Aylesford Bulls ladies arrived at Cleve RFC just outside Bristol for the promotion play off in confident mood knowing victory would see them playing one league below the premiership next season in Championship South 1, even though the game would be played in a persistent driving rain the Bulls ladies didn't disappoint. To add extra spice to the fixture the Bulls also had two ex-Plymouth Albion players in their starting line up in the form of Hooker Vicky Sieben
and Centre Rebecca Rowe
The first 15 minutes or so were played in the middle of the park with the Bulls showing early nerves as they knocked on from the kick off and made a hand full of early errors, whilst giving some early possession to Albion any attacks they tried to mount were easily snuffed up by the organised Bulls defense. As they started to settle down and put their wet weather game plan into action the Bulls eased into the Albion 22 a series of pick and drives got the Bulls close to the opposition line, just as they were in the danger zone Albion managed to turn the ball over as they tried to play away from their line a solid tackle dislodged the ball and the Bulls were awarded a scrum 5 metres out. Albion were shunted back allowing No.8 Jade Binskin-Barnes
to pick up and power over for the first points of the day with 20 minutes on the clock. The Bulls forwards were now in command totally dominating the breakdown and giving Albion a torrid time at the scrum. With the difficult handling conditions the ball changed possession a number of times, on the 30 minute mark the Bulls were awarded a scrum just outside the Albion 22 following a set move the ball made its way to winger Sam Olliver
who off loaded to Centre Rowe who had looped round, Rowe proceeded to swat off three Albion defenders and power over the line to get one over on her former team mates. Following a huge catch and drive from a line out inside their own half the Bulls made their way down field. The ball was recycled a number of times with the pack making significant gains using the pick and drive, particularly through Binskin-Barnes and captain Claire Phillips
who Albion seemed to have no answer for. With 37 minutes gone the albion defense were all sucked in trying to cope with the Bulls rampaging forwards, scrum half Katie Dootson
picked from the base of the ruck just inside the Albion half and made a break, she managed to off load to supporting Binskin-Barnes who cut back inside and out paced the covering Albion back line for her second of the day. This gave the Bulls a 15-00 half time lead.
With the wind in their faces the Bulls expected a tough 2nd half. But the pack starved Albion of possession, when they did get the ball the Bulls defensive line pushed them back towards their own goal line. With 10 minutes of the half gone the ball was spread wide to winger Rafica Schneider
, she off loaded to Clair Richardson who broke through the gap in the defense to go over the line, however just as she was about to ground, the ball slipped free letting Albion off the hook. The following scrum was driven over the line forcing Albion to touch down in goal awarding the Bulls a five metre scrum. Again the Bulls drove Albion over the line, their pack disintegrated, as Binskin-Barnes was about to claim her hat trick Albion players who had broken from the pack interfered with the ball on the floor leaving the match official no option but to award the penalty try, flanker Liz Philp
slotted the easy kick to add the extras. Although no score was put on the board for a while the Bulls enjoyed the exchanges with Albion only making one visit to the Bulls 22 in the entire half. Fly half Ema Vereivalu
controlled the attack and defense superbly in atrocious conditions and replacement centre Ellie Saunders enjoyed some impressive line breaks. Veteran 2nd Michele Mayhew
also came into her own taking inside balls from Vereivalu and making intelligent off loads. With the half coming to an end and Albion struggling to hang on replacement winger Sally Parker
spotted the blind side overlap and crashed over from short range to give the Bulls a 27-00 win.
It is with heavy hearts that the ladies say goodbye to German international Rafica Schneider
. Rafica has made a lasting impression on the squad and has started every game this season scoring 8 tries from the wing, we are sure we will catch her on one field or another in the future. On a brighter note as the Bulls build for life in Championship South 1 they will be announcing some high profile additions to the squad in the near future.
Forward of the match went to Veteran 2nd row Michele Mayhew
who is the sole survivor from the teams formation thirteen years ago and has her best season to date. Back of the match went to scrum half Katie Dootson
who controlled the flow of the game astutely in awful conditions.
Team: French, Schneider, Rowe, Richardson, Olliver, Vereivalu, Dootson, Schorah, Sieben, Phillips, Mayhew, Smith, Pettitt, Philp, Binskin-Barnes.
Reserves: Vik, Faithful, Parker, Saunders, Benbow.