London Welsh Women - Reading Away, 24/02/19
By Alice Gayner
A stunning performance on the road for LWWRFC
An unseasonably warm and sunny February Sunday saw London Welsh Women travel to Reading to take on the Reading Kites. Despite a couple of victories against Reading at Old Deer Park, a costly away defeat last season was still very much on the minds of the visitors, but with a solid squad and a well managed warm up Welsh went into the opening minutes with great confidence.
Communication and support were strong from the start, and with the opening kick off secured Welsh starting work on trucking up the pitch to scoring territory. With a couple of successful scrums along the way, there were only 6 minutes on the clock when prop Hannah Clarke received a pass from Zoë Jeanes at the ruck and offloaded to Nat Smith who found flanker Mitzi Pryce then Isia Storey making her return at centre, and securing the first 5 points of the game, crashing over in the corner.
Clarke was instrumental in setting up the second try too. With the kick off perfectly secured by second row Swain, Welsh were again on the attack. A beautifully timed offload from Clarke to the waiting hands of Storey saw the centre make significant yards before recycling the ball to Nat Smith. Smith’s pass put fullback Camilla Campbell into ample space to do some damage. Another perfectly executed offload found fly half Ali Smith, who passed out to wing Eloise Newton, ready to dart through and score her first of the game.
With Welsh now in their stride the set pieces helped to build their platform, with Jenni McGivney throwing arrows for the Welsh line out and Lou Norris disrupting opposition line outs to close down any reliance on the brilliant boot of Reading’s 10, and the Welsh scrum dominating too. Welsh also started to play with more confidence, with the backs handling skills allowing them to find space and centres Becca Calver and Isia Storey linking up well with wingers Newton and Boni.
The next try though came from the incredible wheels of fullback Camilla Campbell collecting a spilt ball and running almost end to end for an incredible solo effort which took the score to 15-0. Winger Fred Boni, kicking at the sticks for the first time, competently added another 2.
Reading didn’t start to let up, despite an attacking onslaught from Welsh and their counter rucking game proved excellent, turning over at the breakdown and forcing Welsh to work harder. Fortunately they were unable to capitalise given the incredible tackles flying in, especially from Campbell and Boni, to keep Reading out of the danger zone.
It was Boni, too, who continued to add huge value to the game, with a quick penalty from Zoë Jeanes finding its way through the hands of prop Alice Gayner and centre Storey to find the hands of the winger who scored in the corner.
With the half time score at 0-22 Welsh attacked the second half with gusto, despite the physicality of the first half and the warm conditions undoubtably taking a toll.
The first points of the half came from a storming run from number 8 Nat Smith, switching direction of play to catch the defence off guard. Flanker, Jeanes, was there to accept the pass from the breakdown and offloaded perfectly to wing, Eloise Newton, through for her second score (and the bonus point try), ably converted again by the boot of Boni.
Newton’s hat trick was quick to follow. With turnover ball in Welsh’s own 22 secured, Newton sprinted through the line and delivered a perfectly timed a step to see off the threat of the fullback, scoring an amazing try under the posts. No doubt it wouldn’t have been her last had injury not forced her off prematurely.
Fred Boni was once more on hand to convert, taking the score to 0-36.
Reading still didn’t let up, and with their big ball carriers seeing a bit more action, they crashed through to secure their first 5 points of the half, and game.
Welsh, bolstered by a strong bench, (including debutantes Rhiannon Owen and Becks Salmon, flanker Eimear O’Rourke and wings Sarah Sennitt and Emily Alland, all new to Welsh this season and having a huge impact) were quick to react and soon saw themselves back in contention for another try. A scrum in Reading’s 22 was ably shipped out by scrum half Paula Cooper to centre, Calver, who quickly passed out to Campbell who turned on the gas, skinning the defence to score again.
It was a great effort for the final try of the game, with hooker Norris setting up a powerful run from Salmon, with Cooper then quickly finding Storey at the breakdown. Storey’s quick offload to Jeanes saw the flanker show brilliant strength to carry over. Fred Boni also took her last chance to add to the scoresheet, converting to take the score to 48-5.
The closing minutes were expensive for Welsh in terms of injury with clashed heads and turned ankles keeping a somewhat tired and emotional physio busy, and paired with a couple of unfortunate yellows for LWWRFC, the dying moments were played out with 11 on the pitch. Despite the mismatch though, Reading were halted from adding to their five points, with cover tackles flying in from Storey and Campbell and the whole team digging deep to cover the pitch.
An impressive end to a brilliant display from a side hugely bolstered by recent recruitment efforts. London Welsh Women now look forward to welcoming Rosslyn Park to ODP next weekend.
1. Alice Gayner (FOTM)
2. Louise Norris
3. Hannah Clarke
4. Jenni McGivney
5. Gemma Swain
6. Mitzi Pryce
7. Zoë Jeanes
8. Nat Smith (C)
9. Paula Cooper
10. Ali Smith
11. Eloise Newton
12. Rebecca Calver
13. Isia Storey
14. Federica Boni (BOTM)
15. Camilla Campbell
16. Eimear O’Rourke
17. Rebecca Salmon
18. Sara Sennitt
19. Emily Alland
20. Rhiannon Owen