Harlequins too strong for North Down Ladies
By Roger Corbett
On Sunday afternoon the girls from North Down headed to Carrick RFC for the final of the Regenerate Shield
Preparations for the game went well with only two players missing through injury. The whole squad worked hard at training throughout the week and really did show a determination to give it their all on Finals day.
Quins however were out to ensure they did not go under to the new kids on the block. Right from the kick off, they showed their experience by going on the attack. Using their big forward pack they battered through the North Down defensive line time and again. The rookies from North Down did however show glimmers of what they are capable off. Sam Smallwood at full back was safe under the high ball and put North Down on the front foot when running the ball back at the Quins defence. Hannah Simpson playing her first game at No 8 was proving to be a nuisance to the opposition particularly in the rucks. Sarah Simms and Danielle Perry caused equal troubles for the opposition front row in the scrums. Bex McBratney showed her pace but was just unable to outflank the well-organised defensive line. Unfortunately, they just did not seem to have answers for the size and intensity of the Harlequins team. By half time Quins had run in six tries with all barring one being converted. Half time score Quins 40 – North Down 0.
The large crowd of supporters feared the worst for the second half, expecting North Down to fold. The girls however had a different plan, and with the pressure of worrying about a big win lifted off their shoulders, they came out in the second half with that same determination as has been seen from them all season. Despite quins breaking away for an early try, the third quarter of the game was played almost entirely in the Harlequins half. The North Down ball retention was particularly good as the halfbacks of Victoria Presho and Shel Laffin got a good balance between forwards and backs. This provided opportunity for Shan Owen and Julie Patterson to break the defensive line with hard carries. In the back row, Emma Coey and Sam Lowry were on hand for the off loads breaking the line on several occasions.
In the backs Ali Millar and Ellen Glynn were able to create gaps in the midfield defence, and with some quick rucking from Jill Shaw, Trish Hill and Jordan Winters the North Down team were able to work their way deep into the opposition territory. From one of these quick rucks Emma Coey was able to take a short pass from the outhalf and crash through the defensive line for a well taken try.
Quins responded to this score by going back on the offensive, but the uplifted North Down side didn’t make it easy for them to get out of their own half with some superb last ditch tackling being put in by Angie Eadie, Alex McCarthy and Anna Robinson. The final quarter saw the introduction of a few fresh players in the form of Rebekah Strain and Megan Callogly in the front row. Both players coped very well against the somewhat larger Quins front row. Cassie Munroe brought some additional physicality to the game when she went into the second row. Eventually however Quins managed to breakdown the defence when the winger broke through a couple of weary tackles to run in the final score of the day. Full time Quins 54 – North Down 5
The score may not have gone their way, but the North Down team demonstrated just how much they have come on in just a few short months. What a story this has been. Most of these girls hadn’t even lifted a rugby ball this time last year, and are now able to compete against teams who have been together for several years. North Down Women’s Rugby is certainly a side who can become a force in Ulster Rugby over the next few years. They have certainly jelled very well as a team and just need to have patience. Their game will develop as they all gain that vital experience in the sport.
The team would like to thank all those who travelled to support them on Sunday. It certainly gave the occasion that “big game” feeling and really lifted the players.
Although the season has now ended, the team have decided that they will continue to train over the summer. They have already organised a number of fun training events including a truck pull along Bangor seafront on 27th April with Glen Ross. They are also planning to take a team to the Carrick 7s on 5th May. Keep an eye on the North Down Ladies Rugby Facebook page for details of other events.