Sports Editor Laurence Key on GKTWRFC’s first match of the season versus their arch-rivals UCL Ladies
Last week, GKTWRFC played their first match of the season vs UCL. Spirits were very high amongst the girls at the beginning of the game having won comfortably against the same opposition last year.
The game itself kicked off in typical autumnal weather making it difficult for players of both sides to get any flow throughout the match. But UCL started stronger with a few big carries from their back row especially their number 8 who played well throughout the game, but was thwarted by some great defensive work by GKT’s number 12 and vice captain Cloe Ragot winning the ball back bravely at the break down to prevent UCL scoring within the opening stages.
Not too long after, Cloe showed her attacking prowess breaking the line and running into the 22 before passing to GKT’s number 13 Mahnur Baig for the first try of the game from GKT’s first sustained period of pressure in the game. GKT 5-0. UCL didn’t let this concern them as even the first half they had the majority of possession and were ever present inside GKT’s half. And if not for some wayward passing, a few knock-ons and some great defensive work from GKT’s forwards who played fantastically well throughout the match UCL could have run away with the game inside the first half.
GKT did have some phases of play that they could be proud of with a few lines breaks coming from Cloe again as well as GKT’s forwards showing their brute strength especially GKT’s number 7 Liv Hawkett (who plays for Hammersmith) and number 2 Mary Hirst who didn’t look like she had ever stopped playing rugby despite not playing for 4 years after recovering from a spinal injury.
But GKT have a few things to work on especially with ball speed from the breakdowns, sometimes aimlessly passing to their teammates and putting themselves into trouble, passing the ball away instead of going into contact or when contact was taken not going to ground quickly enough. But given this was their first fixture of the season, I am sure these things were iron themselves out.
On UCL’s 6th visit to GKT’s 22 inside the first half, their hard work paid off with a well-earned try in a passage of play that highlighted the erratic nature of the match. Initially, GKT had held up UCL over the line winning the ball back to only a few phases later losing the ball at the breakdown inside their own 22m line. Then GKT only a few phases later gave away an offside penalty to leave UCL metres out from GKT’s line. Then UCL knocked the ball on in contact, GKT tried to clear the ball from their own try line but failed to do so giving the ball straight back to UCL who ran in unopposed. UCL 5-5.
To the end of the first half, both teams seemingly made the ball appear like a bar of soap dropping the ball on numerous occasions, but I did question whether the referee favoured UCL as many of their ill discipline was not picked up and yet everything GKT did wrong was. But despite that GKT’s forwards battled away to the end of the half with great defence work especially by GKT’s number 3 Krushi Pandya (who plays also for Hammersmith) seemed to love putting herself where no-one else wanted to, great stuff. And after a scrappy end to the half, at halftime the score was 5-5.
The second half picked up where the first half had finished. A very scrappy, stop-start sort of game so GKT changed tack and it began to pay off. GKT were given the ball more often to their ball carriers especially Liv and GKT’s number 8 Bianca Gill (who also plays for Hackney) as UCL were seemingly scared of GKT’s two big powerful forwards. But at the first attempt, UCL somehow got the ball back from GKT and maybe after a questionable forward pass were able to run the length of the field unopposed to score under the posts UCL 10-5.
Back came GKT, and this time Liv and Bianca’s great work couldn’t be stopped as GKT rolled over the try line straight away to bring the scores back to 10-10. Both sides at this point hadn’t been able to score a conversion due to the windy conditions making the game extremely close going into the last quarter of the game.
And then the game had been reduced to lots of stops and starts due to many knock ons by both sides. The game was decided in the last 10 minutes.
UCL had their biggest chance of the game so far as UCL’s number 6 broke the line and only had GKT’s number 11 Karus Robinson to beat and she would have surely scored but after a superb tackle UCL’s biggest chance was gone in a flash.
GKT came on the attack again but was prevented from doing so from a very reckless high tackle from UCL and so UCL went down to 14 players. And this clear lack in numbers now allowed Cloe in the final 5 minutes of the game to make two sublime line breaks once from beyond ucl’s 10m line and once from inside her own half scoring 2 tries in less than 2 minutes (very semi radradra esque) to take the game away from UCL. Both tries were converted by GKT’s captain number 10 Ffion Jones, making the score 24-10.
UCL tried one last time at the end to get a consolation try but were yet again thwarted by GKT’s great defence which had worked so well throughout the game, and which had ultimately given GKT the platform to go on and win the game. FT 24-10
GKTWRFC’s Forward of the match was Liv, Back of the match and UCL’s oppositions player was Cloe, Coaches player was Bianca.
At the end of the game I spoke to a few of GKT’s players. Liv (7) – ”1st game back everyone played so well especially the freshers who played sick. Really enjoyed the match” Cloe (12) – ”Freshers played well and defence was superb”. Ffion (10) – ” Good game, lots of work to do, started well but lots of things to work on as there were lots of penalties but we will improve week by week. A big season to come from us for sure”