London Welsh Women were keen to build on their great pre-season and put in a solid performance against a hard-tackling Hackney Team.
With 14 regular players unavailable, Welsh were still able to field a competitive side with several new players making their debut, many others getting valuable game time, some experiencing a full game for the first time, and others getting to try out a new position.
Welsh started the game with some strong carrying up the field, Hackney’s solid tackling and counter rucking kept Welsh at bay. Heidi James made a great break out from her own ten metre line supported by Eloise Newton and was superbly tackled short by the Hackney defence.
It took Welsh a good 20 mins to build into the game. The breakthrough came from a lineout just outside the opposition’s 22. A perfect throw in from Anita Morgan making her debut for Welsh, lead to clean ball off the top of the lineout out to fly-half Ali Smith. A great offload to No 8 Zoe Jeanes, who came onto the ball at pace, took the ball to the five metre line. A quick pick and go from Paula Cooper, masquerading as a 2nd row for the day, took the ball just short and Jeanes followed with another pick and go for the try, which was ably converted by outside centre/fullback Federica Maria Boni.
Hackney drew next blood after getting quick turnover ball from the ruck and catching the Welsh defence still trying to reorganise, Welsh managed to keep the score out wide and the try went unconverted.
Half-time score: 5-7 to Welsh.
Welsh were caught napping again at the beginning of the second half. Another turnover lead to the Hackney 14 turning on the gas down the wing and scoring under the posts. 10-7 to Hackney. Welsh regrouped under the posts and the message was clear – get numbers to the rucks and stop the turnovers.
Welsh dug in, there were some notable carries from the forwards, and special mention should be given to Ruth Barton and Kat Underhill who were playing out of position in the forwards. The backs were getting the ball out wide to Boni and Emily Alland but Hackney’s defence held strong. The next score came from Hackney with a well worked team try seeing lots of offloads in the contact, leading to an unconverted score in the corner despite some valiant last ditch tackling from Welsh. 15-7 to Hackney with 20mins left to go.
Sue Edwards came on to replace Morgan in a new look Welsh Front Row, with Keshal Patel playing her first full match for Welsh. Welsh, having fixed their ruck issues, started causing some problems for Hackney, with quick defensive line speed and some great tackling they started earning penalties. A quickly taken penalty just inside the opposition 22 and offload to Jeanes crashing through saw Welsh get their 2nd try which went unconverted. Welsh ended on the front foot attacking Hackney but the final whistle came too soon.
Final score: Hackney 15-12 London Welsh
A great building block to the start of the season with New and Development players getting valuable game time against a great Hackney Team, followed by a great Social Evening in East London. Roll on the new season!
Forward of the Match Kat Underhill
Back of the Match Ali Smith