Sitting at top of the league with 10 wins from 10 games so far this season, the OA Saints were looking to continue their dominance in 2015. The away fixture to Hampstead was a close affair and both teams were looking forward to a very competitive game of rugby.
The Saints started off with a try within the first 5 minutes from wing Claire McKenna. After a turnover at the scrum, number 8 Ange Wadham picked the ball up and fed fly half Nicky Cameron. Stepping around the cover defence, Cameron found space and offloaded to centre Sophie Tyler who broke through the middle only to be hauled down just short of the tryline. Using quick hands from the backs the ball was passed down to McKenna who stepped round her winger and outpaced the fullback to score. Conversion scored by captain and fullback Katie Robertson to make the score 7-0.
Saints kept the restart and through strong running from props Chloe Humphreys and Hannah Tan to give Saints some much needed momentum. Unfortunately, the ball was lost in the next few phases and the Hampstead fly half kicked to clear their lines. This was collected by Saints winger McKenna who got her second try of the match, showing outstanding spatial awareness and electric pace to run straight through the cover defence. Conversion scored by Robertson 14-0.
Hampstead hit back straight away with a try of their own through their own winger. A clearance kick from the Hampstead 10 meant the ball was picked up by their left winger and using good footwork and speed, she stepped through the Saints defence to score. Conversion missed 14-5.
OAs had their third score soon after with a wonderful solo effort from flanker Jodie Rettie. Using their dominance at the lineout, prop Abbie Maxwell and number 8 Wadham made some well earned yards in the opposition half. Scrum half Bethan Jones fed Rettie who hit a great line and stepped through 4 defenders to crash under the posts. Conversion scored by Robertson to make the score 21-5
Hampstead scored their second try of the afternoon soon after with their second try from their left winger. The ball was worked out wide to the left winger who wrong footed the OA Saints defence to score in the left hand corner. Conversion missed to make the score 21-10.
Saints next chance, had it been scored, would have certainly been a contender for try of the season. With the ball stolen by Saints forwards Holly Watson and Kat Josephides, scrum half Jones passed it out to Cameron who hit Tyler. Tyler stepped around the over eager cover defence to sprint down the touchline. With two Saints in support, Tyler cut back in towards the posts to find McKenna who was hauled down a mere metre short of the try line. Unfortunately, she was deemed to have not released the ball on the floor and the chance was lost.
Saints had the last score of the half through fly half Cameron. After the ball was stolen at the lineout, the ball was picked up at the base and passed out by scrum half Jones to Cameron who cut back inside to crash over under the posts. Conversion scored by Robertson to make the half time score 28-10.
Both teams came out determined to get a good start and it was Hampstead who started off the better of the two teams, scoring within a minute of the restart. The ball was secured from the kick off and passed out wide from the Hampstead fly half. Their full back cut back in to fix the Saints midfield and offloaded to the winger who outpaced the cover defence to score under the posts. Conversion missed 28-15.
This latest Hampstead score rallied the Saints who scored straight after through centre Tyler. Poor discipline from the visitors in midfield meant a penalty in the centre of the pitch. Cameron took a quick tap penalty and dummied to break through the line. She dummied the covering winger but was hauled down by the full back, just missing the chance to offload to the support runner Rettie. Instead, Rettie took the next phase of play and used good strength to break through the tackle and offload to Tyler, who stepped the full back and used good pace to finish off. Conversion scored by Robertson 35-15.
OAs made some changes in position, using all of their subs. The visitors hit back with 3 tries, each coming out wide from their back three unit. They showed excellent support play and footwork to finish off tries from just inside the Saints half to leave the score 35-30 with 15 minutes to play.
From the restart, Saints defence worked hard to increase the pressure on the visitors backline, causing several spilled balls in contact. With Hampstead failing to clear their lines through kicking, the Saints capitalised by using some pick and go runs round the fringes from the forwards. Charlotte Fredrickson and Steph Leddington in their first games for the Saints were an ever present threat around the ruck and in support play. After huge hits from new centre combination Tyler and Rettie meant the ball was stolen, new scrum half Maddie Gunnell passed out to Cameron who ran at the blind side and evaded two defenders to score under the posts. Conversion scored by Robertson 42-30.
The last try of the game came from Saints flanker Fredrickson who got on the end of a smooth backline move and showed good strength to land and place the ball clearly over the try line. Conversion missed by Robertson to leave the final score 47-30.
Forward of the Match – For outstanding work rate and commitment in contact, vice-captain Holly Watson.
Back of the Match – For good communication skills and overall good game control fly half Nicky Cameron.
The Saints move into their last 3 league games of the season, still pushing for promotion and with 11 wins from 11 games. Their next game is Sunday 18th January away to Beckenham – KO 2/2:30pm TBC. All support welcome!