Well; we're on our way to Hove for the final in four weeks time and all because the girls put in the best team performance of the season, so far. That was the difference between Welwyn and the C-siders; we played as a team and they couldn't deal with it. Be under no illusion; Welwyn are a strong side, with some big and strong players and it took a disciplined team performance to overcome them.
Many of the girls, coaches and parents met at the Cobham clubhouse on a dry, but chilly, morning to travel up the A1 in a coach arranged by the club and it was to be the start of a wonderful day on the road. Renditions of 'Bob the Builder' and the Teletubbies theme tune were sung (how long this innocence will last is anyone's guess!) and the girls were already having fun.
An early arrival at Welwyn RUFC meant that there was plenty of time for a training and warm-up session and a last run through of some drills to make sure that the girls were match-ready. With the poor weather and pitch conditions of the last few weeks preventing much training being done; it was going to be interesting to see if the girls had lost any of their edge.
The Welwyn girls were in a huddle on the pitch, screaming like banshees, clearly getting psyched up for the game but were made to wait a while before we jogged out of the changing room to join them. We formed our own huddle and matched the Welwyn girls in spirit and in volume It was then time for a Welwyn kick-off and to see if we could rise to what was going to be a tough challenge.
Cold hands and, perhaps, a few nerves and lack of ball handling time led to a knock-on and a scrum. The front eight packed down well and were more than a match for the Welwyn girls. With the Welwyn scrum being put under pressure and our back row and backs putting them under yet more pressure, we rucked over and with some swift passing along the line saw the ball shipped out to Eleanor, who made some great ground on the left wing. With great off-loading and support play, Becky ran a great line to score under the posts. A few minutes later and, again, with some lovely passing, Bella ran in a second try. The early scores seemed to settle our girls and Welwyn appeared a little shocked to be two scores down so early on in the game. We further asserted our authority by pushing them off Welwyn's next scrum with Ella running in the third try.
The fourth and final score of the first half came about as a result of superb handling, passing, support for the ball-carrier and the inter-play between Hannah and Becky and ended with Hannah getting the touch-down. It was half time, 20-0 to us and a growing sense that we were heading for the final. Welwyn, however, were by no means a spent force and we all knew that they'd be coming out strong in the second half. This is what happened and, despite some stout defence, we conceded a penalty and Welwyn, from short range, got their name on the scoreboard for the first time. 20-5.
Our girls responded well and Jay made a powerful run and drove through Welwyn's defence to restore the 20 point lead.
There was evidence that Welwyn were getting more and more frustrated and a couple of the Welwyn girls went beyond the rules of the game and elements of foul play began to creep in. Megan was treated to a new hairstyle, courtesy of Welwyn's No.12, who received a yellow car for her troubles. Unfortunately, it wasn't the only incident of foul play and a few slaps and other skullduggery were dished out by an increasingly frustrated Welwyn side. Let's give credit to our girls who refused to get dragged into a dirty game and responded by tackling hard, running well and keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
Responding well to what was thrown at us, we kept our heads and Becky sold a lovely dummy to go under the posts to take the score to 30 - 5. With the ground conditions very tough for Bella, she persevered and slotted over a lovely conversion to add two more points. Bella's kicking accuracy notably improved throughout the match and it'll only be a matter of time before she's slotting over more and more.
Welwyn were far from done and, like any good team, refused to lie down and ran in two tries to close the gap to 17 points, with a little under 10 minutes to play. This is where cool heads were required to ensure that all of the hard work of the previous 50 minutes was not undone. We showed maturity, did the basics well and were rewarded with another try from Ella who crashed her way through a very tired Welwyn defensive line to take the final score to 37 - 15.
The short-lived period of indiscipline didn't mar a great game of rugby and we should be proud of our girls' efforts and the way in which they stuck to their task, played hard and fair and soaked up everything that Welwyn could throw at them. What empitomised the tenacity with which we played was the tackle on Welwyn's left wing towards the end of the game. Sophie threw herself at the girl, who was running at full tilt, wouldn't let go and was then supported by Madelaine, two of the smallest girls on the pitch, and others to drive her into touch and snuff out another attack. Our replacements all waited patiently, were rewarded with some game time and contributed to what was a great team effort.
With strong performances across the whole pitch and in every position; it is understandable why the girls come away with victories of this nature. With a solid and powerful scrum, some accurate, quick and intelligent distribution and running by the half-backs and great interplay between the backs; we are a team that will always give ourselves the chance of winning games.
We all retired to the bar where our hosts fed us well, which brought to an end a very satisfying, rewarding and enjoyable day. With four weeks to go before the final; the coaches will have sufficient time to work on any areas of weakness and prepare the girls for their biggest game of the season to date. I'm sure that we all recall Vicky's aspirations at the beginning of the season; to get into the semi-finals of the area cup. With the strong team spirit, hard work that's being put in by players, coaches and parents alike who says that the girls can't go all the way!