London Welsh Women match report - Havant, Home, 16/09/18
By Alice Gayner
Welsh Women back to winning ways at Old Deer Park
After a tough first fixture, losing on the road to Portsmouth, London Welsh Women were looking forward to righting their mistakes and taking on their first home game of the season against the newly promoted Havant.
With Old Deer Park looking beautiful in the Autumn sunshine, and a solid level of support from the stands, Welsh started strong, carrying well and forcing errors from the opposition. Despite the opening minutes being quite scrappy, Welsh were able to dominate and after 15 minutes found their form, with a well drilled effort seeing the ball move through a couple of forward phases, drawing in the defensive line, before the backs lined up the overlap and got the ball through the hands to Heidi James, making her ODP debut, who sprinted through a gap in the line to carry over for the first five points.
Welsh kept the momentum in the face of a strong and physical defence and started to build on their offload game, keeping possession and making good ground. Havant’s scrum was strong which helped keep Welsh the wrong side of the 5m line for a period but with 30 minutes on the clock, prop Zoë Jeanes was able to capitalise in a gap around the breakdown, reacting expertly to pick and go from the back, scrambling and spinning to carry over, taking the score to 10-0.
Havant didn’t let up and a couple of forced errors saw them able to take possession from Welsh, with their kicker then putting them into a strong position. Havant’s set moves were well-drilled and on winning a throw-in on the 5 metre line, despite the best efforts of jumper Lou Norris’s impressive line out work, they were able to spin the ball out wide, carrying over to get their first points on the board. The half time score was 10-5.
The second half dawned with the game continuing to provide a good physical contest with both teams knocking each other around the park, and Welsh continuing to demonstrate a level of fearlessness in tackles. Fullback Camilla Campbell in particular was responsible for closing down the Havant threat on a number of occasions, and also dealt with their kicking game, using the space to gain significant territory for the home team.
Despite facing a tough defence and on an unseasonably warm afternoon, Welsh kept driving forward and Zoë Jeanes was again able to punish Havant for a gap in their line, changing direction of play to carry down the blind, putting herself in significant space and scoring her second of the game.
Again Havant were able to respond, managing to create a dogleg, and breaking through, with their 12 running hard to cover the yards and carry over. With the conversion successful and the score at 15-12, Welsh had to dig deep especially when the physicality of the game and the still hard pitch started to take their toll. With the injury count high, Welsh were forced to drop to 14.
Despite this challenge Welsh were able to right any shift in momentum, and were quickly conclusively back on top, keeping possession and working hard to ensure that Havant couldn’t act on the discrepancy in numbers. The pressure from Welsh paid off with scrum half McBride controlling the breakdown and shipping out to fly half Jo Wells whose impressive lines and storming runs helped contribute to Welsh again finding themselves in a dangerous position. Welsh continued to get the basics right, with 8 Nat Smith working hard to draw the defence, playing Zoë Jeanes into space who grounded the ball for an impressive hat trick.
Unfortunately the injury count was still on the up, and with wing Kat Underhill, who had selflessly stepped into the back row, taken off the pitch with a suspected break, London Welsh Women were faced with seeing out the final minutes with 13 players.
Showing incredible heart, not only did the diminished team hold their own, they continued to dominate, maintaining possession and gaining significant metres. The game plan under the circumstances had to be ensuring support at the breakdown to protect the ball, and sympathetic hands out to the awaiting backs, all of which was executed brilliantly. Welsh soon found themselves back in the Havant half, and kept the pace and intensity high. The final ten minutes saw Zoë Jeanes continuing amazing form, again capitalising on the possession Welsh had worked hard to keep, spinning and scrambling her way through the defensive line to once more carry the ball over the line, hitting the deck for another 5 points.
Not content with resting on their laurels, Welsh ploughed on, and the dying minutes saw fullback Campbell using her impressive speed to make the most of the space which opened up, despite the unbalanced numbers, running in the final try of the game to take the score to 30-12.
1. Keshal Patel
2. Louise Norris
3. Zoë Jeanes (FOTM)
4. Hannah Clarke
5. Alice Gayner
6. Paula Cooper
7. Jenni McGivney
8. Nat Smith (c)
9. Katie McBride
10. Jo Wells
11. Kat Underhill
12. Heidi James
13. Amy Thomas
14. Beth Williams
15. Camilla Campbell
16. Karina Lo Dico
17. Sara Sennitt