Woodbridge Amazons 36 v Chelmsford Bluebirds 0
Having narrowly beaten the Chelmsford ladies by a flattering 19-3 margin in Essex last month, the Amazons hosted the Bluebirds in the reverse fixture in similarly cold, wet and blustery conditions on Sunday. Despite the weather, both sides produced some enterprising rugby and looked vastly improved from that post Christmas runaround.
Chelmsford started the brighter and controlled the early going, forcing penalties that only stout defending by the hosts kept attacks at bay. The Amazons settled into the match, their discipline improved and with the scoreboard unchanged, a confidence emerged.
As play moved from the Woodbridge 22 into the larger expanse of Hatchley Barn, the hosts also expanded their play. A healthy balance of attacking forays from both forwards and backs kept the Essex side on their toes, and gradually their defences were broken down. An arcing run from skipper Claire Brickley was the first indication of the superior pace the hosts possessed, but it was centre Helen Self that broke the deadlock with an amazing score. Having flattened her opposite number with a devastating tackle, Self jumped back to her feet and literally ripped the ball from the next players grasp, turned and sprinted under the posts! Cristina Murgatroyd added the conversion and the hosts were on their way.
Known for their excellent scrummaging, the Chelmsford ladies looked shocked by the power on show from the Woodbridge pack. The tight five, bolstered by two new players, Ellie Norman and Ava Prentice, in their first season of rugby, outgunned the visitors. The writing was on the wall then, and tries followed.
A super kick return from fullback Kat Mead led to quick hands from the breakdown and another new player, Farrah Clay linked well for Brickley to extend the score. Murgatroyd again converted the extras, 14-0.
Influential number eight Carmel Roisin was forced to leave the game at this point as a migraine headache ended her day.
Prop forward Toni Bell charged at the line moments later, Norman had a crack, then Frances Saunders touched down for try number three. The half ended with Woodbridge well on top, nineteen points to the good, as the visitors at least had the chance to regroup.
And regroup they did, taking advantage of two sloppy kick-offs and marauding into the Woodbridge half. Captain Claire was having none of that however, and burst through a gap following a forwards steal at a scrum. She was taken out off the ball having dabbed a kick forward, but advantage was played and Prentice smashed over from close range for a thoroughly deserved try.
With the score now a commanding 24-0, the visitors tried to clear their lines, but the Amazons piled on the pressure. The three smallest players on the pitch, Mead, Clay and Kylie Smith all made good ground amongst their larger opponents, and Clay came close to scoring a debut try wide on the left. Excellent recycling saw the ball moved all the way across to centre Anna Dewberry, who provided the scoring pass for Murgatroyd in the corner.
Determined to leave Suffolk with at least one score, the visitors hit back. A great run from Maddy Hughes ended just yards from the try line, having outstripped two tacklers, Beth Clapson saved a certain try by knocking Hughes off the pitch. Moments later, prop forward Annie Cawson actually crossed the whitewash, but an infringement ruled out the score.
The Amazons had repelled Chelmsfords last hurrah, and it was Victoria Felstein that applied the coup de gras, another of that dominant tight five to force her way over from close range for try number six. Helen Self converted for a resounding 36-0 victory in possibly the most complete Amazons display this season. In difficult conditions, against a strong rival, the Amazons dominated by using a balanced, structured approach that was a joy to watch.