After a promising start to the Ladies NC South East league campaign, taking a big win over London Welsh at home and a close loss to table-toppers Chesham away, it was time for the cup competitions to kick off. With 125 players registered for the 2019-2020 season, the squads were certainly there to be challenging on all fronts, with the 1st XV entered into the Intermediate Cup and the 2nd XV into the Juniors.
The first round saw the Ladies 1st XV hosting Romford & GP Ladies, an outfit from NC 1 East known for having a formidable pack. Whilst a usual late-Summer September afternoon might usually be expected to favour the Ironsides’ brand of fast-flowing rugby, the soft pitch and bouts of heavy rain might have been expected to slow the match down to a style more suited to the visiting team.
Keen to set down a marker from the off, the home team matched the visitor’s physicality, making a quick turnover and establishing position in the difficult conditions. Direct running from Rose Law, with plenty of support for the rest of the pack, Irons drew the first scrum of the match. Despite the heavy rains prior to kick-off, DSP’s structure held up and Romford made their size count, pushing Ironsides back and clearing their lines. Unwilling to let good territory go to waste, some bulldozing runs from Cat and Tania in the front row set up Emma on the right wing, cutting through the Romford defensive line, with Fiona diving over from close range. An excellent conversion from Sinead had the home team 7-0 with only a few minutes on the clock.
Feeling the pressure from a buoyant home team, Romford soon found themselves making a series of forced errors, with indiscipline at the breakdown giving Tania the chance for a quick tap-and-go. Finding the merest hint of a space, the loosehead sprinted in from 40 metres out, only to be stopped a yard out. Unable to mobilise their defence in time, Romford found themselves 12-0 down when Emma dove over from close range.
Facing a tough road back to parity with the home team, Romford took the time to put their size advantage to good use, stringing together a number of phases through their pack. However, unable to break through the green wall of defence, all forward progress was halted with a big hit from Cat, an outstanding jackal from Daisy Yeomans and a break from Daisy Hunt that saw her carry the ball from the home 5m to under the visitor’s posts. Another successful conversion saw the Ironsides 19-0 up with barely 20 minutes on the board.
Despite the conditions getting increasingly worse, the intent from the home team remained, with a number of good breaks from Sarah C and Zoe in the centres putting Romford on the back foot once again. Any attempts from the visitors to match the Ironsides’ wide play saw the defensive line stepping up, with Sarah C plucking an interception out of the air and running it in from the halfway line. More good kicking off the tee from Sinead took it to 26-0 with five minutes left of the half.
With the visitors keen to get back into the changing rooms to regroup, the Ironsides continued to turn the screw with some astonishing backline play, despite the testing conditions. A glorious chip and chase from Sinead down the left flank, some quick hands, stolen jerseys and ankle-breaking sidesteps saw Raven at fly-half cut through Romford’s defence once more before the whistle, wrapping up a 33-0 advantage at the half.
With the rain coming down horizontally and the first wave of Ironsides subs joining the fray, the second half looked set to be one of attritional rugby, as Romfords physical carriers were once again matched by the Ironside’s defensive efforts. Taking advantage of their set piece on a softening pitch saw the visitors start to build on their territory, stringing together phase after phase, drawing in the home defence. Despite the pressure, and a significant overlap, Romford were unable to capitalise, with Sinead covering superbly on the outside, snuffing out another attack. Another excellent turnover at the breakdown once again released Emma on the right wing, making 60 yards before setting up for Grace T to cross over, making it 38-0.
Given one last chance to get on the scoreboard, Romford valiantly tried to run it out of their 22, crashing up into the Ironside’s line. Tired bodies, a wet ball and an unrelenting defensive effort from the home team led to one final mistake from the opposition, with Fiona wrapping the game up at 43-0 to the Ironsides Ladies 1st XV.
Over on the other side of DSP, the Ironsides Ladies 2nd XV were also in cup action, hosting a Thamesians 1st XV riding a rich wave of form following their 96-0 demolition job of Hampstead 2s in the NC 2 South East league. Arriving at the match without a full compliment of front-rowers, the set-piece advantage that Ironsides were expecting to capitalise upon was nullified before they were able to crouch, bind or set.
Facing a team martialled by a truly outstanding flyhalf, the home defence knew it was going to be a tough job from the get-go, with Cerys and Liberty leading the line in both phases, closing down their runners and making hard yards in challenging conditions. An astonishing last-ditch tackle from Kate Merton 5 metres out kept the Thamesians forwards from scoring, but it wasn’t enough to stop the visitors from eventually crossing the whitewash.
Strong running from Theresa and Louise kept the visiting defence honest, and a well-marshalled Ironsides line did their best to keep the visiting team under wraps, but were unable to take keep the Thamesians flyhalf from taking control of the game, delivering a kicking masterclass rarely seen in any form of the game at DSP.
Unwilling to leave the game without something to shot for their efforts, Cerys finally broke the defensive line, crashing over from close range. Wrapping up the day with a 7-59 loss, after a good conversion from Caroline Oakes, the team had plenty of positives to take through to the next league game against Dartfordians 1s, despite the one-sided score.
Tess and Cerys MOM 2s – Coaches’ player Louise
Sarah C and Tania MOM for 1s – Coaches’ Player Emma M
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