17 brave souls set off on an epic adventure to the South East for the semi-final of the National Intermediate Cup. The travel plan budgeted for a five hour journey but even that wasn’t enough to navigate the London traffic, so the team arrived only an hour before kick off. They were quickly changed and into a warm up, which was hardly necessary given the balmy southern temperatures.
Eccles started well with the backs combining well to open up space. Gabby Bullen, making her first team debut, had already made one good break when the ball came wide to her again and she finished in style. A few minutes later the ball went the other way and Igemi Ekoku touched down, and it seemed Eccles might run away with it. But Beckenham were working hard, cheered on by an impressively large and annoyingly loud crowd. They set up camp in the Eccles half and on the stroke of half time managed to force their way over to make the half time score 5-10.
The heat, journey, defensive effort and lack of subs started to show in the second half and Eccles were well below their best. They struggled to retain possession and gave away far too many penalties. This invited the home side to pour pressure on the Eccles line, but to their credit the visitors stood firm. In fact it was they who scored next when Selena Lockyer showed great pace to score a breakaway try from 60m. Vickie Merrick added the extras for a 12 point advantage.
Unfortunately this bigger lead didn’t stop Eccles from conceding penalties and finally the referee lost his patience, awarding one yellow card (though for what nobody can really say), followed swiftly by another. Down to 13 Eccles again defended gallantly but they couldn’t hold out forever and Beckenham eventually pulled one back. The Londoners flooded forward again but Eccles weren’t prepared to travel all this way for nothing and defended with their lives. As the final whistle blew the elation was tinged with a hint of “thank goodness it’s over”.
No one has been picked out for their defensive efforts. That’s because all 17 put their bodies on the line for the cause and should be commended. As Coach Greenhalgh said afterwards it wasn’t their best ever performance, but is probably their best ever (certainly hardest earned) result.
The final will be played at Lichfield RUFC on Saturday 29th March, 11:45 kick off, against Henley Hawks. Part of a big day of ladies rugby with four other finals being played. Space on the coach is available, speak to Shelley Powe if you’re interested.