With casualties still mounting up from the previous encounter at home to Crewe and the relentless rains that plagued the weekend, Hoppers sent a 17 strong side down to Chester, hoping that the sticking plasters applied would hold firm under what where testing conditions at Hare Lane.
The preparations leading up to the game became a challenge as the focus soon became one that was to gather as many fit and available players as possible. That aside, those available and those who stepped up to play out of position and take a chance with minor injuries did so without question and full of confidence and determination.
The game started well with Hoppers keeping the ball alive making yards however it was soon evident that a combination of unforced errors and some strong Chester defence was going to frustrate the away side. Chester grew into the game and pressured hoppers through some kicking into space behind the Hoppers defence, testing the defensive shape and pressuring the forward and two new players covering the back 3. Credit to them all, they managed it magnificently and held their own until support arrived. The first half was destined to finish 0-0 as both sides created a heat map, not dissimilar to a Japanese flag! However, Chester where not to be discouraged and found space through two missed tackles and they scored under the posts. With the conversion good, Hoppers trailed 7-0 at half time.
The chat at half time was positive, with everyone identifying what was needed to improve and improve they did. Soon after the half got underway, Georgia Wilson, stepping into the 10 role, took a ball on the half way line and went direct, using her pace to weave her way under the posts for a well-deserved try. With the conversion striking the upright after catching the wind, Hoppers closed the gap to 7-5 and grew in confidence. Hoppers pressed and after winning a scrum on the Chester 22 the ball was lost after some confusion at the base and the Chester 9 made 50m to the Hoppers 22 before being felled by a determined Rosanna Fane at 15. With Chester turning the screw in the phases the hoppers defence, worked well and pushed them out for a hoppers line out 5 m out from the try line. Chester won the contest and moved the ball quickly wide, turning their defence into a solid attack which culminated in a good try in the opposite corner. With the conversion short, Chester led 12-5.
Hoppers gather themselves and patiently build pressure into the Chester 22 when an unforced error coughs up possession however, the line speed from the hoppers forces errors from the Chester side. There was sense that opportunities where coming. When Chester get penalised 5m out from an offside, Emma Pooley takes a quick Tap and barrels over for a well-deserved try. With the conversion just wide, Hoppers close the gap again to 12-10. Soon after Chester lose their 8 after repeated offsides and for 10 mins, Hoppers have the 1 player advantage and look to capitalise. Chester had other ideas and organised well, creating chances out wide where they knew mismatches appeared. They get the break, when the 9, excellent throughout for the homeside, capitalises on a handling error and with rapid feet, finds her way to the posts clear, scoring in the dying minutes to break Hoppers hearts. The conversion slipped short and the score was now 19-10 with 2 minutes to go. Hoppers, dying on their feet through sheer effort and with no bench to freshen key areas gave another 100% in the dying seconds. The whistle gave Devas the win in a game, won and lost on small margins 19-10.
Credit must go to ALL 17 girls who travelled and put on a shirt. The spirit, determination and integrity cannot be questioned and they didn’t deserve to lose but credit to Chester as they have improved and will make our league more competitive which is a great thing for women’s rugby in the region.
The side now look forward to the next league game at home to the Vagabonds of Douglas on Saturday at 12 noon as a curtain raiser to the men’s 1st XV game. We look forward to your support.
Up the Hoppers
Starting XV: Klaudia Rzepecka, Kelly Singleton, Sarah Boaler, Becky Boaler, Kira Hope-Baines, Emma Pooley, Danielle Nash, Maggie Forbes, Becky Ingham, Georgia Wilson, Hayley Ciotkowski, Mollie Paling (C), Sarah Lovejoy, Victoria Kenyon, Rosanna Fane
Game Changers: Amelia Lancaster, Kady Hall.
Forward of the match: Kelly Singleton
Back of the match: Georgia Wilson
3rd Feb, Vagabonds RFC (Douglas) at Home, 12pm KO