On a very hot summers day the Swans entertained Birkenhead Park RFC. Despite not having any preseason friendly’s the girls were composed throughout the warm-up and eager to get the season started.
With Birkenhead kicking off, it was a great opportunity to build a few phases and settle into the game. Unfortunately we were a little slow off the mark and the ball was turned over. This was a wake up call for the Swans and we knew that the league new comers were going to offer us a great game. Having said that, both teams started fairly slowly, as can be expected in an opening league fixture with a few handling errors resulting in scrums, where Birkenhead gained a slight advantage at the set piece.
An unfortunate incident happened at the scrum when Chantal robbed the ball and resultantly ended up lying on floor injured! (Chantal we wish you a speedy recovery… Thankfully there were no broken bones!)
After the next couple of phases Birkenhead went under the posts to score the first points of the game. All because the Swans had committed too many numbers at the breakdown meaning the away side had numbers out wide. Similarly their second try occurred through similar fashion. One missed tackle through the middle, a superb tackle from Kelly who had a fantastic game, but all in vein as Birkenhead went into 10-0 lead.
The Swans showed some true character after that and set camp down in the Birkenhead 22 for the remaining 15 minutes. Showing positive signs that they were able to keep the ball and build phases but at this time weren’t quite clinical enough to score. So at half time the travellers went into a 10-0 lead.
The Swans started the second half exactly how they finished the first half. This time they were able to show some more creativity. After a couple of phases they manage to work the short time with Katie Clark showing some great pace, creating a 2 on 1 with their full back. Katie sold the defender a huge dummy pass and strolled under the posts.
The next score was going to be vital, with 35 minutes to go, the Swans definitely had the upper hand and plenty of possession, and they just lacked some creativity and were unable to penetrate the gain line.
Birkenhead defended well throughout, and had good discipline. They now started to claw there way back into the game. With one quick breakaway and clearing out 1st and 2nd phases they were able to get the next score. Shortly afterwards they were able to add to and gain there 4 try with the tide now changed.
In the heat, the girls were working very hard and our fitness was very good, however the away side travelled strongly bringing well over 20 girls, which as the game progressed, fresh legs took their toll. Things didn’t help either when Sophie Lepper was forced to come off despite not wanting to. She was given no choice! This meant another shuffle in the line-up, moving Katie Clark to 10, Holly to 12, and Emma to 13 who was having a cracking debut game having replaced Chantal earlier on. Bringing Kirsty into the back row, who had raced to get to the game from prior commitments.
In spite of the change in personnel we were unable to defend a scrum on our own line which they manage to drive over.
Again the situation was made even worse when the ref reduced us to 14 having seen an incident at a ruck involving Bec Bray. From the resulting penalty, Birkenhead kicked the ball into the Buckingham 22 and after several phases and opportunities they eventually drove another scrum over, even with Katie Clark dropping into the back row.
We eventually finished the game with only 13 on pitch as Birkenhead showed pace out wide and a desperate try saving tackle from Kirsty lead to another yellow. (High tackle).
Full Time Result 39-5
There were a few stand out performances. Kelly was superb at full back and didn’t miss a tackle. Steph was solid all around the park doing the hard yards and strong ball carrying. Emma Taylor was also terrific on debut. Emileigh also had a good debut not putting a step wrong.
Considering this was our first taste of rugby this season the result was not a true reflection on how the girls performed and slightly flattered Birkenhead Park. There are a lot of positives to take from the game, and also a couple of elements to think about before our next fixture in 2 weeks time at home to Waterloo Ladies.