New-look Withycombe pile on the points
31 unanswered points see Green & Black ladies pull away in second stanza
Having played only one game in the preceding eight weeks, and a lacklustre defeat to Plymstock at that, you could be forgiven for thinking that the momentum had gone from Withycombe's season. Those ideas were put firmly to rest as a Bude side whose ability far outstrips their single year of experience were put to the sword at Bicton.
Withycombe flew out of the blocks, being awarded a couple of early penalties at the breakdown. Bridget Culver's quick tap caught the defence napping and one phase later Molly Tregedeon crashed over from short range to open the scoring. The second try followed not long afterwards; a string of phases had the Bude defence creaking and ultimately conceding a penalty, which Withycombe tapped. Four phases later Sian Williams went over by the posts to make it 10-0.
Bude replied almost immediately, with their set-piece nous giving them the platform for their first try. They exploited the blindside at the scrum twice, first to make significant inroads to Withycombe territory, then crashing over from short range. The game settled into what would become its familiar rhythm, with neither side achieving a comfortable edge, and lots of physicality in the tackle and breakdown, until an individual piece of brilliance down the right wing brought Bude back level, with Withycombe's cover beaten handily from 45 metres out.
It was only two minutes before Withycombe had their noses back in front. Strong runs from forward of the match India Chambers and Bridget Culver took them deep into enemy territory, before Charley Keirle darted over from all of six inches to restore Withycombe's lead. The score would remain 15-10 until the break with neither side truly gaining a foothold, but Withycombe showing lots of industry and looking very comfortable with the new combinations and lineout calls.
Half time saw the introduction of two new recruits - Kerry Sprague and Becky Tydd - to add to 17-year-old Katie Down, who moved to scrum half from her starting position on the wing. Beth Kendrick also entered the fray and announced her return from injury with the first of her brace of tries on 52 minutes. Another string of Withycombe phases took them from halfway to deep in the Bude 22, before Kendrick showed great strength in crashing over from short range despite the attentions of two Bude defenders. She would double her contribution minutes later as she got on the end of the best move of the day.
Rachel Sanders ("Sparkles" to her friends) was kept busy in the backfield with Bude's tactical kicking, and one of her customarily effective running returns was to provide the kickstart to this score. After a couple of phases sweeping across the field, Kendrick's drifting support line on Bridget Culver's outside shoulder worked her just enough space to dart over under the posts from 15 metres out. Sanders converted to stretch the Withycombe lead to 29-10 with 20 minutes remaining.
Injuries made the second half quite a stop-start affair, and again for long periods neither team was in the ascendancy until India Chambers broke the Bude defence wide open, offloading to Bridget Culver who couldn't quite finish off the 70 metre score. Instead the ball got moved to the other side of the pitch and after Sparkles had failed to run through three defenders, Charley Keirle ran between two to grab her brace. Sanders slotted the tricky conversion to make it 36-10, before kickstarting the game's final action a few minutes later.
Bude kicked to relieve pressure from their own half, only for Sanders to run it right back and then some, dancing down the right wing and being stopped just short of scoring a brilliant solo try. The Withycombe cavalry was not far behind though and one phase later Sian Williams became the third Withycombe player to claim her second try of the day, and cap off the ladies' best performance of the season to date. Huge thanks also go to Kelly Browring for fraternising with the enemy and allowing us to play 15-a-side!
The ladies travel to North Bristol RFC on the 18th for another friendly fixture before returning to league action on the 11th of March when table-topping Newton Abbot visit Raleigh Park.
Withycombe: Rachel Sanders (3C), Anna Proszowska, Kelly Smith, Katie Down, Sian Williams (2T), Bridget Culver, Char Guest Williams (MoM), Amy Horler, India Chambers (MoM), Carol Glover, Emma Chandler, Becky Langley, Charley Keirle (2T), Beckie Stephens, Molly Tregedeon (1T, capt). Reps: Beth Kendrick (2T), Rebecca Tydd, Kerry Sprague, Kelly Browring.