OA Saints made the long trip to Beckenham for their last away fixture of the league. The reverse fixture way back in November had seen the Saints record a 50-5 win but from previous years, the Saints knew the away fixtures had always been hotly contested.
The Saints got the better start of the two teams, using the hill to their advantage. Beckenham were put under pressure early on in the first half with good runs from hooker Jodie Rettie and number 8 Ange Wadham. The first score of the game came from a kick return just inside the visitors half. Saints full back and captain Katie Robertson caught the kick and accelerated into space, beating the first 2 defenders. She found centres Sophie Tyler and Robyn King who used quick hands to give the ball out to wing Louise Blunt who raced round the opposition winger and touched down. Conversion missed by Robertson to leave the score 0-5 to the visitors.
From the kick off the ball was turned over by the Beckenham flanker and quick turnover ball meant the Saints were caught off guard. With a couple of pick and go runs from the back of rucks, Beckenham worked their way into the Saints 22m, only for the ball to be knocked on after a huge tackle by Saints flanker Kate Barnes. From the resulting scrum, the ball was passed out to Saints fly half Nicky Cameron who hit a long spin pass out to centre Tyler. She gassed the opposite centre and fed fellow centre King who hit winger Alice Finn in space on the right wing. Finn used excellent pace and good spatial awareness to carry the ball and step back towards support. Finn passed to King who offloaded to Tyler who scored over the try line. Conversion missed by Robertson; score 0-10 to the Saints.
This seemed to rile Beckenham who upped the intensity and came back fighting. The ball was stolen, from a ruck and after some strong carrying from their forwards, the ball was fed out to their fly half who crashed over the line from 5m out. Converion scored; score 7-10.
The final score of the half came from Beckenham after a rather dubious decision by the referee. The Beckenham flanker hit a good inside line to break through the guard at the ruck but was tackled in the in goal area by Saints centre Tyler. The ball was spilled and judged to have gone forward but when touched down by a Beckenham player, the try was awarded much to the disbelief of the Saints. Conversion missed to leave the half time score 12-10.
After a rousing team talk from Saints captain Robertson, the Saints came out fighting and determined to show the form that had kept them top of the league all season. The Saints showed their worth when they scored two tries in 5 minutes at the start of the second half, firstly through hooker Jodie Rettie and then through wing Robyn King. The try from Rettie came after a great break through the middle from centre Tyler who, under pressure from the Beckenham defence, offloaded to Rettie who sprinted to score under the posts. Conversion scored by Robertson to make the score 12-17 to the Saints.
The try from King came in quick succession after the Saints worked their way up the field with strong running from flanker Emma Cramphorn along with props Chloe Humphreys and Hannah Tan. With effective rucking from forwards Julia Holmes and Holly Watson, fly half Cameron used her kicking skills to pin Beckenham back in their own 22m. From the lineout, Saints put Beckenham under good pressure and forced a knock on in midfield. Replacement scrum half Jones fed Cameron who hit Tyler with a 15m spin pass running a lovely outside arc to step through the Beckenham centres. Caught in the tackle, she offloaded to King who scored 5m in from touch. Conversion missed by Robertson; score 12-22.
By now, the Saints were starting to really turn the screw and spent the next 10 minutes inside the hosts half, with Cameron kicking for corners and centres Tyler and (replacement centre)Chloe Allcorn making good ground in midfield. The Saints defence was outstanding and encouraged by their continued presence in the visitors half, came up with some huge hits from hooker Rettie, flanker Barnes and number 8 Wadham. Forcing a turnover, the Saints were awarded the scrum about 10m out. The Saints scrum, which was outstanding all game, got a good drive on and replacement scrum half Bethan Jones fed Cameron who stepped the first defender only to be hauled down 5m short. Cameron popped to Tyler who fed replacement centre Allie Nelkon who crashed over the line. Conversion missed by Robertson to make the score 12-27.
Beckenham, who had looked so strong working uphill in the first half, could not gain much momentum for the rest of the game, with the Saints hitting good form and using their offloading game to good effect. The hosts used their half backs to kick for territory only to find the Saints back three working hard to run the ball back. Again, the ball was passed out to Cameron to clear their lines and get into the opposition half.
The final score of the game came from replacement centre now flanker Chloe Allcorn. After receiving the ball in their own half Cameron fed Tyler who broke through the midfield, she offloaded to Rettie who outran all but one defender and with the tackle imminent, offloaded to Allcorn who sprinted to score unopposed under the posts. Conversion scored by Robertson; final score 12-34 to the Saints.
Forward Of The Match – 2nd row Julia Holmes; for outstanding work in the loose, particularly the ruck and great effort levels.
Back Of The Match – Captain and Full back Katie Robertson; for great support lines, clear communication and excellent leadership.
This score leaves the Saints top of the league with 12 wins out of a possible 12 from the league and a 16 point gap. The Saints now cannot be caught by any other team in the league!!
We are now aiming to win our final two league games of the season –
- Hammersmith and Fulham (H) on the 1st of February
- New Ash Green (H) on the 8th of February.
With a home cup tie vs rivals Blackheath this Sunday (25th), a promotion play off to take place in March and also the annual Georgie’s Day Game vs The Army on Saturday 14th March it promises to be a very busy few months for the Saints!!