Reading U18 Girls fall at the final hurdle
By Ian Sutherland
Nearly but not quite
With Fern Edgar & Amber Robson at an England U18 selection weekend, Lucy Bayliss-Binks, Alice Deacon, Jasmine Hooper & Izzy Turner away with school or other commitments, and Margot Calutas out injured it was a depleted but still strong squad available to travel to the National Semi-Final South in Cheshunt on Sunday 7th. As the country is split into 6 areas for the girls game the Semi was a 3 way affair with teams playing each other in 17 min each way matches.
1.Clark Caitlin, 2.Tabb Kim, 3.Milsom Melissa, 4.Hicks Abi, 5.Sutherland Jess, 6.Eldridge Mia, 7.High-Milam Cerys, 8.Lawrence Alice (Vice Capt), 9.McNaney Olivia (Capt), 10.Pacho Karen, 11. Roberts Emily, 12. Bailey Abbie-Louise, 13. Whitehouse Millie, 14. Armstrong Ellie, 15. Wilson Hannah - Replacements: Dhaliwal Ashneet, Dodd Taylor, Palmer Charlotte, Wheeler Kayleigh, Whitton Holly
First up was Reading vs Winscombe, the Somerset team who had won Area 1 and the strongest scrummagers we had come across all year. This was a tough game but after scores from Ellie Armstrong & Cerys High-Milam we reached halftime 12:7 up and the opposition with a girl in the bin, the second half was soon a tied affair at 12:12 but then Alice Lawrence crashed over near the posts and Ellie Armstrong returned the restart straight back under their posts to give us a 26:12 lead which we kept until the end - all conversions by Millie Whitehouse who had a great day with the boot.
After a very short recuperation, the girls were straight back on against Pulborough the Area 3 winners from Sussex and national finalists for several years in a row. Within 2 mins we were down 7 and approaching halftime, and despite some heroic tackling by Hannah Wilson at Fullback we were 0:21 down. Pulborough then went down to 14 after a player was yellowed for not rolling away stopping us scoring and Cerys High-Milam got the resultant penalty over for a try (converted by Millie). Into the 2nd half we then went through a series of penalties, lineouts and scrums as Pulborough repeatedly fell foul of Sir to end up on their line and in a series of rucks that finished with Jess Sutherland grounding the ball against the base of the post. The conversion missed so the score was 12:21. Despite great pressure from the girls, it wasn’t to be and no more points were scored, making 12:21 the final score.
Pulborough then beat Winscombe 12:0 in the 3rd and final game.
In the words of Ben Wills their coach
“ It was always going to be a big challenge beating 2 area champions consecutively in 1 day and sadly we did not manage to come away with the result we wanted. That being said, all I asked from the girls was that they went out and played as well I know they can, and they exceeded my expectations. Every single player was excellent on the day and I was very proud of the performance they produced. Credit to Pulborough they scored 3 very good tries but I still believe our girls are the best TEAM in the country and were very unlucky not to make it to the final”
So no trip to the finals but an amazing cup run for a fairly young team and the fact they were still cheerful on the long coach journey back showed they knew they had played to their utmost. To get to this point they had beaten Trojans (49:0), Letchworth (HWO), Chesham (59:10), OA’s (12:7), Basingstoke (17:0), London Scottish (17:15) and Winscombe (26:12) before losing to Pulborough (21:12)