Eccles Ladies lost 7-24 at home to Carlisle on Sunday despite putting in their best league performance to date and notching up their first try of the season. Eccles will take great confidence from their performance knowing the result could have been very different.
Having faced a fierce start to life in Championship North 1 since being promoted, Eccles got down to business facing third placed Carlisle having already played Waterloo and Camp Hill who occupy the top two places in the league.
Carlisle set the early pace with a strong inside centre and speedy full-back making the Eccles defence scramble.
While Eccles responded and defended strongly, they were pegged back in their own half and eventually Carlisle moved the ball through hands to score in the right hand corner of the field. The conversion was missed so Eccles found themselves only five points down.
A sustained defensive effort followed with some big tackles beginning to fly in; Shelley Powe, Katie Houghton and Sadie Light led the way in the midfield while Selena Lockyer notably mitigated any threat out wide.
For all the effort, Eccles lacked long periods of time with the ball in hand and late on in the second half conceded a further try to end the half 0-12 down. Despite the score, both teams had been quite evenly matched and the message from Eccles joint Coach Mike Ince was clear, it was up to the team to find some ‘belief’.
Having spent a lot of time in the last two weeks defending, Eccles were rusty with the ball in hand but began the second half purposefully and spent more time going forward. A long awaited tonic followed when Igemi ‘Igz’ Ekoku opened up the Carlisle defence and headed for the line. The Eccles backs had moved the ball cleanly through hands and sprinting to the line, it seemed certain Igz would score.
Despite her speed Igz was caught just before the whitewash; Eccles recycled the ball as support flooded forward and Carlisle scrambled to their line. The Eccles forwards took the ball in one by one until a breath taking moment saw flanker Alex Stokes crash over, accidentally bundling over the referee in the process. To his credit he recovered quickly from a spectacular tumble to signal the try. An almighty eruption followed as the far touchline and balcony cheered the first points of the season. Vicki Merrick duly added the extras reducing the deficit to five points.
Eccles were starting to get on top of their opponents and seemed to find the belief that their coaches Mike and Mark were talking about. As they fought hard to gain field position, Eccles were unlucky to concede a penalty ten metres out which led to a further Carlisle try. Still they kept going, bossed by fly half and ‘Back of the Match’, Vicki Merrick and ‘Forward of the Match’, Alex Stokes. Eccles never quite reclaimed the advantage and a Carlisle try in the last play of the match somewhat flattered the score line in favour of the visitors, the game ending 7-24.
The loss is disappointing for Eccles who proved they are not out of place in this league; they know they were in with every chance of taking something out of the match. Having already come a long way since their first game of the season, Eccles now have a two week league break coming up; they will be eager to put in another good performance when their league campaign resumes.
Eccles Ladies next league game sees them take on Novocastrians at home on 14 October 2012, prior to that fixture they will face LSH/Tyldesley in a development game, away, on 7 October 2012.