What was a perfect start ended in a disappointing defeat for Hoppers Ladies when fortune didn’t favour the brave.
With four weeks gone since the last game of 2017, the ladies couldn’t wait to get back playing and with the first fixture of 2018 being one against tough opponents and 2nd placed Crewe & Nantwich, it was certainly one that they wanted to win.
The preparations leading up to the game went well for the girls and confidence was high however as the game drew near, some key players becoming unavoidably unavailable which left the bench light up front. This is where the game would be won and lost but regardless, those who stepped up and filled the gaps did a fabulous job.
The game started well with the ladies hitting C&N with an intensity and focus that has been coming all season and for the first 10 mins, Crewe didn’t leave their own half. The work rate continued and with Kady Hall leading an organized attack, hoppers broke the deadlock with a well worked ball out wide for Rosanna Fane to score after 15 mins. With the conversion just wide, Hoppers took the lead 5-0. Hoppers continued to dominate through an intense defensive structure and a fluid attack pushing the ball wide away from C&N’s physical pack. As half time approached, the tide started to turn slightly as C&N started to use their 2 ball carriers more effectively and with Hoppers tackling too high, this gave C&N the yards to work with. Building the pressure down the middle, the C&N inside centre broke wide and ran virtually unopposed over and under the posts before being encouraged to ground it by back row Maggie Forbes. With the conversion good, C&N finished the half 5-7 ahead.
Undeterred Hoppers took to the second half with a renewed vigour however, it was C&Ns turn to lift the intensity. With the Hoppers defence creaking through some injuries, they conceded a further try early on. With the conversion good, C&N led 5-14 however, soon after another try was conceded when Hoppers lost possession in the C&N 22 after some great work from the home side. Failing to hear the call to go wide, hoppers got turned over and C&N broke quickly resulting in a try. With the conversion good, C&N led 5-19. Hoppers struck back through a try from flanker Mollie Paling and with the Conversion good, Hoppers closed the gap with the score now 12-19. A further try from C&N through a Hoppers handling error increased their lead again and with the conversion wide, the score was 12-26. Undeterred, Hoppers regained some focus and pushed back, scoring a further try from Mollie and with the conversion just wide, pulled it back to 17-26 with 13 mins to go.
This revitalised the hoppers side and with the clock ticking it was do or die from the girls. With Hoppers dominant again, chance after chance was appearing however, so did stoppage after stoppage for suspected head injuries to C&N players which was forcing the referee to stop play just as the home side where breaking in attack. With fortune not favouring the brave on this occasion, defensive clearances from C&N found space behind the hoppers line and they countered with two successive tries just before the final whistle and the game finished 17-40.
Albeit a disappointing defeat for the girls there are far more positives than negatives and the commitment and work rate on display was exemplary.
The side now look forward to the next league game away to Chester and with a 2nd team game planned for this weekend; it gives more new players to get valuable game time.
Up the Hoppers
Starting XV: Emma Pooley, Kelly Singleton, Sarah Boaler, Becky Boaler, Danielle Nash, Mollie Pailing, Stephanie Gray, Maggie Forbes, Becky Ingham, Kady Hall (C), Rosanna Fane, Georgia Wilson, Rachel Dennison, Dawn Jones, Christina Tully
Game Changers: Claire Platt, Sarah Lovejoy, Hayley Ciotkowski, Victoria Kenyon, Katherine Lang, Jamie Connolly.
Forward of the match: Emma Pooley
Back of the match: Becky Ingham
21 Jan: 2nd XV Home to Leyland
28 Jan: 1st XV Away to Chester Devas