Sale 1861 Women 26 Stirling County 36
Saturday 8th December 2018
As part of the Women’s Winter Series of fixtures, it was the 1861’s first away visit of the season North of the Border to play a fixture against Stirling County Ladies at Bridgehaugh Park, who finished 3rd in the Tennent’s Women’s Premiership League Campaign this season.
With all fixtures within this Women’s Winter Series, the whole premise of these games is to provide the 1861 with some exciting opposition that is full of experience and development opportunities, as well as importantly a framework and structure for them to build on for when they go forward to the RFU leagues during the 2019/2020 season.
Having opportunities like the fixture against Stirling County, gave the rugby public a chance to see what the 1861 were all about, and also to showcase how much of an exciting rugby journey they are on in their albeit short history.
Starting their journey up to Stirling at 8am in the morning was definitely a first for some of the players, as they started to get a chance to experience life on the road, coming up against one of the top 3 sides in Scottish Women’s rugby. The weather conditions for the journey were a continuation of much of the week, with heavy rain showers dominating the ever changing skyline as we carried on up the M6 before hitting the M74 and M9 before completing our trip North to Stirling.
Upon arrival at Bridgehaugh Park, we were welcomed to the club by a lone bagpiper who was there performing for a wedding at the club, regardless of the fact that it was for the happy couple who looked resplendent in their wedding outfits, it really made an impact on the 1861 upon our maiden visit to Scotland.
With all the preparation completed it was now time for action, with Bex and her team ready to take on the very best that Scottish Women’s rugby had to offer the game got underway. Both sides in the opening exchanges were tentative, as they looked to work an early opening, thus taking an early advantage in the match. On 15 minutes, it was Stirling who opened their account with a well worked try that saw them cross the line making the score 5-0.
From the restart, it was clear that the 1861 weren’t here just to provide ‘live’ opposition for the home side, as they managed to shake off the journey and work their way up the field towards the home team’s try line. Their intentions were clear at this point, following a series of scrums and penalties for minor infringements by County, the 1861 were definitely in the ascendency and ran some excellent lines as the backs and forwards linked effectively leading to try machine Keisha Hendricks ploughing her way through the home defence to score close by the posts, with Cerys Ellis adding the extras it was the 1861 who took a 7-5 lead into the second quarter.
With the 1861 having taken the lead, it seemed that their opponents were going to come back into the game with a bang, and they certainly did that thanks to some opportunistic play from Stirling’s backs, who capitalised on some errors by the 1861 women in critical positions leading to the home side taking a considerable lead into the half time break. Firstly, it was dynamic prop forward Debbie Falconer who went through the resilient defending of the 1861, with the conversion being added by their Fly Half to give them a 12-5 lead.
On 34 mins the home side’s lead was further increased after their centre Rachel Shankland raced past the 1861 cover defence to score unattended close to the posts making the score 17-7, unfortunately the kick was missed, but County were now seemingly in control of the fixture with a 10 point advantage, something that would be added to just three minutes before half time thanks to Shankland’s Centre partner Katrina Roninsk scoring under the posts after a lung bursting run caught the 1861 on the hop, with the extras being added here the lead had been stretched to 17 points, meaning the 1861 had a challenge to overcome going into the 2nd half.
After a rallying call from skipper Bex Wilson during the break, and some encouraging words from senior players the 1861 came out of the blocks firing in the second half, taking advantage of an excellent attacking opportunity from a penalty lineout that saw an excellent run from skipper Wilson through the heart of the home defence to score out wide for the visitors, with Ellis missing the conversion it was now a 12 point deficit and all to play for.
On 55 minutes, the 1861 would once again cross the line for a well worked score, as prop Hendricks bagged her second of the game reducing the arrears once more, the impressive Ellis on debut kicked the extras meaning that the score line was now 24-19 creating an exciting final 25 minutes for the spectating public watching the fixture. Undeterred by the home side’s slender lead, the 1861 would once again score, moving them in front as skipper Wilson raced clear of the home side to score, giving the visitors the chance to take the lead again.
Thankfully, Ellis who was having a fantastic game was accurate with the kick, as she calmly slotted the extras, putting the 1861 up by 2 points with just 5 minutes left on the clock. Unfortunately for the visitors, the fact that only 15 players made the journey up North, meant that they were completely exhausted by the time County’s Roninsk and captain Shankland once more crossed the line to give the home team victory at the final whistle by 36-26.
Post-match Skipper Wilson said “I’m extremely proud of every girl who took to the field today and gave it their all for the 1861, we all certainly put a shift in against a more experienced side in County”, she went on to add “it was a great experience for us in our short history, but a worthwhile fixture to play in, providing the girls with plenty to work on as we head into our next fixture in a couple of week’s time”.
Finally, special mentions must go to Cerys Ellis, Casey Naylor, Lydia Chadwick and Team Manager Paula Bradbury who all made their debuts in this fixture, and a huge thank you to the other 11 players in the team who worked tirelessly to come away from the game with their heads held up high, considering they were playing County who are one of the top three sides in Scotland.
Also, just to keep you up to date with our fixture’s result on Thursday 30th November the 1861 played a ‘training’ fixture against Women’s Championship side Eccles. The 1861 won the fixture 98-5. The fixture was seen as an important opportunity to develop everyone’s skills as players from the home side mixed with the visitors to provide a balanced fixture. To Eccles we wish you well for the remainder of your season.
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