May Day, May Day
A sun drenched May Day bank holiday weekend started with the Army Women confirming that in the Services Women’s game they are in a league of their own. Early set piece dominance and cast iron defence saw tries through turnovers. However by the end of the first half they were scoring tries that just had to be admired. The Navy Women with ball in hand looked to take the game to the Army but were under powered at the tackle zone and scrum. In the end they were simply out numbered in defence.
The match was won by the Army Women by half time. First through driving the Navy off their own ball their lock forward scored twice following Royal Navy scrums. Then two turnovers at the tackle allowed both wingers to score and an interception from a quickly taken Navy free kick led to the fifth. During this time the Royal Navy Women were starved of possession. When they did get their hands on the ball they looked to drive at the Army team. However too often they were first slowed at the tackle and then over powered. For half an hour the pressure of the Army’s defence led to Navy errors, turnover and tries. For the last ten minutes of the half the Army produced two tries that were a testament to their qualities as an all-round side and were applauded by both sets of supporters. Both tries started deep in their own half and involved great continuity between forwards and backs with good support lines. The first was from 80m following their full back collecting the ball in her own twenty-two. The next was from sixty minutes again from a kick receipt. It showed why the Army Women are yet to be beaten at Inter Service level.
43 – 0 down at half time might suggest that there is little to play for in the second half. The Royal Navy Women, to their immense credit, gave lie to such a statement. Despite conceding an early second half try they put their bodies on the line to ensure that the Army had to work for every metre gained. Helen Stevenson, skipper Sarah Jenkins, Loz Morton and Feisha Greene (twice) both secured turn overs at the tackle when further Army tries looked likely. With Nikki Elvidge having replaced Emma Swinton the Navy had the two smallest players on the pitch in Nikki and Olly Critchley but both tackled like demons to ensure that the Navy goal line was not breached. The Royal Navy’s defence held for a good twenty five minutes before finally the Army were able to power over for two late tries.
Still the Navy were not done and with minutes of the game remaining they looked to take the game back to the Army side. With captain, Sarah Jenkins, replaced through injury the side was led once more by Paula Bennett-Smith. She cannot have expected to have still been on the pitch herself, as her 80 minute days seemed to be behind her. However she led from the front throughout, in a typical battling display. Her performance this morning alone warranted her award of the Roger Sherratt Trophy after the match and she remains an inspiration to the whole squad. However despite her and their best efforts the RN Women could not get a score and the final whistle was greeted with silence through exhaustion. This exhaustion was not due to lack of fitness but through twenty two players who had tackled themselves to a stand still. The Army Women are deserved Inter Service Champions but the Royal Navy Women did themselves and the Service proud.
After the match Flag Officer Sea Training, RAdm Key presented three new caps to Amy Risker, Helen Stevenson and Sarah Mitchell. The final presentation was the Roger Sherratt Trophy to Paula for her performance not just against the Army but for the season as a whole. Congratulations to the new caps, to Paula and to the whole team who continue to develop as a squad and one day……………?
RN Women: A Sadler, A Risker, K Parkman, A Kightley, C Penrose *, S Hargrave *, C Fredrickson *, Paula Bennett-Smith *, O Critchley, S Jenkins * (C), E Swinton *, L Morton *, F Morton, F Greene *, S Alderson * Reps: *, E Park *, P Williams-Wilson *, S Mitchell, H Stevenson, M Landman, E Grant, N Elvidge
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones © Lee Crabb