Mixed bag for U15 Girls in first ever National Cup games
Hove show promise in competition debut
It’s a measure of how far Hove U15 Girls have come, so quickly, that the club felt able to enter the National Cup for the first time. By far the most inexperienced of the four sides in the Sussex heat, we were hoping, above all, for the girls to enjoy their rugby and gain some experience for the future – they succeeded on both counts and gave at least two of their opponents a scare along the way.
Hove 10 Worthing 10
First up was Worthing, who beat us 37-0 just a couple of weeks ago. The Hove girls thrust all thoughts of that defeat out of their heads and a quick break from a scrum by Zoe nearly scored an early try. There were plenty of scrums in the first few minutes as both sides knocked on but one of them brought dividends when a quick feed from Lana found Zoe, who had plenty of space to run through for Hove’s first try, Vicky just missing a tricky conversion. Worthing tried to mount several attacks but some excellent Hove defence held them back, so we went in at half-time with a 5-0 lead.
Worthing came out with some renewed purpose and scored quickly when we failed to defend a ruck properly. Hove responded by taking the game to them and great bit of Hove possession released Lara to power her way through several tackles for the second try of the game. Worthing came back into strongly, and only an excellent last-ditch tackle from Zoe prevented a second try. It was to no avail however, and with the last play of the match, Worthing scored in the left-hand corner, to leave the game all-square.
Hove 0 Pulborough 27
The body language said it all: all the optimism that Hove had displayed against Worthing had vanished and, up against a strong Pulborough side, the team looked beaten before they’d started.
It didn’t help that Pulborough scored straight from kick-off – a familiar failing for this Hove team – and Pulborough added another shortly afterwards following some strong forward play. Hove were struggling to get into the game, as they were out-muscled by Pulborough at the rucks. Hove conceded two more tries before half-time, one again, straight from a restart and trailed 22-0 at half-time.
The second half saw Hove play with a more determination and managed a few breaks of their own, but without ever penetrating the Pulborough 22. However, the rucking was better and the Hove tackling was excellent. Pulborough didn’t look like adding to their score until the final minute, when Hove finally cracked: a penalty following a high tackle wasn’t defended, and their opponents almost walked the ball over the line.
Hove 0 Horsham 10
Hove regrouped strongly against Horsham and nearly had an early score when Zoe was pulled down just short of the line. Play was pretty even after that but Hove conceded when Horsham broke down the left and Hove missed a couple of tackles. Hove had plenty of ball after that but failed to make headway against some strong Horsham tackling. They went into the half-time break, 5-0 down.
The final session of the afternoon Horsham mount an early attack, thwarted by a tackle from Leonor, which resulted in the Horsham player leaving the field. After that early scare, Hove started seeing a bit more of the ball, failing to capitalise on a good burst from Rose. A few minutes later, Hove had an even better break, instigated by Hannah - who took a boot in the head for her trouble - but Hove failed to take advantage of their possession. Horsham scored again, following a quick counter attack down the right and, again, Hove failed to put the tackles in. That made it 10-0 to Horsham - which is how it finished.
Hove are on a learning curve: only a handful of players have more than a year’s experience of rugby and many of the others were experiencing only their first or second game. The mantra is to have fun, enjoy the game and learn lessons for the future. We had 19 girls playing today and every one of them ran her heart out, competed for every ball and they all supported each other.
It was a real team effort, but there were some excellent individual performances. Lana, gave a real captain’s performance and was a really buzzing scrum-half: Zoe and Lara both played fly-half and were constant threats – Zoe with her pace and Lara with her strength. There were plenty of sprints down the wing from Mia too, but they faltered through lack of support.
The pack was solid: Rose was a dynamic presence at set-pieces and in open play, Saige was a quick-tackling flanker and Cluny is fast becoming used to No 8. There were even little breaks from Holly and Lola, a sign that players are beginning to develop a little more confidence.
In defence, Vicky and, birthday girl, Leonor tackled everything that moved and ensured that all the opponents knew they’d been in a battle, while Alice continued the good impression that she made in her first match, by making her tackles count.
But the player that the girls selected as their player of the tournament was Katie, playing her second game ever, but quickly finding out what rugby was about – not least when she found herself forced to play scrum half at a ruck and coolly started an attack.
In truth, there were 19 heroic performances out there and the improvement from two weeks ago was incredible. One of the Horsham coaches told us after the match that they’d been expecting an easier encounter and that their girls certainly knew they’d been in a game.
The U15s don’t have another game for three weeks, when Pulborough are the visitors: let’s hope they get a tougher game than they’re expecting. More improvement like today’s efforts and they most certainly will.