The Ladies returned to winning ways with a hard fought victory over Carlisle. But unfortunately the injury imp struck again, looking to make things even more difficult in the coming weeks.
Carlisle’s losing bonus point picked up at West Bridgford last week moved them above Eccles at the foot of the table, so there was obviously a lot at stake going into this game. Last season the spoils were shared with both teams picking up a win, surprisingly in the away legs. All the signs suggested a close game which turned out to be absolutely right.
Carlisle came out firing, led by impressive kicking by their 10. They mounted some pressure in the Eccles half, helped by the fact that the impressive defence of the last few weeks seemed somehow flat. But Eccles held out and cleared their lines by some solid kicking of their own from Vickie Merrick. When they got their hands on the ball Eccles looked dangerous. Some good runs from Katie Houghton and Alex Stokes got them going forward and into opposition territory. The play was a little disjointed, no doubt caused by the recent injuries incurred, but they managed to retain possession. After the backs went close through Igemi Ekoku and Natalie Gill the ball was returned to the forwards and Alex Stokes forced her way over the line to open the scoring.
Carlisle came back strongly and soon had the ball in Eccles’ territory. Some hard running from their forwards drew the defence in which created space for them to exploit out wide; a perfect judged kick by the fly half was finished off by their full back showing plenty of pace. Neither conversion could be added so the score was 5-5.
In a see-saw first half it was now Eccles turn to come forward. Now playing with better shape Kelly John made ground up the middle and Rebecca Owen showed some great leg drive to earn the hard yards. After keeping the ball through multiple phases Sara Davis hit the ball at pace and broke through a couple of tackles to find an open path to the line. She touched down behind the posts and Vickie Merrick added the extras to make it 12-5.
Carlisle came forward again and really pressured the defence. Luckily for Eccles when cracks did appear Igemi Ekoku’s last ditch defence was scary, smashing people into touch when they thought they were on their way to the line. Eccles took possession and looked dangerous, moving it through multiple pairs of hands. But just when they seemed to be making ground a pass was forced or the ball dropped and possession lost cheaply. The half finished with both teams unable to gain further points, 12-5 at the break.
In the second half both teams seemed to tire. Carlisle made the hard yards but struggled to pierce the defensive line, which was being well marshalled by Shelley Powe and Sophie Rogers. Eccles continued to not respect possession and found themselves constantly trapped in their own half. When Vickie Merrick was forced off the field with a bad arm injury they appeared to lose their attacking threat altogether and resorted to clinging on to their slender lead. The defensive line held until the 79th minute where Carlisle were able to bundle their way over out wide. Fortunately for Eccles the conversion flew across the front of the posts and the referee’s full time whistle sounded, 12-10 to the home side. Sophie Rogers was named as Forward of the Match for her hard work in defence and Kelly John named Back of the Match for her efforts in the midfield.
A win’s a win and it moves Eccles off the foot of the table but they will need to improve if they’re to get anything from their long trip to West Bridgford (Nottingham) next week. A big week of training lies ahead. They next return to Gorton Street for their National Cup game against Altrincham-Kersal on 10/11/13.