We came. We saw. We conquered...
Ladies get Kilburn's first win of the year in climactic showdown with Hamstead.
Sunday rolled round bringing a certain amount of trepidation - alright it wasn’t quite -15° as the rumours had said, but still the day was certainly feeling a bit “fresh”. Kilburn were unfazed by the sight of Hamstead’s thousands of players warming up - we only had 12 (we were missing two clowns who’d gone skiing) but we were confident that we were all killer, no filler. We were delighted to see the return of Jenny Reeve and Denise Li, the former who’d been away in New Zealand and the latter who’d taken a brief sabbatical to establish her name as a tribute act for Korea’s pop sensation Psy. Or was recovering from surgery.
After a rousing Braveheart-inspired pre-match speech from captain Elaine Macdonald (who’d admirably painted herself blue for the extra intimidation factor), the game kicked off. We were starting uphill and Hamstead worked hard to get in the first try after repeatedly hammering hard for ages against some solid defence. In retaliation, next to score was Alice Thompson for Kilburn who sidestepped defenders like an absolute boss and stuck in some real pace to take it the full way, placing it in the right hand corner with the Hamstead defence on her tail.
Lucy Zaug who’d stepped in at scrum half became some sort of rugby super hybrid of 9 and flanker, taking care of the ball off the breakdowns and smashing attacking players left, right and centre as she worked hard to keep the defensive line strong. The Kilburn forwards ensured that Hamstead’s pick and drives failed to break the gain line and Denise Li coordinated the backs' drift defence, putting pressure on the opposition so they dropped the ball (lol).
At some point in the first half Hamstead scored again - bothered.
The ball went through the backs and after sidling round to the wing, this reporter took the offload from Elaine and ran what felt like four miles to pop it under the posts. Roused by hearing “RUN ELLIE RUN!” from Paul on the sidelines, like Forrest Gump I ran away from my enemy and Elaine was able to convert it with her feet of fury. Later in the pub this was referred to offhand as a “breakaway try” - whatever Hamstead…I call it “tearing shit up”.
We were drawing at half time (probably?) and Kilburn were keen to ensure that we brought home the club’s first win of the year. Sure, Hamstead had about 48 subs and fresh legs galore, but they hadn’t been to House of Pain and they weren’t ready.
The second half kicked off and Kilburn went in with all guns blazing. After a brief respite period of temporary unconsciousness, a dazed Alice finally resigned herself to the sidelines after playing like a true hero for longer than was medically wise. Kilburn were one player down but we wanted this win and we were prepared to work hard for it. A little shuffle round saw winger Indi Farrell join the forwards - madness or thirst for violence? Who can say.
Uncontested scrums meant that the forwards could use up all their energy in play, and were seen to pick and drive to great effect until Lucy gave the ball to the backs to unleash some speed. Nia played excellently at second row and you’d never know it was her first match given her confidence both with the ball in hand and in the tackle. Dee Ginty fearlessly ripped the ball in defence (what broken finger?), while Nikki Burgess secured the breakdowns, putting in some big one-one-one tackles at the sides of the rucks - ain’t going nowhere Hamstead, ain’t going nowhere.
The backs displayed some great handling and we were able to use a two on one created (hell yeah when we were a player down) to bring us once more into the lead...This time Bronwen set me up and I ran like, really fast to score again under the posts - outrageous scenes.
Bronwen Lewis deservedly scored after receiving the ball following a scrum on the 5 metre line and a savvy pass from Elaine, and would have got a second to her name were she not throttled by a high tackle devastatingly close to the try line after a fabulous run on the wing. A few further tackling faux pas from Hamstead rookies/sadists won us some handy penalties, taken in by Yorkie who was clearly delighted to be back on the pitch in Baltic conditions after sunning herself for a month - you’re fooling no one girl.
A tense period of defence on our own try line led to the ball being nobly held up multiple times, though Hamstead finally got the try. We were one converted try ahead…would we hold onto the advantage until the final whistle?? (Spoiler alert - we totally did.)
Michelle made some outstanding runs towards the close of the game that saw her smashing through defenders leaving them on the ground confused in her wake...Hamstead, sensing that she meant business, sent in about four player to take her on and she was eventually closed down in the opposition’s 22.
I thought the final score was 22-15 to Kilburn...apparently pitchero has awarded us an inexplicable extra try for valour. A thoroughly enjoyable match against a great team, we were all off our tits on concrete pills and didn’t even feel the cold - only the sense of victory warming our hearts. “You can take us to Hamstead and make us play rugby…but you cannae take our freedom” - Elaine Macdonald, 2013.