Durham County Women lose out to Lancashire Champions in the opening fixture
Durham County Women lose out to current Champions, Lancashire 27-5 in the first round of the Gill Burns Championship fixtures.
Durham Ladies welcomed 2016/2017 Champions, Lancashire to Hartlepool RFC on Sunday for their first clash of the campaign.
Lancashire made the first mark on board with an early unconverted try after pod work saw them go round the corner for a forwards try.
The hosts demonstrated their desire to compete for the win as the forwards played quick ball before seeing Emily Hunter cross over the line to draw 5-5.
Despite strong and clinical attack from Lancashire, Durham persisted to shut down the Lancashire side with strong tackles from Rachelle Cooley, Tammy Theaker and Tara Breslin as the ball moved wide.
Pictured: Rachelle Colley and Tammay Theaker
Lancashire were well equipped in their experienced side, and used their speed to move into the Durham’s 22. Despite a structured Durham defence, the visitors power in the forwards proved the more dominant after several phases saw them under the posts to lead 12-5.
Before the half time break, the two sides battled it out in the middle of the field as possession frequently changed hands. Durham’s prop Lauren Rigby continued to turn over the Lancashire possession and secure the break downs to allow for pod work. But, it was once again the champions capitalising on their chances scoring two unconverted tries before the break while Durham winger, Ursula Hardy remained in the sin bin.
Heading into the second half, Durham exerted pressure from the kick off to force the rested side into mistakes, setting the hosts up for a scrum in their half.
Durham set up camp in the visitors half and remained their for the first quarter of the second half. Despite losing the second scrum half of the match, Lucy Hewitt, Durham remained focussed as Olivia Rowe stepped up to the position exerting pressure off set piece.
The hosts attack caused some trouble to the visitors with powerful line breaks from Ellie Pigford, Hunter and Breslin, but the lack of support play at the break down allowed the clinical champions to quickly turn the ball over.
Despite losing two players to the sin bin in the second half, Lancashire held their shape and covered their missing player, slimming the opportunities in Durham’s attack.
The second half remained a battle of the best as both teams proved their resilience, throughout.
In the last play of the game, it was the visitors on the scoring end as they fought their way around the corner with phase play to end the game 27-5.
Christopher Jones, Durham County Women’s Coach said: “Durham provided the current county champions with a game of rugby that had everything.
“We showed physicality up front and pace out wide and strong in defence, which forced them to work hard for the points they scored.
“The ladies should be proud of their efforts, training has clearly been paying off and it is exciting for the rest of the competition to see how they progress.
“We were not clinical enough in the final third and our decision making when close to the try line cost us, that and some impressive, well drilled defence from Lancashire.
“If we can improve on this aspect of our game in training this week I am confident the next game we will be even more competitive.”
Off the field, the day was another historical one for Women’s Rugby in the County as a further nine players collected their County pin badges for their first Women’s XV appearance including players; Tammy Theaker, Lauren Rigby, Olivia Rowe, Julie Noble, Ellie Pigford, Treen Hardy, Michaela Theaker, Olivia Davison and Lucy Hewitt.
As well as County pin badges, there was also a County Cap handed out to Emily Hunter for representing Durham County in five Championship fixtures.
Durham’s next fixture sees them travel away to Peterborough RFC to take on East Midlands RFU on Sunday May, 6.
By Clarissa Murphy