Devon U18s Girls open the County season with a win against Somerset
Sunday saw Devon U18s take on their Neighbours, Somerset, in what was a hard fought battle in very soft conditions.
Tiverton Rugby Clubs pitch held strong following several weeks of high rainfall which led to the cancellations of so many fixtures this weekend. Nevertheless, the soft ground made life very difficult for Devon’s speedy backs and the ball had to be handled with extreme care owing to its relentless desire to turn into a bar of soap!
Both sides started their season in challenging circumstances. This year, the RFU altered the age bandings that the girls’ game would normally adhere to. With a newly formed U16s section, the U18s didn’t enjoy the usual influx of graduating U15s. As a result, clubs with this age band, nationwide, have suffered with recruitment and inevitably, game time.
As these two Counties kicked off though, you couldn’t tell.
Devon immediately got off to an incredible start. From kick off, the ball was cleanly taken and distributed to outside centre and Centre of Excellence player, Rosie Tidball who took off down the wing and scored within the first minute of the game!
The game then settled into a more even contest, with both teams having to work hard to contend with the surface, both in attack and defence. Multiple breakdowns and scrums meant that it was a tough day for the forwards, no complaints there though. Competition in the scrum was fierce, but it was Devon’s front 8 who had the upper hand in the first half. A series of effective forwards pick and go’s, deep in Somersets “red zone”, lead to fly half Abigail Alner powering over the line for the second try of the half, which she subsequently converted.
Half time score, 12-0 to the hosts.
The second half kicked off with several fresh faces on both sides of the pitch. Devon’s pack had been consistently strong in the first half and it didn’t disappoint in the second. Somersets front 8 had a very tough job of matching their opposition.
Most of the second half was a case of who could keep hold of the ball the longest! Devon’s backs did a superb job of putting the Somerset attack under huge amounts of pressure, proving the benefits of fitness in such energy zapping conditions. Tackles were going in thick and fast from both sides with many breakaway opportunities thwarted by some crunching hits.
Somerset very nearly came away with points several times, only to be held up on both occasions by the green and whites. After a good 20mins of mutual attrition, Devon began piling on the pressure in attack and after a series of well worked breakdowns, any one of the four players lined up ready to receive could have scored. No.8, Hannah Lumley did the deed with ease, taking the score to 17-0 with ten minutes left to play.
Despite going down by three tries, Somerset didn’t let it knock them. They fought a tough battle and put Devon under a lot more pressure than the 17-0 final score suggests. Coaches from both Counties can be extremely proud of what both squads achieved, especially given the conditions.
Devon remain at home for the next fixture against Cornwall. Ivybridge RFC are hosting at 1:30pm on the 18th December.
Photos Courtesy of Mike Sprague