In a bruising encounter on heavy ground the Ladies were forced to work hard against a big Darlington team, but eventually came away comfortable winners in the quarter final of the National Intermediate Cup.
Eccles made perhaps their best start to a game of the season and were 21-0 up after 25 minutes. Great running and passing interchanges from the forwards, particularly Jenny Whittle and Siobhan Mullen, were wreaking havoc in the centre of the field. And as the defence squeezed in space opened out wide which was finished up in fine fashion by Selena Lockyer (2) and Igemi Ekoku. Simone Lynn, on debut, was in good early form with the boot, landing all three conversions.
But Darlington hadn’t made the long trip just to roll over, and came back keenly. Strong runs by their forwards were causing the Eccles’ defence problems, as were the number of penalties conceded. The extra size in the pack was also making the scrum a one-sided affair, resulting in little possession for the home side. Eccles managed to clear their lines but not much more as the half petered out without any further score, 21-0 at the break.
The second half started with more of the same, Darlington getting over the advantage line far too easily and Eccles not respecting possession. Seven minutes in a mistake on their own line presented the visitors with a 5m scrum. Showing the same superiority they’d had earlier they were able to march over the line and touch it down.
This acted as a wakeup call for Eccles, and while their play never quite re-hit the heights of the opening quarter, it was good enough to re-establish their lead as fitness began to tell. Katy Willis was working hard at the breakdown to disrupt the opposition which allowed Karen Radband and Katie Houghton to make some good runs. And when the ball moved wide Eccles always looked dangerous. In a repeat of the first half, Selena Lockyer ran in two more tries, taking her total to four, and Igemi Ekoku grabbed her second. There were no more conversions added so the final score was 36-5.
A scrappy game at times but that can, at least in part, be attributed to the conditions. And in the cup competition a win by one is as good as a win by a hundred, so Eccles will now look forward to the results of the semi-final draw in a couple of weeks’ time. Before then Eccles will need to sharpen up if they’re to get another win in their final league game of the season at Carlisle on 23/02.