Wymondham Wasps 22 - 5 Lichfield Ladies II
By John Stewart-Rayner
Wasps overcome tough opposition for well-deserved win
Playing conditions were absolutely appalling as Wymondham Wasps looked to bounce back from last week’s reverse against yet another tough opponent. Lichfield have been on a fantastic run of form and came into the match near the top of the table, while the Wasps were searching for their first win of the campaign. A convincing victory against Lichfield Greens is a huge achievement and all involved were delighted with the performance and result.
Wasps kicked off with the rain blowing horizontally into their faces and that rain did not let up at any point during the first half. Despite this, they managed to pin Lichfield in their own half for most of the first period. Wymondham’s aggressive and organised defence was to the fore, with all of the tackling drills from training being put into practice. This, combined with the elements, forced Lichfield into numerous handling errors, while the threat posed by the Wymondham back 3 seemed to make them reluctant to kick possession away. The Wasps forwards have become well acquainted with the scrum machine in recent weeks, and all of their hard work paid dividends on Sunday as they not only retained their own ball but also put Lichfield under severe pressure on their feed.
Just like last week, Wasps dominated territory and possession in the first 20 minutes; unlike last week, they were able to convert that dominance into points. The first try was not long in coming. From a strong Wasps scrum on the Lichfield 22, the backs recognised an overlap and quickly swung the ball out wide. Outside centre Sarah MacLennan stepped back in to fix the last defender before popping a short pass to left winger Harri Wells, who hit the ball at full pace and made for the line. Wells was high-tackled in the act of scoring out wide, causing the referee to give a penalty try despite the fact that she did ground the ball. That meant that no conversion was required and the Wasps were 7-0 up, but sadly for Harri that one goes in the book as a penalty try (unlucky Harri!). A great try scored through structured attack, recognition of opportunity, good communication and doing basics well.
Lichfield managed to gain some territory after the try as they looked to play tight through their forwards. Although their ball retention was exemplary, they were not allowed to make any ground by a much improved Wasps fringe defence. After multiple phases on the Wasps 10-metre line in which they made no ground, Lichfield opted to kick the ball deep, leaving Wasps with a line-out on their own 22. Throwing line-outs in that wind was a horrible job, and a strong gust caught this one and handed Lichfield an attacking scrum. Although they secured their ball, great defensive pressure from the Wasps backs forced a handling error, allowing Wymondham to exit well after winning their own scrum. This was Lichfield’s only real foray into the Wasps 22 during the first half. Wasps were playing smart rugby, exiting at the right times and running the ball in the right places and at the right times.
The second Wymondham score was an early contender for try of the season. Another strong scrum put Wasps on the front foot, and from the next breakdown rampaging tight-head Stephanie Samson carried about 4 defenders with her as she made a strong bust through the middle of the defence. Following an efficient clear-out by the arriving forwards, Flic Fraser popped the ball right to a flying Katie Allcock, who hit a great line to make serious inroads into the Lichfield 22. Another great clear-out allowed quick ball to go left through the backs. Alice Rayner and Nic Kaciubskyj recognised that the opportunity was out wide and got the ball quickly into Sarah’s hands. Sarah checked back inside, sending two defenders the wrong way, and although she was hauled down just short of the line by an excellent cover tackle she popped the ball off the ground to the onrushing Harri Wells. Wells hit the ball at full pace and scored out wide, and nobody will be taking that one off her. The conversion from wide out was missed, but Jonny Wilkinson himself would have struggled from the touchline into that wind: 12-0 Wasps.
Wasps could have scored again as they put sustained pressure on the Lichfield line, but the defence did well to hold them up and then turn the ball over during the next phase. Soon afterwards an attacking line-out drive from 5 metres out was stopped well by the valiant Lichfield defence. Despite that it was an excellent half from Wymondham. Given the conditions, going in at half time with the scores level would have been an achievement; going in 12-0 up was a phenomenal effort.
Wasps carried their intensity into the second half and were soon camped in the Lichfield 22, but they were not able to take full advantage of their dominance, with a couple of big opportunities not being converted. Lichfield then seemed to get a second wind, and for the next five minutes or so they looked the stronger team. Some strong carries through the middle got them all the way to the Wymondham 22 before the Wasps managed to force a handling error. Having weathered the storm, Wasps scored another try soon afterwards after another period spent encamped in the Lichfield 22. The Wasps forwards battered away at the line, and although Lichfield defended bravely, nobody is going to stop Laura Baker crashing over from 2 metres out. Alice nailed a difficult conversion to take the score to 19-0.
It all went a bit wrong from the restart. The ball was knocked on and then played in front, giving Lichfield a cheap penalty midway into the Wasps half. Some strong tight carries took the Greens all the way to the line as they took full advantage of the Wasps' backpedaling defence. The rest of the game was mostly spent in the Lichfield half, with Wasps creating plenty of opportunities but not converting them into points. A late penalty was knocked over by Alice for 3 points to deny Lichfield a losing bonus point: 22-5 at full time. A very good, if very wet, day at the office for the Wasps. The game was played in a positive spirit with no shenanigans from either side. Lichfield came on a long away trip with 15 players and fought bravely for everything in horrible conditions, a situation the Wasps are definitely able to empathise with. Despite that they proved very difficult opponents, and although the day belonged to the Wasps the efforts put in by both sides were admirable. The return fixture should be a great contest.
Tries: Penalty, H. Wells, L. Baker
Con: A. Rayner
Pen: A. Rayner
Forward of the Match: Stephanie Samson
Back of the Match: Harri Wells
Justin Beaver Award: Flic Fraser