After the gale force winds the club had experienced on Saturday hopes were high that things would be a little calmer on Sunday. But somehow the wind managed to get even stronger, which meant what was sure to be a tight game anyway would be even closer as Birkenhead Park arrived at Gorton Street.
The early parts of the game proved this to be correct. Strong running from Birkenhead was met with keen defence from Sally Morris and Siobhan Mullen, and in return good runs by Alex Stokes and Rebecca Owen were being met with tough tackles from the visitors. There was little between the teams aside from the scrum where Birkenhead clearly had the upper hand. On the 20 minute mark this proved crucial. Eccles had a scrum in their own 22, which seemed to have been won, but suddenly the ball ricocheted and flew out on the opposite side. The Birkenhead scrum half claimed the ball, side-stepped two would-be tacklers and touched down. The conversion couldn’t be added in the wind so the score was 0-5.
Eccles came fighting back and enjoyed their best spell of the game. Good runs from Barbara Daher and Igemi Ekoku set up half chances for Claire Knapp and Fawn Lucas but unfortunately they came to nought. In a game like this there were set to be few chances, and this proved to be the case as the half-time whistle blew with the score still 0-5.
Playing into the wind in the second half Eccles knew that they would be under pressure, but probably didn’t expect it to be as intense as it was. Birkenhead came forward with wave after wave but were repelled by fantastic defence from Karen Radband, Sadie Light and Olivia Jack. The Eccles wall was forcing mistakes from the visitors but unfortunately this couldn’t be turned into useful possession by the home side as their problems in the scrum continued. Birkenhead enjoyed at least 80% of the ball and for most of that time were in the Eccles half, but still couldn’t cross the line.
With time running out Igemi Ekoku’s mazy run almost salvaged something for the passionate home crowd but she was brought down by the full back. The final whistle blew on what had been a monumental effort from the ladies, but one that could only earn a losing bonus point.
After the game the team’s supporters and sponsors, who had been assembled to be thanked for their contributions this season, were full of praise for what had been another thrilling game of rugby between the two “local” rivals, particularly Back of the Match Sally Morris and Forward Sadie Light. Eccles will be hoping to keep the defensive effort the same, and maybe enjoy a bit more ball, when they travel to Waterloo for their next match on 07/04/13.