Women v Millwall
With the knowledge that they’d bested Millwall at home by some 70 points earlier in the season, the girls were in good spirits for this return fixture.
The coaches took this opportunity to change things up a bit in the team.
Jess and pack leader Kerrie propping with BJ hooking. BK & Anna made up the second row, with Jane at 6, Laura 7 and Larry making her first start at 8.
With Donna, Emma R and Ella D as the only regular starters, Mel at 10, Ella Hoye at 12 and Ella David as Full Back, and Alicia and Aisling on the wings, it was effectively a completely new looking team
A new look didn’t mean a new way though.
The team set about the game with their usual aggression and were soon pressing into Millwalls half.
BK took a short pass and barrelled up the left hand side of the pitch, broke the line and flattened the Millwall winger.
The ball was presented perfectly and the play moved up the pitch, only to be halted and brought back by the ref, as the Millwall winger had stayed down and was bleeding heavily from her nose.
From the resulting scrum, Donna shipped the ball to Mel, who popped to a speeding Emma R cutting a line who went over for the first score
With the kick dropping short, the scoreboard was at 0-5
From the restart, the ball was caught neatly by Larry and the Thornwood girls gathered again.
With big carries from Kerrie, Jess and Laura, it wasn’t long before the team were back up the park and pressing into the Millwall 22.
Rucks were protected diligently, and the ball was moved out to the left again.
With a charging Anna approaching, Donna saw a mismatch in front of her and fed her the ball.
Sure enough, she wasn’t to be stopped and Anna muscled through the challenges and managed to touch down for the score.
A knock-on from the restart meant a scrum to defend, so the girls set up as a defence for the first time.
Nothing to worry about though, because with a mighty shove, the Millwall scrum went backwards at a rate, and the ref awarded Epping the penalty. The ball was given to Ella D who put it 30m down the field where it bounced perfectly into touch.
BJ’s darts were spot on and Laura got the ball down to Donna, who fed Mel again.
A simple pass to Ella H and she danced between 3 defenders to cross the line for Epping’s 3rd.
An impatient Hurley was now brought on for Jess, and immediately took the ball from the back of a ruck, looked up and saw 3 or 4 defenders facing her. Foregoing the tried and tested route of offloading the ball, she charged at the first defender, bounced her, handed off the 2nd, then handed off the 3rd, before repeating the now infamous “Talk to the Hand” action on the 4th and sprinted away to score.
Mel converted the try to put the score at
Less than 4 minutes went by before Ella H thought it was time she went over again to get her 2nd
0-27 with 1/2 hour gone.
Emma R followed suit 10 minutes later to go over under the posts for her 2nd, after yet another outstanding line break, which was started by a classic jackal turn over by Jane Elmer.
Converted successfully by Mel, the score was now 0-34
The ref blew for halftime and the girls all gathered to get refreshments on board.
Millwall had gone down to 13 players, so the Epping team graciously matched their numbers, with Emma Hitch coming on to make her debut, India, Eden, Shamma, Millie,Nina and Alexa coming on
9 minutes into the 2nd half, and after many monumental carries, and countless crunching tackles, Lauza thought it was time to have a go at the try line herself. From 20m out, she received the ball, stepped one way, then the next and tore down the right wing to gratefully put the ball down under the posts.
With Mel converting again, the score moved to 0-41.
Never one to be outshone, Millie decided to show Millwall what mazy running was.
Weaving in and out of despairing tacklers, she sprinted under the posts from her own half to make it 0-48 less than 3 minutes after the last score.
Then came “The moment”
Nina took a short pass on the halfway, charged through a double tackle, bounced a 3rd and set off for the try line straight down the middle of the park. Millwall set off after the diminutive prop and thought they’d catch her by the 10m line.
But no, from somewhere deep within, a second surge of speed from Nina propelled her out of the reach of the chasers and into Milwall’s 22.
With a huge smile on her face, she raced towards the posts picturing the swallow-like dive to celebrate her try.
But with only 5m to the try line, a final tackler managed to hook her shirt to slow her down.
She was aware enough to look to her left and unselfishly pop the pass to a supporting India who gratefully fell over the line to score.
India’s try, but all Nina’s work - The epitome of the game of rugby.
More substitutions were made, and Captain Donna took a well earned break, Ella H went to scrum half and Ella D came back on.
Millie then showed her class again and danced through the defence to score her second, which was again converted by Mel for a score of 0-62. And again from the restart, she took the ball, ran around defenders, broke the line with a supporting Shammah on her left shoulder and sprinted towards the posts, before giving the ball to Shammah to score her first of the game.
Once again the conversion was successful and the score rolled round to 0-69.
The Thornwood girls were practically scoring at will now.
India went over for another score next, then Millie again to bring the score to 0-83.
With only 10 minutes left on the clock, more substitutions were made, bringing Donna, Aisling, Emma and crew back into play.
Then, with 1 minute to go, India took a heavy blow to the nose in midfield which stopped the game for a couple of minutes, and looked as if she would need to come off the pitch, but she got back up, joined the next attack and burst over the line to score.
Final score 0-90, the highest score by this team ever.
Although the starting line up for the team looked different than most weeks, this made no difference to how they played.
Testament to the discipline of the girls and the dedication of the coaches over the season.
Forward of the Match went to Kerrie for her outstanding work rate, leadership and communication throughout.
Back of the Match went to Mel in her first full stint as Fly Half - A calm, composed and assured performance with ball in hand, and applying pressure with the boot.
The “Granny Smasher” award went to Lauza the Rozza - Tireless display of direct running and defence, and a try to boot!
A well deserved Sunday off next weekend, before the girls head over to Battersea on the 28th Jan.