RN Women Spark in to Life After Game All But Extinguished
The RN(W) endured the worst possible start in their second game of the season, against the British Fire Service at US Portsmouth’s, Burnaby Rd ground. Unable to get their hands on the ball they not only had to rally back from conceding a couple of early tries but also cope with the loss of inspirational flanker Charlotte Fredrickson and strong running Number 8, Helen Stevenson.
In that first quarter of the game the Navy team seemed to be chasing shadows as the visitors monopolised possession and produced some very enterprising play through their lively back division, ably supported by a pack that was able to shunt the Navy team off their own ball at scrum time. An unconverted try wide out to the right was followed by a score under the posts for a deserved 12 – 0 lead. The game was then put on hold for a significant period of time as Fredrickson received on field treatment for what looked like a nasty neck injury before finally being removed on a stretcher and taken to hospital for further treatment. Head Coach Bali Salisbury was forced in to further reorganisation when not long after Charlie’s departure, Helen Steveson was helped off the field unable to put weight through her right leg. Already an inexperienced side had lost two of their Combined Services players.
A third try was not long in coming as the Navy continued to struggle with any shape in defence or the ability to compete at the break down. Hardly surprising considering the forced changes. Barely twenty five minutes gone and already 17-0 down; the omens were not looking good. However from this position of adversity the RN(W) began to gel as a team and get the tiniest of footholds in the match.
An early foray down the left wing by Nikki Elvidge seemed to galvanise the team and all of a sudden there was a little bit of bite in the tackling, stronger clear-out of the rucks and players running on to the ball. The new found sense of purpose allowed the RN(W) to establish field position and finally put the Fire Service’s defence under some pressure. For a while the visitors proved to be equal to the task but eventually Navy captain, Sarah Jenkins, broke clear and ran strongly in to the Fire Service 22. A couple of penalties conceded for killing the ball and then for not being 10m allowed Navy scrum half, Loz Morton, to keep the pressure on. First Pam Williams-Wilson drove close followed by former skipper Vic Percival. Finally it was left for Navy vice captain, Emily ‘Peanut’ Park to drive over for her first ever try in a Navy shirt. It was the least she and the team deserved and made the score 17-5 as the referee signalled half time.
The second half was an enjoyable half of rugby with both sides having their opportunities and looking to play with width. Salisbury had used the break wisely and with Jenkins moving to scrum half and the elusive Elvidge at fly half, Loz Morton was freed up to attack through the inside centre channel. Morton’s strong broken field running was the high light of the half and it looked as if she had scored the Navy’s second try as the game entered its final quarter. Unfortunately for Loz and the Navy team the referee felt there had been a knock on and disallowed the score.
It looked as if the second half might remain scoreless but with time nearly up the Fire Service were able to mount one last sustained attack. The Navy defence kept their line intact for a while but eventually the Fire Service crossed for the last score of the match and were worthy winners 22-5.
Though unable to produce their second win of the season, in many ways this match was a step forward for the RN(W). A number of new faces survived their early wake up call and showed that they have the qualities to develop in to an effective team. With some of the more established players due to return over the next couple of months it looks as if the RN(W) are developing their playing base and that can only be good for the on-going evolution. Their next home game is at the Rectory on 19 February when Sarah Jenkin’s side entertain Plymouth Albion. Another tough game but one which she and her team should look forward to as they look to build on a very good second half performance against a strong British Fire Service (supported by a few Police players) team.
RN(W) Team v British Fire Serve: Emily Park, Sophia Dockerty, Kate Parkman, Alice Kightly, Victoria Percival, Sarah Mitchell, Charlotte Fredrickson, Helen Stevenson, Lauren Morton, Sarah Jenkins (Capt), Nikki Elvidge, Imogen Brown, Lizzie Grant, Bonnie Brown, Andrea Marshall Reps: Amy Risker, Pam Williams-Wilson, Kayla Hoppin.
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones