After a week off due to Romford Ravens being unable to field a team for the last league fixture, the OA Saints travelled down to Ashford. The first time the two sides had met earlier on in the season had resulted in a 50-0 win for the Saints, but both teams felt this had not been a true reflection of Ashford’s efforts on the day.
The Saints had the better start, using the kick off to make their way upfield through strong running from centre Jodie Rettie and prop Abbie Maxwell, both breaking through the midfield. The forwards carried well to secure excellent territory and quick ball for scrum half Maddie Gunnell to feed fly half Nicky Cameron. Cameron hit Rettie on a miss pass who fed winger Claire McKenna to outpace the winger and step the full back to slide over the line. Conversion missed by full back and Captain Katie Robertson to leave the score 0-5 to the visitors.
Ashford hit back almost immediately after poor discipline from the Saints meant the home team found themselves just outside the opposition 22m. From there, another penalty was conceded after the defence stepped offside and the Ashford fly half kicked a penalty to take the score 3-5.
Ashford failed to stop Saints second row from the restart, missing the first tackle and allowing second row Kat Josephides to break through the middle. The ball was recycled and passed out to centre Louise Blunt who was hauled down just in touch. The resulting lineout was stolen by Saints prop Maxwell who gave the ball to number 8 Ange Wadham to run through unopposed and score under the posts. Conversion missed by Robertson to make the score 3-10 to the visitors.
Saints winger McKenna got on the score sheet again soon after with an outstanding bit of pace and footwork. From the kick off, the ball was stolen by Saints flanker Kate Barnes and passed down the line to McKenna. With a lot of work to do, she outpaced the winger on the outside and stepped the full back and the centre to cross over the line. Conversion missed by Robertson to leave the score 3-15 to the Saints.
Ashford got their first score of the game soon after when, against the run of play, they used quick hands to release their right winger. From just inside the Saints half, she stepped inside the cover defence and sprinted through to score under the posts. Conversion scored to make the score 10-15.
The last score of the half came through Saints number 8 Wadham. After some poor discipline from Ashford meant the referee walked them back an extra 10m, Saints fly half Cameron took a quick tap penalty to move the ball quickly. Fending off the first two tackles, she was hauled down and scrum half Gunnell released Wadham to take 3 defenders with her and score in the corner. Conversion missed by Robertson to leave the half time score 10-20.
With the wind now in their favour, the Saints used this to good effect with fly half Cameron and centre Rettie using their kicking skills to pin Ashford in their own half.
The first score of the second half came from Ashford with a second for their right winger. Spotting an overlap in the Saints defence, the ball was moved down the line to give the right winger plenty of time to step the first defender and find space in behind the Saints defence to score. Score 15-20.
With both sides struggling to deal with the increasingly difficult conditions, the next 10 minutes resulted in unforced errors and a very stop start period.
The Saints got their final score of the game through fly half Cameron with a fine solo effort. The Saints set piece, as had been the case all game, continued their domination by stealing a scrum 30m out from the opposition line. Scrum half Gunnell fed Cameron who attacked the blind side, side stepping the fly half to cut in towards the posts. Using a dummy to fix the covering tackler she outpaced the winger to score over the line. Conversion scored by Robertson to make the score 15-27.
The last score of the game came through Ashford with their winger getting her hat trick after a nice chip and gather to fall over the line. Conversion missed to leave the final score of the game 20-27.
The win leaves Saints top of the league at Christmas with ten wins from ten games.
Back of the Match – For dealing with difficult conditions and good control of the forwards – Scrum half Maddie Gunnell.
Forward of the Match – For a great Saints debut at hooker, Ciara Scott on loan from Cambridge University RFC.
The Saints have their first Friendly after Christmas away to Old Leamingtonians on Sunday 4th January. The next league game will be at home to Hampstead on Sunday 11th January. All support welcome.