Last Sunday marked the start of a new chapter for the Lewes Ladies as their 2nd XV embarked on their first ever league campaign. The team travelled to Pullborough to play their inaugural game and the team list boasted a great mix of returning and brand-new players, captained by Holly Taylor.
After a delayed start, Lewes kicked off the match – the ball falling deep into the Pulborough half. The Lewes Ladies were dominating immediately, but an unfortunate penalty saw Pulborough regain possession. Lewes defended well, stopping Pulborough’s advance with some strong tackles. Lewes’ pressure in defence caused Pulborough to make mistakes and Sarah ‘Maths’ McCarthy took the opportunity from a penalty to kick to touch – winning a Lewes line-out in a dangerous position for Pulborough.
The line-out was lost, and Lewes were defending again. After putting in a solid tackle, captain Holly Taylor went down injured and had to be escorted off the pitch. Vice-Captain Faye Kirby took control of the game.
After the re-start Lewes seemed to have found some fire. A great break from Maths saw them advancing towards the try line, and they looked like they were about to get some points on the board. A quick pass out to the wing by Maths was intercepted by a Pulborough player who took advantage of the momentary confusion and sprinted back up the pitch and over Lewes’ line.
The try was converted and Pulborough were 7-0 in the lead.
Lewes Ladies refused to let their heads go down, and came back from the try with a ferocity they had lacked in the first 20 minutes. Following the kick they rushed into Pulborough’s half and forced them backwards. Although Lewes were clearly dominating, a series of confusing penalties meant that neither team retained possession for long enough to do any damage. Maths continued to gain ground with her penalty kicks, and Lewes’ line-outs went from strength to strength.
Pulborough found themselves with a scrum on their 5 m line. A great tackle turned the ball over and some great handling saw the ball travel down Lewes’ line and into the hands of centre Alice Chapman. Smashing through the Pulborough line, Chapman grounded the ball beneath the posts. Vice-Captain Faye Kirby converted the kick to bring Lewes back into the game: 7-7.
Now Lewes were clearly in control of the game with fly-half Becky Ford and centre Gina Potter playing spectacularly off one another with some exceptional lines. Some confusing decisions from the ref made play seem frustrating – with rucks being blown up almost every time. The first half ended and the score remained the same.
The second half began and Lewes immediately looked dangerous on the ball. An injury in the Pulborough front row caused the ref to call for uncontested scrums, which took some of the intensity from the game. Rather than letting this get to them, Lewes used the change to their advantage – requesting scrums at every penalty and using the guaranteed possession to dominate the game. The home team occasionally looked dangerous – using their pace around the fringes to make a break through the Lewes defence – but these were quickly closed down.
With ten minutes to go, Lewes welcomed Jenny ‘JC’ Craggs on to the pitch as a super-sub. JC made an immediate impact – making great ground with ball in hand. A Lewes scrum in Pulborough’s 22 saw the ball received cleanly by scrumhalf Faye Kirby and passed down the hands – reaching newcomer Cat Thompson who pushed through the last few metres to make it over the line beneath the posts. Converted by Kirby, the score was 14-7.
Despite Lewes’ valiant play, in the last few minutes of the game, Pulborough intercepted a pass and made it through the Lewes line and under the posts. The runaway try was converted, and minutes later the ball was kicked out to touch and the whistle blew. Full time score 14-14.
Although the game did not go in Lewes’ favour, there are many positives to take from this first league game for the 2nd XV. Holding their own against a team who have played together for over a year, and recovering from an initial Pulborough lead are great signs for the season ahead.
Thanks to Pulborough for hosting and we look forward to welcoming them to Lewes later in the season. Next week the 1st XV take on Hampstead at home.
Updated 19:38 - 1 Oct 2017 by Peter Barron