U18 Girls win London & South East Trophy
By Steve Summers
When folks in future years recall the battle of Eton Manor, will they recall only the victors, or the manner in which they won?
When folks in future years recall the battle of Eton Manor, will they recall only the victors, or the manner in which they won? Once the echoes of victory have soaked into the 3G turf, and the video recordings have been forgotten about, what stories will they weave into the tapestry of Pulborough RFC?
When in 1066 Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson marched his army 185 miles north from London, in 4 days, to do battle with the Vikings at Stamford Bridge, did he ever imagine that the lasting memory of his victory would be questions such as ‘why did they take 4 days - was Richard driving, did they use google maps, where’s my sword, who forgot the shields, where’s Stamford Bridge and why did they name it after a football ground?’
Such are the lessons that history can teach us, and will no doubt go on teaching us.
And so it was that the Borough pack mounted their 49 seater chariot and (in the head of John Breach) headed off to the west country, via the M1, turning left at Slough, to arrive at Eton Manor in norf London.
Just in time to fall out of the bus and meet the well organised foe of Sutton & Epsom - at the Battle of Eton Manor.
Oh, how the bards will sing about the Battle of Eton Manor. Of course, it might seem like the bards were on the beer early if they recounted the true tale of the first hour of the battle.
Sutton and Epsom arrived early, looking shiny, warming up in a well-schooled fashion, faces grim.
Pulborough looked like a post-sleepover drop off point.
One can only assume that it was written in the runes, that the die was already cast, that fate had it’s way, because as the Pulborough warm-up began with notable absences, including two valuable backs, some boots, odd studs and a pair of shorts not being in the right place, it looked like we might need some black magic to pull it together.
Oh, but the Borough girls had plenty of black magic once the Battle of Eton Manor (thankfully) started.
To the fearsome war cry of ‘come on Amy’ from ‘that guy with the dog’, the Pulborough warriors set about unpicking the robust defence of the Sutton & Epsom.
On the attack early and it wasn’t long before Borough were fighting over the opposition 5 metre line. A rare penalty to the girls in black and Flo Robinson took on her traditional sniping role to catch S&E napping on the field, earning Pulborough an early unconverted lead.
The big brave lasses from both sides were having a rare old ding-dong down the centre, no quarter given. Amilia took the wind out of the oppo, both physically and emotionally, while the likes of Ellie H and Rosebud put the absolute frighteners on the opposition ball. Anything still moving was stopped in their tracks by the battering ram of Pip, who was resolute all day.
And the pressure from the forwards paid off. Courage and hard work in equal measure prevailed, releasing the ball to the backs who took it down the line to a smart finish by Emily Seehawong, (who by this time had arrived, removed her specs and greased her wheels).
Up 10 – 0 but plenty of fight left from both sides, and it was S&E who took the next set of 5 points, working down the right hand side before capitalising on a penalty and a momentarily lazy defence.
More forward work, with Ellie Mae showing fitness and determination aplenty, while Niamh ploughed on doing so brilliantly what she has been doing for seasons now. The Borough pack was winning the fight and the front row were winning the scrum.
All that pressure left the S&E scrum on the back foot on their own 22. ‘Come-on-Amy’ pressed the Sutton scrum-half once more, forcing a fumbled pass that was quickly snaffled by Flobbo, who fed the hungry backs until Emily finished another five points on the right wing.
Half time in the Battle of Eton Manor, and as the mead, otters nipples and weasles-giblets were passed around, it felt like the malaise of the warm-up was behind us. The wind would be on our backs for the second half, and an eager set of game-changers were ready and willing.
Off for another scrap, and the heavy lifting continued. Aliya was making the driving runs that sap the energy from S&E, while also making heavy hits in defence.
Captain Jade constantly pierced the shield wall, as ever making valuable yards and leading by example. But the S&E defence did not let the Borough girls through in a one-dimensional attack. Their defence was stout, well-organised and courageous.
So it took more invention for the next Borough try, with the backs showing more great handling, from Flobbo to Lauren and onto Lottie to finish in the right hand corner.
Another missed conversion; if only the wind would drop a few notches, and the posts could come nearer and wider.
Up 20 points to 5 and Borough were in their stride, but Sutton remained undefeated. Subs were off the bench now, adding new quality and energy to the affray. Issy performing some great (and penalty free) rucking. Holly making a blinding start with a run down the right hand side, and Jess hitting the breakdown with anger.
And so it was fitting that two subs nailed up two more tries on the board.
The first was the result of more forward work, slowing the game down in the opposition territory, working the phases on their 5 metre line, before Tups took a wonderful line at pace to drive over for a popular try.
Now almost constantly on the back foot, Sutton managed to put in a smart intercept try from inside their own half, crisply converted, to do justice to their efforts on the day.
But the Battle of Eton Manor was to end with some beautiful creativity, showing the promise of what is to come; Flobbo putting in a delicately weighted cross-field kick, like an arrow floating over the enemy lines to win the day. Lauren couldn’t quite make the connection (that would have been just too perfect – almost rude) but Chloe was on hand to reward the creativity shown, scooping up the loose ball for another try.
And so the game ended 30 – 12 in Pulborough’s favour. All of it deserved. All of it hard won. All of it good reward for a young side that is developing so rapidly.
After the battle it was ‘to the victor goes the spoils’. Some silverware collected, a few loose ends, plenty of pasta from a very hospitable Eton Manor gang, and then a bungled (an unintentional) effort to take Sutton’s shields home.
All in all a good advert for girl’s rugby, well played by both teams, in good spirits and to a high standard throughout.
The journey home on the great white chariot gave rise to tales of what might be - could the double be done? Could both Mandy and Liz use the onboard toilet without any spillage?
The next battle for Pulborough is on the fields of Cheshunt RFC against familiar (friendly) foe. Borough lost to Winscombe earlier in the season, but the Borough squad is now practiced, battle-hardened and up for the scrap with both them and Reading, fighting for a place in the national final.
One fixture away from the national final once more, and all we need is a bit of black magic.
Time will tell……… at the Battle of Cheshunt on 7th April, (hopefully with boots, studs, and shorts on this time. Seehawongs, you’ll be doing a Singasong on the bus this time).
Team (Tries): Aliya, Amilia, Amy, Chloe (1), Ellie, Ellie Mae, Emily (2), Flo (1) Hattie, Holly, Imo, Issy, Jade (c.), Jess, Lauren, Lieske, Lottie (1), Niamh, Pip, Rachel, Rosebud, Tups (1)