Another victory at Old Deer Park for London Welsh Women
Great win against a gutsy Witney Angels
Having been in a similar position in the past it was with great respect that London Welsh Women took to the pitch against a 12 man Witney Angels. Despite their small squad size Witney put in a huge effort and challenged Welsh throughout, forcing LWWRFC to dig deep and put in a strong performance.
London Welsh started well, building phases and communicating consistently to ensure play stayed in Witney’s half. The discrepancy in numbers quickly allowed Welsh to create space and they capitalised well, with lock Gemma Swain calling the ball wide and encouraging Welsh to pass quickly through the hands, and running it over for the first 5 points of the game. Flanker Paula Cooper ably converted to take the lead to 7-0.
Welsh kept the pressure on, bringing their now well practiced offload game to the pitch, ensuring that they continued to keep the game alive. The forwards kept driving play up the pitch with number 8 Nat Smith making ground and on being tackled finding herself with options on both sides. Cooper received the pass and ran it over for try number 2.
The positive play continued with flankers Katie McBride and Cooper continuing to make ground and scrum half Ruth Barton providing the quick passes out to the backs allowing centres Jo Wells and Elise Mensah to crash through. Welsh’s efforts in maintaining possession and position were rewarded when the experienced partnership of props Zoë Jeanes and Hannah Clarke saw Jeanes perfectly time an offload to Clarke, allowing her to stretch across the line, securing Welsh’s third.
The fourth try of the game epitomised Welsh’s attacking style this season, with great supporting play seeing Jeanes offloading in the tackle to lock Alice Gayner who popped off to Mensah, who in turn expertly found the hands of winger Amy Thomas. Thomas used her strength to hand off with her left hand, stretching out with her right to score.
The tries kept coming in the first half with Wells niftily scooping up a loose ball to run it over (converted again by Cooper) and Nat Smith ably steering a drive-over scrum, during which the ball had been whipped back by hooker Louise Norris,
touching down for another 5.
The Welsh performance continued to be bolstered by an incredibly strong bench, including the arrival of returning player Nic Crowther. Crowther picked up at a tackle to crash the ball straight through the defending line to score another try for Welsh, converted by another player joining from the bench, Bryoni Lynch.
With the start of the second half, Crowther continued to make her presence felt, scoring from a pass out the back of a ruck from now scrum half McBride.
Despite growing pressure from a very determined Witney team, the points kept building up from Welsh. A powerful driving maul slowed to a halt in the Witney 22, ultimately resulting in a successful scrum which saw Lynch then making metres up the pitch. Nat Smith was again on the scoreboard, having seen great vision to pick and go once Lynch was eventually tackled.
Witney’s spirit and positive attack continued to show with all players putting their bodies on the line to crash the ball up the pitch towards Welsh’s try line. Despite a great defensive effort from the London Welsh Ladies including returning player Helena Duggan leading the defensive push right on the Welsh line, Witney’s efforts were eventually rewarded when they carried the ball over on the wing to score their first of the game.
Despite having already secured a strong lead Welsh were quick to respond, with the next try coming from an impressive passage of simple but effective rugby, holding their patience to work up the pitch, with Kat Underhill continuing to carry well on one wing and newcomer Iliana Damoutzidou supporting well on the other, eventually putting McBride into a great position to pick and go from the back of a breakdown, scoring effortlessly to add another 5 points to the score line.
The final hurrah from Welsh saw debutante Camilla Campbell living up to the potential evident from her first moments on the pitch. The backs all exhibited great hands, with substitution Jane Crowther expertly playing Campbell into enough space for her darting footwork and incredible pace to put her over the line for another 5, converted from the boot of Isia Storey, stepping in at 10. The final score read 63-5.
London Welsh should be credited for a great performance, clearly demonstrating the results of a dedicated and hard-working few weeks at training, and Witney deserve high praise for a spirited performance in incredibly challenging circumstances away from home.
1. Hannah Clarke (C)
2. Louise Norris
3. Zoë Jeanes
4. Alice Gayner
5. Gemma Swain (FOTM)
6. Katie McBride
7. Paula Cooper (FOTM)
8. Nat Smith (VC)
9. Ruth Barton
10. Ali Smith
11. Kat Underhill
12. Elise Mensah
13. Jo Wells (BOTM)
14. Amy Thomas
15. Jane Crowther
16. Iliana Damoutzidou
17. Helena Duggan
18. Bryoni Lynch
19. Nic Crowther
20. Camilla Campbell
21. Isia Storey