Eccles Ladies are now undefeated in three league matches after a thrilling match which saw them hold North West rivals Birkenhead Park to a 5-5 draw away from home on Sunday. It was a draw that almost felt like a victory after close defeats at Birkenhead in recent seasons but Eccles fought hard for 80 minutes in appalling weather conditions to take a deserved point.
Right from the kick-off Eccles put down a marker; Rebecca “Titch” Owen led the way with a thunderous midfield tackle that seemed to inspire the whole team and travelling support. Eccles spent much of the first half camped in the Birkenhead 22 making the most of their opponents giving away penalties and Sadie Light successfully winning multiple lineouts on the Birkenhead throw.
The conditions did not suit running rugby despite the best efforts of both teams; Eccles made some good breaks, particularly through Selena Lockyer and Sally Morris but the last pass didn’t quite come off and no points were scored. Birkenhead also had their chances but the Eccles defence stood up bravely, led by Shelley Powe, and any attacking threat was mitigated.
Eccles were quick off their defensive line all day and put the home side under constant pressure. The first half ended scoreless but Eccles certainly had the momentum in the first forty minutes. But Birkenhead Park started strongly in the second half and after a few minutes of pressure managed to barge their way over the line. The conversion was missed and Eccles were five points down.
The Eccles line out continued to perform well with Adele Ryan consistently finding Nemo (Sophie Rogers). Eccles “just kept running”, with Katie Houghton and Abi Thompson making the hard yards, before further enterprise and effort was rewarded when they found Nemo again, this time on the right wing, who duly scored in the corner. The Eccles support was cheering; jumping and singing as they found themselves deservedly back in the game.
At 5-5, with it almost impossible to tell players apart as they were covered head to toe in mud, Eccles found themselves hanging on as Birkenhead missed a penalty attempt at goal while Alex Stokes intelligently kicked for territory on numerous occasions to ease the pressure.
Eccles fought to the end with Birkenhead charging to the line. Try saving tackles from Sally Morris and Shelley Powe kept them in the game before the whole team put their bodies on the line to defend a last play attack on the line from the home side. The referee signalled the end of the game and Eccles had claimed a fantastic draw.
Described as “one of the best games of rugby I have ever seen” by joint coach Mark Greenhalgh, a sentiment echoed by many people who watched the game, it was an excellent result. Enthusiastic, brave, enterprising…
Sally Morris was rewarded for an excellent game with the ‘back of the match’ award while Nemo was awarded ‘forward of the match’ for her try scoring performance. Camp Hill visit Gorton Street for the next league fixture in two weeks while Eccles face Ormskirk in a home friendly on 4 November, kick-off 13:00.