Tough loss for Bluebirds against Lakenham Hewitt
By Annie Coulson
An outmanned Chelmsford lost to a fresh team in the second half but Bluebirds keep their heads up to finish with a try
Chelmsford’s Bluebirds travelled to Lakenham Hewitt on Sunday for a bottom of the table clash. The two teams have always found themselves well matched but previous form has had Chelmsford come out on top. Unfortunately, Chelmsford struggled to field a full team due to injuries and availability and Coach Dave Ball and Captain Mini Nowlan were faced with the difficult choice of whether to attempt to rearrange the game. At the end of the day, it is hard enough to get games in women’s rugby and the team was not prepared to risk a walkover so the team crossed two counties with no replacement players and high hopes that no one would be injured!
The game started evenly, with both teams a little scrappy and the game staying largely in the centre of the pitch. A couple of good breaks by Lakenham saw Chelmsford defending their try line and only a fumble and knock on by Lakenham allowed Chelmsford to get out of their 22 with a great kick from the versatile Zabrina Shields.
Getting a safer distance from their own try line saw Chelmsford calm the game down and gain a better control over their attack. Some good carrying by the forwards drew in the opposition enough for Chelmsford centre, Amy Ironmonger, to make an incredible run from 50m out to score the first points of the game. The score at half time was 5-0 to Chelmsford.
In the second half, the difference in the number of available players between the two teams became increasingly obvious. The game was so physical and play was regularly halted for injuries to be checked. Where Chelmsford had no option to replace injured players, time had to be taken to ensure that the game could continue with full teams. Chelmsford were tired and broken and Lakenham had a full bench of replacements and the fresh legs made a huge difference to their game. They brought on new, energetic, players who had been analysing the game in the first half and they simply ran away with it. From scoring no points in the first half, Lakenham scored 5 tries in the second half and, in particular, the Lakenham number 8 had an incredible game, single-handedly gaining more ground than any other player on the pitch.
Chelmsford did put 2 more tries in during the second half, each from a brilliant run by a back. The first was a prime example of supporting lines and intuitive play between team mates; the ball was chipped to the backs from a ruck and quick hands saw the ball passed to Ironmonger, out to brand new winger, Jillie McCarthy, and back in to flanker, Maddy Hughes, who scored under the posts. The Chelmsford attack plan has centred largely on utilising forward pods and it was just excellent to see Hughes play such good heads up rugby, breaking from her pod, taking the ball at pace and reaping the rewards for her versatility. The try was well converted by fly half, Karly Harrington, who also had a generally brilliant game. Harrington didn’t rest on her laurels for so much as a second, she found work constantly and made life very difficult for the opposition.
In the final 5 minutes, Chelmsford had dropped to 14 players due to injury and Lakenham were now out of reach but Chelmsford never let their heads down and they were rewarded for their tenacity when newcomer fullback, Lucy Danielle, made a daring dash through 4 Lakenham players. She came through at such pace that not a single tackle landed and she scored an unconverted try in the 80th minute. Lucy was our back of the match for her tireless effort in her second ever game. She thwarted countless breaks by Lakenham with huge hits, made some huge distance in attack, and simply never stopped for breath.
The result of the game was entirely down to Lakenham’s available substitutions against a tired and broken team but Chelmsford gave their all for the full 80 minutes and walked away with their heads held high.
Next week they travel to Woodbridge to face them for the second time this year.