The Ladies gave second place Camp Hill a real scare before running out of juice and able-bodied players towards the end.
For their second long away trip of the season Eccles travelled south to Solihull to face Camp Hill. Both games last season had resulted in 70 point defeats but with an improved defensive showing the previous week Eccles were confident things would be closer this time.
As seems to be their way at the moment, Eccles started the game slowly. Just two minutes in they failed to respond quickly enough to a break from the winger, which allowed the #7 to smash her way over from close range. But this was one of the only mistakes they made in the first half as they played their best rugby of the season. The forwards were combining well, creating breaks for Sadie Light and Barbara Daher. The scrum was also looking much more competitive helping the side enjoy more possession than usual. And the defensive line was working even better than before. Indeed when Camp Hill earned a penalty just outside the Eccles’ 22 they opted to kick the penalty rather than continue to be hit hard, which gave them an 8-0 lead.
Eccles continued to look dangerous ball in hand and their fast pace of play was causing the home team to concede penalties. After repeated infringements at the breakdown their lock was shown a yellow card, and Eccles kicked for the corner. They should have scored from the resulting line out but the final pass was proving evasive. The ball was knocked on and a scrum was formed. But Eccles managed to turnover the scrum and after Alex Stokes was stopped just short Claire Knapp was able to dart over.
If Eccles had managed to hold out until half-time who knows what may have happened. Unfortunately Camp Hill came out like a wounded animal and marched straight up the pitch to score on the stroke of half time and dissipate some of the visitors’s momentum. All the conversions were missed so the half time score was 13-5.
At the start of the second half Camp Hill were obviously still smarting and came out fired up. A strong run from their #12 couldn’t be stopped as they scored their third try, this time adding the extras from bang in front. This time it was Eccles who were buoyed by their opponent scoring and mounted an offensive into opposition territory. After a break from Natalie Gill the ball was recycled quickly and moved out wide were Shelley Powe went in hard and low to ground the ball before touching the corner flag and bring Eccles right back into it, 20-10.
Unfortunately the following kick off started Eccles’ injury problems. The ball was well caught by Barbara Daher but she was hit hard in the tackle and then rucked over leaving her with a bad cut to the head that required a trip to the hospital. Whilst still adapting to that change the industrious Rebecca Owen was forced from the field with a back injury. This disruption was the chance the home side were looking for and the Eccles defence were found missing on the inside as the Midlanders crossed for their fifth try. Worse still inspirational scrum half Claire Knapp hurt her ankle in trying to prevent the try. X-rays would later show it was broken.
Down to 15 players, some of which carrying knocks of their own, Eccles could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel, but this was never the case and they kept fighting until the end. Possession was few and far between at this stage but the defence didn’t stop working. Camp Hill ran in two more tries to give the scoreboard a slightly flattering appearance, final score 37-10.
A massive thanks must go to Camp Hill not only for their role in the game, but in volunteering transport to take Barbara to hospital and their physio, Stephen, helping look after Claire. They didn’t have to, but did it anyway. A great example of spirit in the rugby family.
Another defeat but another improved performance from the Ladies. They’ll hope to continue those levels of improvement as they welcome Carlisle to Gorton Street for a hugely important game on Sunday 20/10/13, with a 14:30 kick off.