Rugby: Harlow Under-18 Girls beat Enfield in regional semi-final

Rugby / Wed 7th Feb 2024 at 12:09pm

THE GIRL’S first game in February was the Regional Semi-Final of the National Cup designed for teams that finished second in their pool.

Harcroft, playing under the Harlow U18W banner, had drawn Enfield / Grammarians and knew they were in for a physical and confrontational game, having played them in a friendly relatively recently.

The weather was mild for February but overcast and very windy. Unfortunately, this was a bad toss for Harcroft to lose meaning we were asked to defend against the wind during the first half, which would prove critical to the overall game. 

After the kick off, Enfield applied pressure through both forwards and backs and eventually established a foothold in the Harcroft 22. Despite nicely timed front jumping from Lily Martin which saw her snaffle Enfield’s lineout ball, the subsequent attempt to move the ball wide and clear the lines resulted in an intercept chance, which was well taken by the Enfield centre and duly converted.

After the restart kick off, Harcroft relaxed into their game and demonstrated their potential with a beautiful carving run from Lillie Chapman along the right side 15m line. Despite being tackled, the ball was laid back to the forwards who were then able to play their superb attacking offload game, managing to keep the ball alive through several phases causing panic in the Enfield ranks. Eventually, once the ball was close enough to the line, Abi Sacks (like any good scrum half) pinched the forward glory and managed to secure the short-range touch down for a well-deserved score (unconverted).

Sadly, the rest of the half was mostly a story of defensive resistance and the wind causing problems in trying to get the ball away from the danger area. Enfield started to deploy their big runners close to the line and, despite some heroic tackling (Tilly Thompson notable in single-handedly felling Enfield’s biggest runner on her way to tryline) and brilliant scramble defence in holding the ball up over the line, Enfield scored five unanswered tries in this period to finish the first half 5 – 40 up.

The second half began with a knock-on that resulted in a very quick Enfield score which may have impacted the Harcroft girls’ confidence. However, they pulled themselves together and made this a tighter game than the first half. Although Harcroft conceded another try, the Enfield girls managed to get on the wrong side of the referee through their physicality and this allowed the Harcroft girls territory and some front foot ball. From a Harcroft scrum on the Enfield 22, Tasha Blunden (playing fly-half for the first time) made a late call to switch the play back to the blind side, and sidestepped and dummied her way through to an excellent solo try. Lily Martin stepped up to add the extras.

Two more tries were conceded before the end of the game. Another annoying intercept (offside surely ref?) by the centre and on the final whistle. Final Score 12 – 68

Congratulations to Enfield / Grammarians. They had strong forwards and incisive backline plays and we wish them good luck in their Regional Cup Final.

From the Harcroft perspective, the scoreline is perhaps an unfair reflection on the game itself. It certainly felt more competitive than it suggests, and conceding multiple tries in short clusters can have a real impact. How to limit this impact will be a work on for us. Once again, the effort was fabulous and the way the girls work for each other is inspirational. We need to focus more on the positive ways the girls can keep the ball alive in contact and how we played a backline this week with the potential for pace.

Our thanks go to Lillie (home club Chelmsford) and Abbie (home club Thurrock) who have affiliated and will play more games with us when schedules permit.

Players of the Match:

Lillie Chapman

Tasha Blunden

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