Ladies 1st XV
Sun 24 Mar 2024
Heathfield & Waldron RFC
Ladies 1st XV
Heathfield & Waldron Ladies
Ladies just denied at the end in fluctuating semi-final in Oxford

Ladies just denied at the end in fluctuating semi-final in Oxford

Philip Bell25 Mar - 11:15
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Oxford Harlequin Ladies 33 Heathfield Ladies 32

Heathfield Ladies were just denied in this enthralling semi-final in the RFU Intermediate Plate by Oxford Harlequins in which the lead changed hands repeatedly. Although outscoring the home side by six tries to five, most of Heathfield’s tries were out wide so they only converted one whilst the Oxford tries were closer to the posts and their four conversions made the difference.
Oxford Harlequins play on a fine 4 G surface. This has to help the development of their game compared to Heathfield’s struggle with muddy, waterlogged surfaces. It shouldn’t need pointing out, but of course I will, that it is remarkable that a small Sussex town (pop 8K) was competing with a town of over 150 thousand.
Oxford had first use of the slight slope and an intermittently stiff breeze towards the bottom corner. Heathfield seemed to get into gear more quickly than the home side as good ball retention through several phases was ended by skipper Carol Saunders boshing her way through for the opening try. The lack of a kicking tee led to a muffed conversion which seemed irrelevant at the time but the final score suggests otherwise. Saunders today played her 50th game for Heathfield and she was one of the standout performers with multiple ball carries and turnovers.
A few minutes later Georgia Reed-Davies made one of her first huge runs following solid lineout ball. With her side on the front foot Steph Chipps was able to charge over for the second try.
Although both teams play at the same level in RFU League terms, there had been concerns that there might have been a mismatch but any thoughts that Heathfield would have an easy time hereafter were immediately dispelled as Oxford soon replied. An Oxford attack down their right flank looked to have been checked but a chip ahead was skilfully regathered for their full back to stroll over under the posts, duly converted.
Oxford were starting to look dangerous and it took a brave tackle by Britt Mole to prevent another score. Then Oxford were unable to regather another chip ahead and it was moved wide to Holly Brooks who broke through a couple of tackles for a fine try on the right hand side – this time converted by Maya Champion. (7-17)
Entering the second quarter the Heathfield scrum was starting to exert serious pressure over the slightly smaller home from five. They duly turned over a home scrum in midfield but the handling broke down and the home right wing gathered the loose ball to make a strong run down the touchline before a team mate arrived to finish, again under the posts, (14-17)
Oxford now had a period of sustained pressure in the Heathfield half with Saunders and Becky Taylor being especially notable in defence. However in the last play of the half Oxford finally managed to collect another converted try.
The half time score of 21-17 was in fact a fine result for Heathfield given the slope/wind advantage for the home side in this half. The lineout was tricky all day given the wind but Taylor did well normally securing her ball and nicking a couple of Oxford’s. The home scrummage was under severe pressure and scrums often needed resets. Given their obvious dominance it is remarkable that Heathfield only gained one penalty in that phase all game.
One other notable statistic from this half was the penalty count (by my records) of zero against the home side and 8 against Heathfield.
Oxford started the second half with a well-taken try in the right hand corner but Heathfield responded almost immediately as good lineout ball was worked through several hands before Mole touched down (26-22). This was unsurprising as most of the play was now in the home half. Pressure was kept on by Champion as she made two important interceptions that ruined possible home counter-attacks.
Heathfield then felt that they had scored when Mole again touched down this time in the left hand corner but was remarkably adjudged to have knocked on.
Heathfield regained the lead when good turnover ball was worked wide for Brooks to again outpace the cover and score in the right hand corner (26-27).
The last quarter was the decisive period in the game as Heathfield had more possession and position but the home defence did very well with excellent defensive line speed. Heathfield’s big runners such as Chipps, Reed-Davies, Abi Bandtock and Hannah Overy all made good yards in heavy traffic. Bandtock did cross the line but was held up.
Just when it began to look as though Heathfield would hold on to their slender lead, Oxford managed to work upfield, helped by a couple of penalties and reached the visitors’ 22. Creditably they turned down a kickable penalty chance which would have retaken the lead and chose to take a tap which led to pressure on the try line. There was now an extended period of play lasting minutes, which seemed to include assorted infringements by both sides, before Oxford managed to work a flanker over on the left hand side. Critically the conversion stretched the lead to six points (22-27).
In the dying moments of the game Heathfield showed great heart and the ball was again worked to Brooks who scored her third try on the day, again in the right hand corner. Almost inevitably the difficult match-winning conversion was short and the game was over.
Heathfield Head Coach Dan Suggitt had warm words of praise for his whole squad as this was one of their best performances of the season.
It is well-recognised that there is a shortage of referees especially on Sundays. Nonetheless it is surprising that, given this was a semi-final of an RFU-organised national competition, a team of three had not been appointed so that the standard of officiating could have matched the high level of performance by both competing teams.
The extended journey home (four and a half hours) was disrupted by traffic issues and it involved a pee-stop in the woods that may have surprised other travellers stuck in the same traffic snarl up.
After the Easter break Heathfield resume their NC1 league campaign when Guernsey visit (7 Apr 2.00).
1. Hannah Overy 2. Steph Chipps 3. Abi Bandtock 4. Velvet Turner 5. Lauren Duly 6. Carol Saunders 7. Becky Taylor 8. Georgia Reed-Davies 9. Lib Lawrence 10. Caitlin Flower 11. Phoebe Morgan 12. Maya Champion 13. Chip Chippett 14. Holly Brooks 15. Britt Mole
16. Poppy Eacott 17. Jade Fennell 18. Amber Lovick 19. Calre Baker 20. Merve Prestedge 21. Megan Baker

Match details

Match date

Sun 24 Mar 2024


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Ladies Shirt Sponsor - Bytes
Snr Mens Shirt Sponsor - Dominos
Sleeve sponsor - REX Refrig vehicles
Main Junior Sponsor with Boards - Wood & Pilcher
Ladies 1XV & Mens 1XV Sponsor  - The Park Lane Group
Shirt Sponsor  - Anderson Bourne
Colts Sponsor - Ben Harman Arboriculture