By Pip and Tasha Merrett 

Dorking Women's Old Cats 5 - 12 Dartfordians

Inner Warrior Development League

Our first league game was played at Old Cats on a damp and blustery day. Unavailability and injury meant that we were short of 9 of the women who’d played in our first friendly match v Becs Belles, so several players had to step up to the mark (Leah at prop, Pip at scrum half and Jacqui on the wing) and 3 new players joined the squad, Carla Withers from Old Cats and Iva Hardwick and Fran Sinden from Dorking, both of whom were playing in their first contact match.  

Following a short debate as to who might actually be able to drop kick (!) Tash kicked off for Dorking/Old Cats (temporarily nicknamed the Corks) and the visitors came at us hard. Great defence from the likes of Lucie, Tamzin, Lynne, G and Spencer meant it took them 10 mins to reach our 22, but Lynne secured a turnover and we were awarded a scrum. Dartfordians had insisted we play uncontested as they had an “inexperienced” front row, but it immediately became apparent that they knew exactly what they were doing. We made a few drives forward but made little ground so when the ball got out to Tash on the blindside she kicked it downfield. Unfortunately, the Dartfordians winger running up to intercept took it full in the face and had to retire – 1 down, 19 to go!

Dartfordians made repeated efforts to reach the try line, but the Dorking/Old Cats defence was robust and we pushed them back to the half way line.  Dartfordians promptly changed tack, kicked the ball behind the defensive line, chased it down to secure a turnover and scored in the corner via a driving mall. Their conversion was good.

The Corks kicked off into the wind to restart, with Spencer chasing it down to drop on the ball and secure it, but the ref decided it hadn’t quite made the 10 m line. Dartfordians took the scrum and came at us again, but the forwards in particular put in a cracking defensive performance and we drove them into touch. Unfortunately, the wind prevented Tamzin’s throw at the line out from reaching the 5 m mark and Dartfordians took another scrum. They failed to make significant progress however and some infringements around the ruck led to aDorking/Old Cats penalty. Becky stepped forward and punted the ball down the pitch and while the wind prevented it from going into touch, Dartfordians knocked it on.

With a scrum in their 22, the Dorking/Old Cats heads were up and we spent the next 5 to 10 mins camped on their 5 m line with Lynne and the other forwards making repeated attempts to break through. Dartfordians defended strongly, albeit with numerous high tackles and seeing them bunched around the ruck we tried to whip the ball out to the backs who were waiting in space – only to find the Ref standing in the way blocking the pass!  Spence finally managed to get to the line but was judged to have been held up. The half time whistle blew and we took a much-earned rest.

A change around took place in the second half, with Katie coming on at full back, Carla moving to inside centre and Fran taking her place on the wing. Eager to keep the momentum going, we had a great start, winning a scrum in their 22. Both Lauren and Jacqui made great runs to gain ground before the ball was passed down the line to Katie, who dodged and fought her way through to score. Jas stepped up to take the conversion (her first proper kick since knee surgery) and only narrowly missed it, with the wind just pushing it wide. The score 5 – 7.

Iva Hardwick came onto the wing to replace Jacqui and play resumed, with Dorking/Old Cats firmly in control. Dartfordians continued to defend robustly if illegally and whilst not all the high tackles were appropriately dealt with, we earned numerous penalties around the rucks due to Dartfordians reluctance to roll away and their propensity to work with their hands.  

Dorking/Old Cats were in control of the game and gaining more ground when unfortunately, our star no. 8 Lynne went down with a serious hip injury.  Trapped beneath her was the Dorking physio Lauren, who took charge as soon as she managed to extract herself, and rapidly assessed the situation.  The Ref directed us to move pitches as he assumed it was going to be a stretcher and ambulance job, but Lynne is an unbelievably tough cookie and once Lauren had given the all-clear she was carried off the pitch by her husband and relocated to a bench so she could watch the rest of the game!

Heartened by seeing her up but missing her presence on the pitch we carried on, this time with Iva filling in at 8 (a position she’d vaguely heard about but never played) and Jacqui back on the wing. Lucie led the defence with the forwards tackling strongly and when we got the ball some good runs were made – it took 5 of their players to bring Iva down and 3 to push Jacqui out into touch. Play predominantly took place in the oppositions’ half but in the final minute, Dartfordians suddenly managed to break through for a second try, which they failed to convert. 5 – 12 was the final score.

Despite being slightly disappointed by the result, given that we had dominated much of the game, the Dorking/Old Cats crew took heart from a much-improved performance, particularly given the inexperience of many of our players. Great team spirit and strong support. Looking forward to our next league game away to Brockleians on the 24th October.

Dorking/Old Cats squad: Pam Davies (Captain), Lynne Tickner, Spencer Seales, Lucie Warren, Tamzin Kerslake, Emma Stephenson, G Almond, Becky Barker, Carla Withers, Katie Corbett (All Old Cats), Leah Garel, Jas Pit-Payne, Lauren Parsons, Pip Merrett, Jacqui Ide, Tash Merrett, Fran Sinden & Iva Hardwick (All Dorking)

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