Chard Ladies 20 Totnes Ladies 27.
By Gavin Smillie
Close game at home
Chard Ladies 20 Totnes Ladies 27.
Chard Ladies welcomed Totnes Ladies for their first match since September, in what turned out to be a closely fought match played in excellent conditions.
After a perfectly observed one minutes silence, Chard got off to the stronger start with early attacks through Sarah Kneeshaw and the returning Laura Jenkins. From a scrum near the Totnes line Megan Armstrong took the ball on the blind side and charged over to score in the right hand corner, to give the home team a 5-0 lead.
The packs were evenly matched with both sides securing their own ball in the set pieces. This led to phases of possession for both sides as they tested each others defenses. After 15 minutes Elaine Stainer was taken off due to an injury and was replaced by Ella Panting making her debut for the club.
As the half progressed, Totnes came more into the game with strong runs from their powerful backs. Strong defense by both flankers, Jenkins and Panting and back of the match Zoe Winlow, kept Totnes at bay until the 34th minute. It was at this point that the Totnes wing Annie Jones took the ball on the half way line and sprinted round and past the covering defence to score the visitors first try.
Chard came back immediately with forward charges again in the right corner of the Totnes defense, only for overlap opportunities to be missed , and strong defense from the away team meant that at half time scores were tied at 5-5.
Once again Chard started the half stronger, but a 15 minute period decided the match. First, in the 45th minute, following a series of attacks , Sarah Kneeshaw strolled unopposed through the Totnes line to score under the posts. However, the try was disallowed due to crossing and the lead denied.
From this point the momentum of the game appeared to change, with Totnes gaining confidence with the ball in hand, and the Chard tacklers hanging back for the first time in the match. Three tries in 8 minutes turned the match completely in the visitors favour , with Jordan Crook crashing over twice from close range, and centre Laura Shearer making an excellent break through the heart of the Chard defense to score under the posts , converted by Alana Riley.
With a quarter of the match to go, and the score 22-5 in the visitors favour, Chard began a spirited fightback. Immediately from a long kick off following Crooks second try, pressure resulted in a penalty award to the home side. A quick tap penalty was taken and once again Kneeshaw crossed the line and this time the score stood.
For the next 10 minutes Chard continued to press and the impressive Jenkins broke through to bring the home side to within 7 points. Once again Chard attacked, but a loose pass meant that despite cover by Emma Harris, Felicity Dunn broke through to take Totnes clear again.
Chard heads did not go down as once again they came back at the visitors , and in the last minute Jenkins once again used her strength to burrow over the line for the final score of the match. The final score being 27-20 to the visitors.
The were some very strong performances for Chard , especially from the front five in the pack and the centres in the backs.
The forward of the match was Ella Panting who was tireless on the flank, with player of the match , open side flanker Laura Jenkins, both playing their first matches of the season.
A very close contest, and a game either side could have won. A very encouraging return to League rugby for the Chard Ladies, who also wish to thank all their sponsors for their new kit that they were playing in for the first time.