Steve Tiernan.
With the previous weeks disappointment well and truly behind them, the girls took to the field, positive that they could put right the wrongs of the previous week. However, Kendal, seeing this as a ‘bonus fixture’ in their match preview, started the game with great intensity and physicality, testing the hoppers defence. Hoppers found themselves pinned into their own half early on with Kendal looking like they were dominating the physical battles around the breakdown. After 7 minutes, Hoppers suffered their first casualty of the day when Scrum Half, Heather Creighton, limped off with a twisted ankle and was replaced by the capable Stephanie Gray. Hoppers found themselves a try down, soon after when Kendal broke the deadlock from a rolling maul. With the conversion missed, Hoppers looked to find some much needed possession and from the subsequent kick off, Kendal worked the ball again towards the Hoppers try line. Play then had to be stopped as the Hoppers centre; Theo Rushton-Marsh went down in a tackle holding her shoulder. She was replaced by new girl, Emily Topping who slotted into the midfield alongside Sarah Lovejoy. The subsequent restart gave Kendal possession and they managed to expose hoppers on the wing to score in the corner. The conversion was again missed and at 0-10, Hoppers stared down the barrel of the proverbial gun and needed some possession to settle the nerves.
With some positive words of encouragement from stand in skipper, Mollie Paling, the players rallied and started to build some phases from the Kendal 10m line with Topping and Lovejoy making great line breaks from deep. With the forwards gaining confidence, the game plan previously worked on in training started to appear and the pack pressed the Kendal defence into the corners. With both quick ball, and sniping attacks from scrum half Gray, Hoppers now tested Kendal and worked the quick ball game well. This culminated in Christina Tully going over for a well-deserved try to bring the score back to 5-10 after the conversion struck the post. Hoppers had now found some momentum and with constant encouragement from the skipper, the girls grew in confidence, playing the ball wider and running deeper at the tiring Kendal defence. This pressure produced dividends when Sarah Lovejoy crashed over to even the score soon before half time. With the conversion missed, Kendal restarted with a new found vigour and pressed the hoppers line hard, resulting in lock Ruth Yates, taking a huge hit to the ribs. With no forwards on the bench, the coaches brought on winger Tasneem Vahed which allowed Mollie Paling to even up numbers in the pack. Hoppers defended gallantly and managed to finish the half level.
With the half time chat, honest and positive, the girls took to the field hungry for the win. Kendal kicked off and before long the game became not unlike a heavyweight title fight, with each ‘fighter’ waiting for the slightest opportunity to capitalise on. The second half continued with both sides, exchanging possession through both forced and unforced errors, threatening each other’s lines and testing some now bruised defences. Kendal finally broke the stalemate with about 15 minutes to go through a mismatch out wide. Again the conversion was missed and hoppers trailed 10-15. With the clock ticking it was do or die from the girls and after turning over the subsequent kick off after Kendal strayed off side, they gained a penalty just on their own 10 m line. With the coaches spotting the Kendal defence taking their time to organise some ‘vigorous encouragement’ for a quick tap was given, and Emma Pooley took the ball into the misshaped Kendal defence, with Steph Gray playing superbly at 9, sniping around the fringes, the Kendal defence looked stretched and the ball went quickly to the poised back line. Christina Tully, running hard wide took an option inside Olivia Jack and went for the line, darting past three challenges to finish just wide of the post. With the score now 15 all, with 5 to go, Back Row Emma Pooley, showing true character stepped up and put the ball through the sticks to give Hoppers the lead for the first time in the game.
For the last 5 minutes, Lightfoot Green was transported back to 1836 and resembled the famous defence at the Alamo mission in San Antonio, Texas. Wave after wave of Kendal players threw themselves at the Hoppers defence and with the clock approaching 80 mins, they spilled a pass and gave away a Scrum on the hoppers 5m line. Hoppers just needed to end the game and put the ball out of play however, when the Hoppers 8 Danielle Nash, used her hands to put the ball over the touchline, the referee awarded a scrum to Kendal. Kendal retained possession and went wide, sending the strong runners out to smash through a tired defence only to again spill a pass under pressure from Hoppers and the game was ended by the official. Hoppers finally had the victory in what was a fine, but nerve wrecking example of women’s rugby.
Hoppers progress to the next round of the cup and are back to winning ways. Next up, it’s back to the League competition and a home tie vs. Chester Divas on Sunday at 1pm. The last time both teams met was on an exhaustingly hot day on the 7s pitch back in June, when Chester took the spoils.
With Injuries stacking up Hoppers hope to have some players back this weekend and would like to wish Theo Rushton-Marsh a speedy recovery after being later diagnosed with a Spinal Fracture.
Up the Hoppers!
Hoppers Staring XV: Becky Brown, Kelly Singleton, Sarah Boaler, Ruth Yates, Michelle Christy, Hayley Ciotkowski, Emma Pooley, Danielle Nash, Heather Creighton, Mollie Paling, Olivia Jack, Sarah Lovejoy, Theo Rushton-Marsh, Katherine Lang, Christina Tully.
Game Changers: Stephanie Gray, Victoria Kenyon, Emily Topping, Tasneem Vahed.
Forward of the Game: Sarah Boaler Back of the Game: Sarah Lovejoy