Eastern Counties Women suffered the first defeat this season in a tough encounter away to table-topping Leicestershire, despite playing arguably their best rugby this campaign.
From the off Leicestershire showed how they were going to play the game, using their big number 3 to punch holes in the ‘Counties defence.
While Eastern Counties’ defence was good, the visitors were penalised at the breakdown as they struggled to acclimatise to the referee’s interpretation of the laws.
This led to two penalties in front of the posts which the home team duly converted, taking an early 6-0 lead.
Unbowed, Counties scored the first try of the game which came from some direct running in the centres from Bury Foxes’ Maria Carpenter, followed by quick ball to Harwich Owls’ fly-half Annalise Allan.
Allan moved the ball wide, allowing Bury Foxes’ Steph Hanratty the space to sprint to the line and score, despite the attentions of two defenders.
‘Counties then took the lead with some powerful driving play from the forwards, with Wymondham Wasps’ Libby Lockwood to the fore.
However, it was Bury Foxes’ Natalie Palmer who powered her way to the line from five metres out, driving through two tacklers, to stretch and momentarily touch the try line with the ball, which was well spotted by the officials, to score.
The visitors then fought back again using their powerful forwards, this time from a scrum, 15 metres from the Counties try line. The home side’s number 8 picked up and drove to the line to restore their early lead, taking the score to 13-10.
Counties third and final try came as Leicestershire looked to take the ball through the midfield.
However, forward-of-the-match, Harwich Owls’ Mimi Montgomery, was having none of this and turned the ball over, allowing “pocket dynamo” Palmer to spot a gap and race to the line from half way to score an individual try.
Along with her heroic defending, this earned her the double honour of being named best player, selected by the opposition team, and ‘Counties back-of-the-match.
The try took the score to 13-15 with Counties again taking the lead as the half time whilst was blown.
The second half was however an entirely different story with the home team in the ascendance, Counties’ defence was brave and strong with captain Stacey Harwood leading the way with some massive hits.
Despite a monumental effort by the whole squad though, ‘Counties were unable to keep the home team from scoring as their attack was relentless with two unconverted tries, taking them eight points clear at 23-15 – a score that remained unchanged until the final whistle.
Eastern Counties Women play their final pool game of the Gill Burns Cup next week entertaining Cheshire Women at home, the game being played at West Norfolk RFC kick 2pm kick off.
15 Georgie Lingham (West Norfolk Ladies), (Bury St Edmunds Foxes) Steph Hanratty 14, (Bury St Edmunds Foxes) Maria Carpenter 13, (Wodbridge Amazons) Claire Brickley Vice Capt 12, (Lakenham Ladies) Sonia Knowles 11, (Harwich Owls) Annalise Allan 10, (Bury St Edmunds Foxes) Georgie Palmer 9, 8 Sophia John (Bury St Edmunds Foxes) , 7 Lizzy Lockwood (Wymondham Wasps) , 6 Stacey Hargrave Capt (Royal Navy), 5 Mimi Montgomery (Harwich Owls), 4 Natalie Palmer (Bury St Edmunds Foxes), 3 Naomi Dobner (Harwich Owls), 2 Kaylee Williams (Bury St Edmunds Foxes), 1 Sami Rackman (Bury St Edmunds Foxes)
16 Nikki Ramsdell (Bury Foxes), 17 Tekura Maeva (Lakenham Ladies), 18 Jasmin Clark (Bury Foxes), 19 Mary Hegarty (West Norfolk), 20 Holly Crook (Wymondham), 21 Stevie Farrow (Harwich Owls), 22 Florence Ann Wilkinson (Ipswich)
SCORERS: Steph Hanratty 1T, Natalie Palmer 1T, Georgie Palmer 1T
Forward of the match: Mimi Montgomery Back of the match: Goergie Palmer