U15 Girls become the best in the country as they win national championships
The South Hams’ only youth girls’ rugby team have become national champions.
Kingsbridge U15 Girls Rugby team have smashed their way to the big time by winning the National Girls’ Cup, despite only playing together for less than three years.
A grey morning dawned on west London accompanied by a bitterly cold north-easterly wind, but that could not quell the excitement building for the inaugural Tyrells Premier 15s final day.
However, the numerous Kingsbridge folk who had made the 450-mile round trip to the Ealing Trailfinders RFC ground were not there to watch Saracens take on Harlequins in the elite national women’s rugby competition. Their focus was on the 11am kick-off, Kingsbridge Girls U15s versus Leek RFC in the national final, and what a day it would turn out to be.
There were visible nerves amongst the Kingsbridge girls as kick-off approached, with a few dropped balls and wayward passes in the warm-up drills as well as some apprehension surrounding their first match on a 4G pitch. The opposition from north Staffordshire were not to be taken lightly, having won the Northern area competition playing a similar brand of fast-paced rugby to Kingsbridge. However, as soon as the match started the nerves and dropped passes of the warm-up were a distant memory as Kings dominated the game from start to finish.
The Kings’ half-back paring of Daisy Womack and Olivia Churcher totally controlled the match, with Daisy looking very assured back in her preferred position of fly-half, after playing the quarter- and semi-final at number eight, and Olivia a real live wire at scrum-half, having moved there from fly-half, where she played in the previous two matches. The game started at a real pace, but after the first ruck there was heartbreak for Tilly Doyle, who departed the match with a knee injury. To say this was a disappointment for Tilly, who has worked very hard all season and become a valuable member of the team, would be an understatement and the sympathy in crowd was palpable.
Kings were soon making inroads into the Leek half and strong running from Daisy resulted in a ruck on the 10m line. Quick ball saw Evie Walker continue her superb form of recent matches, beating two defenders just by pushing her hands through the tackle to offload superbly, which subsequently sent Molly Thomas crashing over the try line to get Kings off the mark. Converted by Olivia, Kings held a 7-0 lead. Leek hit straight back and set up a series of rucks deep in the Kings half which led to a break by the Leek centre, Holly Fryer, who went over in the corner.
Kings recovered quickly and, playing some good attacking rugby, earned a penalty just inside the Leek half.
Daisy put in a lovely touch finder to set up a line-out well inside the Leek 22. Kings decided against the catch and drive, which had been so successful in the quarter-final, and opted for quick ball out to the backs. Daisy cut back inside, beating the first-up tackler and getting Kings over the gain line, then from the resulting ruck the ball made its way to Hallie Reid, who stepped nicely in from the touchline to beat the defence and go over for Kings second try, stretching the lead to 12-5.
Kings now had the majority of the possession, with the back-row trio of Georgia Groves, Bella Hartley and Corri Friend working tirelessly to make their tackles and secure the rucks to keep Kings on the front foot. The constant stream of Kings possession enabled centre Gemma Cadle to carry hard down the middle of the pitch, pulling in numerous defenders and enabling Till Ryall to add her powerful running to the attack. With the Leek defence doing brilliantly to contain Kings, it was easy to see how they had won the Northern area final. Eventually, though, the pressure told and a great break by Gemma put Hallie into space, stepping past two Leek defenders before she was tackled. More quick rucking saw the ball go wide and Kings’ openside flanker Corri slotted into the back line, bringing a continuity to the attack that saw Evie waltz past three defenders to score Kings’ third try of the game, taking the scores to 17-5.
At this point the Leek heads dropped somewhat and Kingsbridge took full advantage, setting up attack after attack in the Leek half.
After a series of rucks, Bella carried powerfully into the Leek half offloading to Georgia, who made a good break but was hauled down on the 22. The Kings support arrived in the form of Chloe Hemmins and Erin Foley securing quick ball and allowing Kings to continue the attack, only to knock on and lose possession at the crucial moment. To their credit the Kings attack quickly turned into defence, putting huge pressure on Leek, who opted to kick the ball away.
Unfortunately for Leek, the ball went directly into the hands of Evie, who ran straight through the Leek defence to go over for Kings’ fourth try of the game. Olivia’s kick hit the upright and dropped short, putting the scores at 22-5. Kings continued to apply pressure but a couple of knock-ons and more committed defence from Leek kept them out for the remainder of the half.
The second half started as the first finished, with sustained Kings pressure and strong Leek defence.
From the kick off Olivia gathered the ball and ran deep into the Leek half; she was stopped, but in doing so Leek conceded a penalty.
Daisy kicked to touch and from the line-out Kings mounted an attack that saw hooker Molly surge powerfully up the field, handing off defenders and spinning out of tackles.
This led to a series of scrums that saw Kings begin to get the nudge as Maddison Lidstone and Lana Sharam began to exert their power at prop after being somewhat on the back foot in the first half. However, much to the relief of the Leek players, Kings knocked on under the posts.
In response Leek took the ball hard into the Kings midfield through their outstanding flanker, who suddenly seemed to be everywhere, but some over exuberance at the ruck saw Leek go off their feet. Kings took a quick tap and worked themselves into a position from which Daisy burst through the Leek defence to give Kings a 27-5 lead and with it the game.
To their credit and despite the game being gone, Leek put together their best period of the match and pinned Kings into their own half, severely testing the defence, which stood firm until the Leek centre and scorer of their first try broke the Kings line and headed for the corner.
Just when it looked like a try was certain Evie’s astounding pace enabled her to catch the Leek player and knock her into touch just as she was in the process of putting the ball down, an effort that was quite rightly greeted with the same celebrations as a try by her teammates.
The game then became somewhat disjointed as Leek’s admirable commitment in defence saw them lose two players to injury through a dislocated shoulder and a neck injury, the latter meaning a break in play of 10 minutes.
Once play resumed Leek attacked again and the pressure finally told as Kings managed to gift Leek a try by fumbling the ball as they tried to run from their own try line when a clearing kick was the obvious answer, taking the scores to 27-12.
Despite the victory being assured Kings did not let up. Olivia at scrum-half never stopped sniping and kept Leek on their toes, while Cat’s pace on the wing was used to great effect, pinning Leek back time and again. Jasmine Squires came off the bench and ran strongly, Izzy Partridge and Alana Wells added some decent grunt to the forwards with their power and Lola Wood came on to help shore up the defence.
The final whistle was greeted with huge celebrations and plenty of tears from coaches, players and parents as the pursuit of a dream became a magnificent reality and Kingsbridge Girls U15s were crowned national champions.
This was a great send off for Maddison, Jasmine, Lana and Olivia, who all move up to the U18s age group next year. The rest of the team will have a well deserved summer off and be back next year to defend their title, based on their performances this year it will take a very good team to topple them.
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