The first game of the premiership season for the Aylesford ladies was always going to be a tough one; they were to face Darlington Mowden ParkSharks, a team they narrowly defeated in the mud last December.
The hosts started strongly, immediately forcing their way towards the Sharks’ 22. However despite dominance in the scrum and strong tackles from outside centre Laura Levi and her fellow backs, Darlington forced a turnover and touched down after seven minutes.
The following ten minutes saw the Bulls repeatedly penalised at the breakdown, with Darlington capitalising on the frequently undermanned rucks and constantly regaining possession. Eventually DMP’s speedy winger touched down for her second try, this time converted to leave the score at 12-0 after 17 minutes.
But the hosts kept their heads up and fought back; despite a hesitant defensive line they at times forced the Sharks to fumble the ball under pressure and effective kicking from both sides saw play rapidly changing ends with runners making the most of the dry conditions. After several tense minutes in the Bulls’ 22 a third score for the Sharks was avoided when their 14 knocked on near the try line. Following gutsy defence and a turnover by the Bulls, captain Catherine Spencer managed to break through the line and find winger Georgia Gray but again the try was elusive and the Bulls were penalised at the breakdown.
Another Bulls assault on the Darlington 22 reached 2 metres short of the try line where the ball was passed forwards and possession awarded to the Sharks, but with the ball back in the Bulls’ hands a penalty kick by scrum half Florence Williams sailed between the posts and left the half time score at 12-3.
Following the break the Bulls seemed to come back a bolder team. A more urgent defensive line speed combined with prop Caz Olwa powerfully clearing out rucks and flanker Liz Philp a strong contender at the breakdown led to more possession and ground gained for the Bulls. Second row Sammy Palmer – after making one of many powerful breaks through the Sharks defence – was held up under the posts. But after another series of attacking phases, strong breaks and offloads by fly half Kelly Davies and Aussie centre Sarah Riordan the Bulls got the ball to full back Debs Harwood, who sailed over the try line for the team’s first try of the season, with Williams converting for 12-10.
The game was there for the taking, both teams gave it their all. At 55 minutes, hooker Jenny Vik was sent to the bin and the Bulls were down to 14, making the task all the harder.
But the Bulls ground their way up the pitch and narrowly lost out on three more points after Williams penalty shaved passed the uprights. But they were soon to take the lead after Riordan thundered through the DMP defence for a try between the posts, Williams converting.
With 15 minutes left on the clock and the Bulls 17-12 up both teams applied and felt the pressure, with further scores going to both teams; Williams gifted the Bulls another three points from a penalty kick at goal while the Sharks crashed over for an unconverted try on 75 minutes. The tempo was maintained into the dying minutes of the game, but Darlington were unable to regain their lead and the Bulls came out deserved winners on 20-17.
Back of the match went to Florence Williams while Liz Philp was awarded forward of the match.
|14/09/2014||12:30 pm||Women's Premiership||2014-15|