COVID positive testing and key injuries to regular first teamers dominated the preparation for this afternoon’s match post the Christmas break, resulting in debuts for 5 players, including 3 Under-18s. Paige Heeley, Nicola Collyer, Tiana Woollaston, Freya O’Shea and Lilly Smith were all handed debuts in advance of Boston Ladies fixture against Kesteven Ladies on Sunday and all acquitted themselves fantastically during the game, justifying selection and the policy of age grade players training alongside the Senior Women’s side.
From the off, Boston Ladies dominated possession with powerful phase play, setting the platform for wave after wave of three-quarter attacks. Physicality at the breakdown and intelligent decision making from the half back pairing of Charlotte Daubney (sponsored by Dexter and Sharpe Accountants) and Sherrie Christian (sponsored by Vicky Morris) steered Boston to three tries in the first 20 minutes. Powerful forward running with slick interplay between forwards and backs resulted in Lucy Buckberry (sponsored by Beesons of Boston) powering over after five minutes for her first ever try, followed by two quick tries from the powerful running Lycia Elston (sponsored by Clarke Construction), with debutants Paige Heeley and Nic Collyer both halted inches out by determined Kesteven defensive tackling.
Cat Neville, Mollie Smith (sponsored by NJS Safety) ran themselves ragged in supporting roles from the back row, they seemed to be all over the park and at every shoulder. Syd Elston (sponsored by Exhilian Studios) crafted an effective performance in her first ever outing at No8, a position Boston have wanted her in since the beginning of the season.
The front row combination of Lucy Buckberry, Tash Champion and Max Heeley (sponsored by Mr James Maths Tuition) were rampant all afternoon, supported by second row of Arlene Moxon (sponsored by JPMT) and Kyra Balderstone (sponsored by Little Stage) with huge tackles and turnovers at key times throughout the match.
Lycia Elston (Kesteven’s Player of the Match) and Charlie Ingram- Janetta (sponsored by P &N Pest Control Services) combined well in the centre. Lycia’s powerful running and sheer power combined with Charlie’s willingness to work hard to draw defenders and provide the perfect pass to her centre partner in attack and powerful tackling in defence combined to carve in roads in the defence during the first half.
Kesteven defended with determination, with excellent low tackling technique throughout the period but just could not get their hands on the ball. That suddenly changed 20 minutes in, when Boston spilled the ball in the tackle and the Kesteven forwards pounced, succeeding in stabilising the resultant turnover. Determined to redress the balance of the game, the Kesteven forwards battered at the Boston line, making yard after yard of territory with aggressive, arrow straight runs, until after 25 minutes the continuous pressure paid off with the inevitable score. A determined run and deft offload saw Kesteven craft their first try, a thoroughly deserved return for their increased momentum.
From the restart a reinvigorated Kesteven pack again dominated Boston, who seemed for a short period in the second quarter to panic in defence. The entire Boston team were forced to tackle like demons to keep Kesteven at bay; and the game ebbed and flowed, until on 30 minutes when a superb line break by Kesteven’s inside centre (Boston’s player of the match) and a sublime offload created the visitor’s second try. The half ending 17-12.
Enter the replacements, Tiana Woollaston (Boston’s Back of the Match) at full back, Freya O’Shea at outside centre, Lilly Smith on the wing in the second half, with Kaitlyn Buchanan and Claire Wright coming in at the flank and second row. From the off Boston settled themselves back into the game, and what a game it became with both sides standing toe to toe at times, with exciting line breaks and powerful forward play from both teams. Boston’s scrum was imperious, having the ascendancy throughout the afternoon, and if adult ladies were allowed play adult rugby, instead of under-19 rules, would have been a powerful platform. Line outs were well contested, without a clear victor emerging with both teams able to secure their own ball. In the loose throughout the second half, forward combinations of Kyra Balderstone, Claire Wright (sponsored by Brothertoft Build Ltd), Kaitlyn Buchanan, Arlene Moxon and Mollie Smith were rampant at the breakdown with Balderstone (Forward of the Match) in particular, making successive turnovers, allowing Boston to counterattack quickly, unsettling the Kesteven game plan. One such turnover saw the forwards hit the line at speed and go through 3 quick phases before Daubney shipped the ball out to Christian and the backs. O’Shea received the ball at full tilt, offloading to the replacement full back Woollaston from a tackle. The full back had plenty still to do, but simply pinned back her ears and her speed and agility in the outside channel saw her dot down under the posts for a fine try on her debut. The resultant smile said it all.
This score seemed to allow Boston to relax and start playing the style of rugby they have been wanting to play. Final replacements Emma Fletcher (sponsored by Laws Transport) for Max Heeley and Jody Stobart for Charlotte Daubney entered the fray. Forward power, deft running lines and short offloads combined with speed and flair out wide all contributed to fine passages of play. Sarah Simpson who had started at full back in the first half capped an exceptional performance with a try from just inside the Kesteven half after O’Shea, again, had stepped inside her opposite number and produced another beautifully weighted pass short to Woollaston, who in turn quickly offloaded to Simpson at full speed, carrying her away from the flailing defenders. Woollaston, who impressed in her transition to Senior rugby, chased down a long kick, arriving at the defending full back at the same time as the ball, making a crunching tackle, the resultant turnover almost carried over the line but for excellent defending out wide from Kesteven’s left winger.
This was not to say that Kesteven sat back and absorbed waves of pressure, they certainly did not. Kesteven created a host of chances of their own, their combative forward pack gave no quarter, establishing sustained ‘go forward’ in attack whilst ensuring Boston paid for every metre of possession in defence. The young, but hugely talented, inside centre, pressed all afternoon, making line break after line break, only to be thwarted by dogged defence from the Boston back three, Lilly Smith in particular impressing in defence, supported by the back row.
The final score was the most celebrated, as it resulted from the dominant pack carving their own brand of play from deep in their own half. Every member of the forward pack contributed to the phases leading up to the final try, a succession of powerful forward carries, both pick and go and from fringe pod play, resulted in a penalty award on the halfway line. Sherrie Christian drilled the ball into touch approximately 10 metres from the line. From the resultant line out Boston quickly mauled the ball to within 3 metres. After referee John Nel, who performed superbly all afternoon, allowing the game to flow, adjudged the maul to have been collapsed intentionally, the resultant penalty saw Tash Champion power forward to be halted a scant metre from the line, however quick recycling meant replacement scrum half Jody Stobart could release Kyra Balderstone wide to power over for her thoroughly deserved fist ever score for Boston.
Boston Ladies coach Shaun Turl commented of the game, ‘Kesteven tested us today, to their credit they overcame our dominant start, knuckled down and produced a powerful twenty minutes of their own which shook our girls to their core.
The second half was an excellent advertisement for the Women’s game at our level, without doubt both sides have improved since October when we last met; Kesteven Ladies played with great intent, determination, skill, and were a credit to Kesteven RFC, the score in the end flattered us and was not reflective of the whole game.
From our coaching team’s point of view, it was all about the performance today, we asked our girls to hit the ground running from the whistle, and did they deliver? The first 20 minutes was a totally awesome display, in possession, retention, creativity and sheer physicality the Ladies stole the show. Forwards and backs combined seamlessly; aggressive counter-rucking led to opportunities out wide which were executed clinically. It was to Kesteven’s absolute credit that they managed to regroup and stem that tide and eventually reverse the momentum, gaining the upper hand later in the half.
We had five debutants on show today, Syd and Sherrie (Elston and Christian) starting in different positions and, to a player, they really fronted up with excellent performances, each one of them contributing to the overall result. When you lose talismanic figures such as Club Captain, Hannah Booth (sponsored by Adrian Hart) and Saracens Women loanee, Sophie Lorenz, to injury; it can sometimes affect the resulting performances. I am so pleased this was not the case, the debutees absolutely won the game for us today with their collective performances. I cannot emphasise that point enough, some of the girls on show today have only been playing rugby since October and November, but each one is committed, has worked so hard in training, thoroughly deserved their selection and each one played a key part in that team performance. The inclusion of three of our current Under 18s was also key, all girls played superbly and integrated seamlessly into the squad; a direct consequence of having trained (albeit under managed conditions) during this season with the Senior Women.
We (Boston’s Coaching Team) are so proud of the development of this squad; Rugby doesn’t cater for prima donnas, there are no egos; everyone in this squad pulls together to support each other and the coaching team. They are genuine people enjoying the fantastic sport they love, representing their club with pride, trying to help and encourage each other into being the best versions of themselves both on and off the pitch. The friendships forged in grass roots rugby last lifetimes.’
Watching from the side-lines, injured Club Captain, Hannah Booth had this to say, ‘Although it’s always hard when you can’t play, I have so enjoyed watching the Ladies today, they are a fantastic bunch. They have developed so well this season, especially some of the girls who are totally new to rugby. To see our Under-18s come in and do such a fantastic job in the second half makes me so proud of this squad. I love being a part of this group of amazing women, it is totally inspiring.’
If there are any girls or women out there in the Boston area, who wants to try something new, get down to BOSTON RUGBY CLUB on Tuesday and Thursday 1900-2030, by the Vaccination Centre at the PRSA, Great Fen Rd, Boston; you will make friends that will last you a lifetime.
To those further afield, Lincolnshire has a great array of Women’s teams, Lincoln, Gainsborough, Market Deeping, Stamford, Sleaford, Kesteven (Grantham), Grimsby and Scunthorpe all have Women’s Sections, get down and check them out.’
Written by Shaun Turl, BRFC Ladies Coach