A coach trip to London was the prelude to a double-header of games for the U15 Girls against Sutton & Epsom and Worthing, although the girls were perplexed by the lack of changing rooms, having to change in a single Portaloo.
Maybe it was this, or the sight of grass rather mud that discomforted Hove from the start as the girls were slow to get into the game. Despite some excellent tackling, the pressure eventually told and Sutton scored under the posts – which was duly converted.
The opposition came again strongly from the restart, only to be met by strong counter-rucking from Lara taking out two players and setting up a Hove attack. Two quick breaks from Lana had Sutton on the back foot for the first time but Hove lost the ball and a quick break was thwarted by Zoe. Having won the ball, a loose pass from behind the Hove try line was intercepted for another Sutton try, also converted. Sutton moved the ball quickly from the restart and scored again in the corner, just before half-time.
The second half began as the first half ended: Sutton were in the ascendancy, only another tackle from Zoe preventing a try. Sutton came back however and a kick to relieve pressure was charged down and Sutton scored again, converting once more.
Hove rallied after this and put together some decent moves, until a lapse of concentration let Sutton in for another try. Sutton had their tails up now and set up a wave of attacks. Lara ripped the ball from an opponent’s grasp when she looked likely to score and another try-saving tackle from Zoe and some excellent rucking from Vicky held them at bay.
Gradually, Hove worked their way back into the game and when Sutton went offside at a ruck on the 10 metre line. Saige took the penalty and set free Vicky down the left, she cut inside and carved her way through to score under the posts, kicking the conversion herself.
Hove started pressing again, feeling that they could get something from the game but, in the last play, Sutton broke down the left wing and scored, although missing the conversion.
The team again started slowly against Worthing and the opponents were nearly through in the first minute, only stopped by a tackle from Hannah. It wasn’t long before Worthing were on the attack again, scoring from a five-metre scrum when Hove failed to defend the blindside.
Hove mounted an attack of their own but when Worthing won possession, they quickly broke down the right wing and an excellent offload down the inside channel led to the best try of the game, the conversion, like the first one, was missed.
The inside offload was a neat trick and Worthing brought it into play again, only a tackle from Zoe preventing a certain score. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though: there were some great breaks by Rose and Saige that had Worthing scrambling to defend.
There was a bit of ebb and flow to the game now and Worthing fought back strongly, thwarted by an excellent chop-tackle from Fionna. Yet again, Hove broke through with Rose but when Worthing regained possession, the ball was passed to the left wing where they scored again.
Only some resolute defence was now keeping Worthing out. Unfortunately, Lana, who had only just come back from injury, damaged her leg again and had to be carried off. She’d played a real captain’s part, often in the thick of the action and a real loss to the team.
There were only a few minutes to go in the half and Worthing attacked again down the left flank, a good tackle from Alice halted the advance briefly but they eventually scored, before missing their fourth conversion of the half.
Worthing started strongly in the second half and twice nearly broke through, Vicky having to make some last-ditch tackles. The opposition quickly regrouped and scored from a five-metre scrum, this time converting it.
Worthing had another five-metre scrum a few minutes later, but Hove managed to win it, Saige fed the ball to Lara, who broke into Worthing’s half. She was well-supported by Yolanda and the attack was taken up by Vicky and Rose until it was thwarted just metres from the line.
Hove were really in it now and the rest of the game was played in Worthing’s half; Saige and Rose at the heart of the attacks. In the last minute, Rose broke again and was held up inches from the line. Hove deserved a try for their efforts but it was not to be.
Final score Worthing 27 Hove 0
Zoe put in a fantastic performance, with a heroic number of tackles and line breaks and was named Hove player of the match; but there were some excellent efforts from Lara, Vicky and Rose too. Saige was constantly looking for opportunities, Fionna was a real livewire and there was some good solid work from Leonor.
Two bright sports were the new girls: debutant Yolanda and Lauren, who had played only a few minutes previously. There were moments where their lack of experience showed but they both demonstrated some real promise.
It was a reminder just how new this team is: about a third of the girls have been playing for under six months, with about 80% having played fewer than 18 months. The fact that they could cause some moments of discomfort against two experienced teams gives hope for the future.