With a healthy crowd present, the Crusaders, led by player-coach and captain Elaine Limond and vice-captain Hannah Wilson chose to receive the kick off and make some early in-roads with their impressive attacking line up. The initial exchanges were scrappy by both sides, some early nerves creeping in, but with strong direct running from centre Jessica Ham and hooker Rebecca Hearn the tide began to turn and the confidence of the team grew.
This confidence increased further when the first score of the game came the Crusaders way. A Camp Hill scrum in the opposition’s 22 gave an opportunity for the backs to spread the ball wide to winger Amanda Vigus who spun off one tackle and showed great pace to score out wide. The Crusaders were unlucky not to score a second shortly after the restart, great hands from Limond and Vigus released full-back Fran Dargan who was unfortunate to hit touch just before the try line.
Camp Hill were now firmly settled in the opposition’s half and it seemed it was only a matter of time before the pressure told and again it was Amanda Vigus who provided the points. Fly-half Limond took advantage of a wide blind side to attack and should have scored herself but instead selflessly passed to Vigus to stroll in. Limond later complaining she had been blinded by the unseasonal sunshine and had no idea where on the pitch she was!
A quickly taken penalty from scrum-half Michelle Jennings followed by strong running from flanker Nena Killick laid the platform for the third try. Quick hands then released winger Claire Rylance down the right to race in from 40 metres and score under the posts, successfully converted by Limond. Both the forwards and backs were making great progress and linking well and there was just enough time for another score before the end of the first half. Quick reactions to loose ball saw a break down the right wing, the ball was shipped through the hands to centre Alice Mary Smith near halfway, two hand-offs later she ran in under the posts, again Limond slotting over the conversion for a 24-0 half-time lead.
The second half saw Rushden come out with resolve and dogged determination forcing the Crusaders into periods of defensive effort. The line remained strong thanks to big hits from Second-row Rachel Birtles and hooker Rebecca Hearn as well as fierce pressure at the scrum by flankers Hannah Wilson and Nena Killick.
The opening score of the second half came after strong running from Rebecca Hearn took the Crusaders deep into Rushden territory before she popped the ball out of the tackle for Number 8 Smurf to crash over the line. Just 5 minutes later Smurf added a second, this time after a quickly taken penalty released her into space down the blind- her power too much for the Rushden defence. Alice Mary Smith took over kicking duties to convert the score from under the posts.
The Crusaders ended the half as they did the previous with another try for centre Alice Mary Smith. Turnover ball from a Rushden penalty saw Rebecca Hearn once again make vital yards up field before offloading in the tackle to Smith at pace to round off the Crusaders scoring and the game.
It was a fantastic start to the Crusaders season, fierce tackling, strong running and great support by all.... well, all but one whose support let her down somewhat that is! Outside centre Jessica Ham was causing so much trouble with her direct running that one desperate tackle resulted in a breakage- no fear not, no broken bones but a broken bra! Unfortunately for Ham the physio’s tape was not sufficient (surely one of the most bizarre physio requests ever!) and she finished the game bra-less and fully deserving of the T*** of the game award.
Back of the game went to Alice Mary Smith- usually popping up on the flanks for the Chargers she adapted well to her first run out at centre scoring two barnstorming tries and turning her hand at goal-kicking too.
Forward of the game went to Rebecca Hearn- an adaptable player who has played both flanker and scrum-half for the Chargers she started the game at hooker and finished at prop! Fantastic running with ball in hand and great vision to utilise her support saw her have a hand in a number of Crusaders tries.