London Welsh Women match report - Windsor Dames, Home, 07/10/2018
By Alice Gayner
A confident display from LWWRFC
This Sunday saw London Welsh Women’s third game of the season and a return to Old Deer Park to face Windsor Dames in the autumn sunshine. With memories of a couple of close contests last season against Windsor fresh in their memory, and a bench lined with debutantes London Welsh were expecting a fierce challenge.
The first half dawned with London Welsh on the front foot playing positive rugby with good movement of the ball allowing the team to gain significant ground, and within moments Welsh were camped in Windsor’s 22. It didn’t take long for Welsh to convert on their initial promise with centre Jo Wells breaking the line and prop Zoë Jeanes, number 8 Nat Smith and scrum half Katie McBride collaborating well to see the ball safely over the line, carried over by McBride hunting out a gap in defence with just three minutes on the clock.
Unfortunately Welsh struggled to secure the kick off allowing Windsor some space but Welsh were aggressive in defence and quick to turnover, and with fly half Paula Cooper kicking to clear, wing Bethan Williams covered the metres to collect the high ball, charging up the wing forcing Windsor into a last ditch high tackle. The resulting penalty allowed Welsh to truck the ball up the remainder of the pitch and whilst it took them a while to settle they held possession, and some brilliant interplay between Eloise Newton and Bethan Williams saw Williams eventually charge it over the line for the next 5 points with 15 minutes down.
The positive rugby continued and the offload game that Welsh have made their own started to create gaps, with a great partnership between flankers Mitzi Pryce (who carried brilliantly and expertly secured the ball in the tackle) and Heidi James putting James into space for her first storming run up the pitch, taking on a number of the defensive line and running hard, leaving them in her wake before offloading to Jo Wells who was on her shoulder and ready to sprint the remainder of the pitch. She carried over for another 5, ably converted by Paula Cooper.
Windsor came back fighting and Welsh found themselves camped in their own 22 for long phases of the second quarter. Hooker Louise Norris did a great job of both disrupting line outs and scrums helping Welsh to get back on track even when Windsor looked like they might threaten. With the pack standing firm, centres Elise Mensah and Jo Wells closing down any threat from their opposite numbers, Sarah Sennitt and Bethan Williams protecting their wings, and fullback Eloise Newton safely stewarding any kicks over the top Welsh were soon out of trouble, and Heidi James was again instrumental in crashing up the pitch and out of danger.
With territory secured and a penalty awarded, scrum half McBride took a quick tap and was well supported by prop Zoë Jeanes who used her pace to ably carry over to secure the last 5 points of the first half.
The second half dawned and Welsh knew they would have to dig deep to maintain the pace of the first.
The opening minutes of the second half showed no sign of the home team easing off, with big carries from 8 Nat Smith, and props Hannah Clarke and Zoë Jeanes gaining yards, and second rows Jenni McGivney and Alice Gayner helping to clear out at the rucks and ensure quick ball out to the backs. Following a confident and lengthy pass from scrum half McBride, a pirouetting offload from fly half Cooper found Jo Wells who was eagerly waiting to cut an incredible line, carving up the defence and scoring comfortably from the half way line, securing a bonus point for the London Welsh Ladies.
Unfortunately the seemingly inevitable dip in concentration came in the second half, with Welsh’s discipline allowing Windsor into the game. Despite a good defensive effort from Welsh in the face of a number of penalties in their own 22, Windsor were then able to capitalise, running an unconverted try into the corner.
The momentum seemed to have switched and with Welsh uncharacteristically falling off a few tackles, the Windsor 10 cut up the pitch setting up a second try for the Dames, which was converted.
Despite this brief period of Windsor dominance, Welsh showed great heart to pick themselves up and turn the tide back in their favour, with fresh legs from subs Emily Alland, Fred Boni and Charlie Wallace playing their part and comfortably slotting into the mix on their debuts. Territory came from the powerful boot of Jenni McGivney, setting LWWRFC up for a strong finish.
What followed was one of the best 15 minutes of rugby Welsh have produced in recent times with the whole team demonstrating a consistently expansive and flowing game. The support play was phenomenal and despite best efforts Windsor were unable to shut down the attack, with forwards and backs alike looking to offload out of the tackle and everyone taking advantage of any gaps created. With ten minutes to go, Eloise Newton used her pace and a great step to finish off an impressive phase of handling to score her first league try for the club, taking the score to 32-12 and ensuring Welsh were comfortably back on top. Moments later the kick off was secured by Alice Gayner who shipped out to prop Hannah Clarke, careering round the corner to secure the ball and pass on again. Momentum continued with pass after pass, ending in Nat Smith making an ambitious but beautifully executed one handed offload to the awaiting hands of Heidi James who carried over for another try just minutes after the previous effort.
With the score 37-12 and just seconds left on the clock Welsh were still not satisfied and went again, with great hands from across the field setting Eloise Newton up for a final confident run through the Windsor defence, touching down in the final play of the game.
A truly comprehensive performance which left London Welsh Women elated, and looking forward to a big game against new to the league Guernsey next weekend. A big thanks to all the support from the sideline and to Ruth Barton for stepping into the role of Coach.
1. Hannah Clarke
2. Louise Norris
3. Zoë Jeanes
4. Alice Gayner
5. Jenni McGivney
6. Mitzi Pryce
7. Heidi James (FOTM)
8. Natalie Smith (c)
9. Katie McBride
10. Paula Cooper
11. Bethan Williams
12. Joanna Wells
13. Elise Mensah
14. Sara Sennitt
15. Eloise Newton (BOTM)
16. Emily Alland
17. Charlotte Wallace
18. Federica Boni