Durham County Women finish in second place in Championships after victory away to North Midlands Ladies
Durham County Ladies concluded their Gill Burns County Championship campaign in second place after a 21-15 victory away to North Midlands.
Durham Ladies recorded their highest ever league positioning after the well fought victory away at University of Birmingham.
The visiting Ladies opened the scoring up with a try from Claudia Macdonald after a line break from Tara Breslin fell short of the try line, seeing Macdonald speed through for the offload and under the posts for a converted try by Breslin to lead 7-0.
Durham’s attack seemed to ruffle the hosts feathers as they responded in the 22 with a fierce attack, and camped in the visitors half for the next ten minutes of the game.
But Durham’s determined defence left little room for them to optimise on, with great tackles from Lauren Rigby, Emily Hunter and Mackenzie Thomas.
After a couple of close calls, Durham finally moved play to the middle of the pitch to relieve the pressure, however the hosts used quick ball to exploit the overlap out wide and score in the corner, despite great covering tackles from Ursula Hardy and Macdonald to cut the deficit to 7-5.
Returning to the half way line, play resumed as the ball fell into Alex Webster’s hands and the Durham pack secured the ball to begin phase play in attack.
The visitors attack worked the hosts on to the back foot with great leadership from Macdonald and well executed quick pod work within the forwards allowing them to gain momentum going forward.
But, the hosts were not shy at creating a challenge for the North East Players as they were very reactive at the break down to steal the ball.
Durham minimised the attack opportunities the side created with line speed and pressure in defence from Amber Stonehouse, Nicole Irving and Steph Maddison.
The leaders second try of the day came from Macdonald once more as her quick thinking put her through gaps in the defence to score under the posts, converted by Kirsty Paterson to lead 14-5.
After the half time break, play began to slow as the heat caught up with both sides and the ball swopped and changed between sides.
The majority of the game remained in the centre of the field with Durham looking promising at times with breaks from Paterson, Thomas and Hardy.
Once again it was the visitors optimising the disjointed defence as they played quick in attack with Clarissa Murphy setting Paterson away into the 22, before offloading to Ellie Pigford who was halted five metres out, leaving supporting player Murphy to come in and score next to the posts, converted by Paterson.
In the last play of the game Durham set for a scrum just inside their own half, attempting to run it up field Jess Cheesman took the ball to floor and an attempt at kicking for touch bounced back off a player to fall back into the hosts possession.
Despite a tough defensive structure from Durham, the hosts concluded the game with a final unconverted try to trail 21-15 on the whistle.
David Addison commented: “Durham have proved themselves and shown that they have numerous talented rugby players, that have easily made up the strongest county squad we have ever had.
“The hard work and dedication to this Championships has given us everything a group of coaches need from a player.
“For me the key thing in rugby is how you pull together when the odds are down and you are under pressure and our discipline, especially yesterday, has been outstanding.”
Off the field Durham County awarded a further six county caps to players yesterday, including; Amber Stonehouse, Claudia Macdonald, Kirsty Paterson, Nicole Irving, Rachelle Cooley and Sarah Hall, with Tammy Theaker being awarded the Percy Trophy for her attitude and commitment towards the team.
Durham County finished second in the Gill Burns County Championship Pool One table with nine points, behind current Champions, Lancashire Ladies.
By Clarissa Murphy