The second game of the Ladies Day double-header saw the Crusaders take on Mellish in their North Midlands Cluster League fixture. With Mellish having posted some similar scorelines to the Crusaders in their league fixtures this year it was set to be a closely fought battle. Reduced to 11-a-side with uncontested scrums in the un-seasonally warm March weather, it was also going to be a test of fitness.
It was the Crusaders who started the brightest, foundations laid down by the forward pack allowed the backs a chance to test out the opposition. Crisp handling saw winger Amanda Vigus in the clear and with pace to burn she scored two quick tries in the opening 10 minutes, one converted by Fran Dargan.
Mellish showed that they are not the kind of side who back down and they drove back strongly deep into the Crusaders 22. Their forwards working well to retain possession before their powerful number 6 drove over the line to score. Game on!
The rest of the half was much more closely fought, Crusaders scoring another three tries but never quite able to pull clear as Mellish scored two of their own. A quick tap penalty taken by Fly-half and Captain Elaine Limond allowed Rachel Birtles a chance to build up a full head of steam and catch the retreating defenders unaware. Not happy that the backs seemed to be taking all the glory so far she charged in from 40 meters out to score, carrying one of the opposition over the line with her. Great hands from Danni Coleman then released fellow centre Claire Rylance through a gap down the right touchline. Rylance then became provider for the final score of the half, another break down the right, this time winger Fran Dargan in support on the inside to cross for her first ever Camp Hill try.
Mellish came out flying after the half-time break, strong running from their forwards and some well timed offloads causing havoc to the Crusaders defence. Despite some fantastic covering tackles from Birtles, Dargan and Vigus, Mellish were able to score two tries early in the second half to bring them right back into the game.
Rather than panic though, the Crusaders set about getting back to the game plan that served them so well in the first half. Powerful running from Rachel Birtles and Yvonne, ably assisted by Katie and Alison, playing out of position in the forwards in her first game since last years Ladies Day, created a platform on which the backs, marshalled by Scrum-half Michelle Jennings and Fly-half Limond could work from. Vice-captain Hannah Wilson was stealing great ball from the line-out and slowly the tide began to change.
Capitalising on holes now appearing in the tiring defence, and the bounce of the ball, centre Claire Rylance scored a second half hat-trick to take her match tally to four. Fran Dargan showed pace and determination to get to the line for her second of the game whilst Amanda Vigus rounded things up scoring a hat-trick of her own- when she remembered to put the ball down that is! As the tries flowed Elaine Limond ensured the scoreboard ticked over further with some fine conversions scoring seven out of her eight attempts.
Tries:Vigus (3), Rylance (4), Dargan (2), Birtles (1). Conversions: Limond (8), Dargan (1)
Forward of the Match: Yvonne. Some powerful runs and a tireless effort to retain ball in such a high paced game.
Back of the Match: Dani Coleman. Playing her first game for 9 years, you wouldn’t have known, strong running and some beautifully timed passes to release her outside backs into space