The opening match of the new season at Hatchley Barn proved a painful experience for the Woodbridge Amazons on Sunday. The visitors from Hackney in London have come down a division following relegation, but with a league realignment, it would already appear the reality is more like two divisions.
The Woodbridge players didn’t let that fact deter them however, and despite being under pressure throughout, defended doggedly and worked through phases well whilst in possession themselves. First half tries from flanker Lowri Pugh, fullback Amber Kirwan, winger Shannon McGowan and centre Ehi Edevbalo Ehizode illustrated the Hackney dominance, the only reprieve for the hosts was fly half Justine Despins poor kicking display, failing to add all four conversions.
There were clear signs of promise for the hosts, despite being up against superior opponents. New fly half Sophie Henry looks to have an excellent understanding with Morven McAlpine inside her already, and centre Anna Dewberry outside her as well. The addition of Stephanie Cotton in the second half was a big boost as she returns to the club. Also, the set pieces went well and the scrums in particular were solid, providing excellent platforms to work from.
Captain Victoria Felstein gave a calm, reassuring halftime talk and her squad responded well. Fully aware of the task at hand the Amazons scrapped and fought with all they had in the second half, making Hackney work hard for every score.
Despins made up for her wretched kicking display in the first half with a try of her own shortly after the restart, and drop kicked the conversion. Further scoring came at regular intervals as the visitors played with increasing confidence. Support play was excellent and the outstanding American Mary Carol Anderson, a flanker playing scrum half for the day, was a cut above, despite not scoring herself.
A second from Pugh and Kirwan extended the lead, then flanker Ella Harte, before winger Jessie Opio scored a brace, sandwiching the fourth player to grab two scores, McGowan. Try saving tackles from Kat Mead and Beth Clapson prevented further scoring, epitomising the tremendous spirit shown throughout from the hosts. Fresh players were introduced and applied themselves well, despite the Hackney players ensuring it was a baptism of fire for some!
The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for the hosts, but lessons will have been learned and there were numerous positives for Coach Woody Woodgate to think about before next week’s first away fixture in East London. As tough as that fixture always is, one can’t help but feel the hardest test has already been played…..