Unlike the weekend before, our Lionesses’ day began at a more pleasant time of the morning and with bacon sandwiches and copious amounts of tea and coffee. Girding their loins, our stalwarts and founding members made their way to Brighton University’s facilities at the rear of the Amex Stadium, perched nicely on the South Downs. The weather was unlike last week’s heady Mediterranean heat and were welcomed by the grey sullen skies, the norm of the South Coast, and a chill breeze whipping of the English Channel. But nothing thwarted our ladies! Keping warm in the singular changing room, grumbles were heard of missing the luxury of our home facilities. At the last moment the finely tuned athletes emerged in various states of dress to commence their strenuous warm-up. As our captain and vice-captain were both sidelined with injury, Chloe OAP with self-inflicted nasal surgery and Pink with some prancing thing endured by backs at times. Our ever resilient lady of the bar and film Bex “is this my best side” Cotter led the team in warm up and assumed the captaincy for the day. The ladies returned to the changing room to beautify and don their game shirts.
The kick off time of 2.00pm arrived and went and a number our ladies were nowhere to be seen! With the opposition waiting, at 2.07pm the last of the ladies exploded from the changing rooms (complaints of 1 toilet between 15 ladies and too much coffee in the morning) and ran up the hill to the pitch. A short, rousing speech from Captain Chloe sent them on to the pitch with tails in the air. The toss was won, and playing with the wind and slope in our favour against local rivals Cranleigh. A tense couple of minutes saw Cranleigh’s attack pressure the defensive prowess of the Lionesses. The Horsham Ladies saw an opportunity to turn defense into attack and slick handling and direct running resulted in our loaned player from Hove being put away for our first try, ably converted by our scrum half Penny.
Minutes later, and after hard forward domination, Penny was able to jinx through and score under the posts, converted this time by one of our blossoming newcomers, Blue! Further pressure and fantastic driving and interplay from our powerful and dynamic front row pairing of Alena and Abi, followed by strong support from their teammates in the forwards, provided good ball to our backs. Excellent distribution and handling from fly half Charlie “the step” Clark put inside centre Maddie “I’m fine” Luxmoore through. Tenacious and elusive running saw her score. Howling wind resulted in a missed conversion.
In the last play of the match the ball was received by our dynamic fly half, and paying attention to the Brighton white lines, she darted for glory, aiming at the holes opening up in front of her. Grasping the opportunity with both hands she employed her trademark side step to beguile the lumbering defence. Surging forward, she broke down the left then darted towards the posts. What a try to finish the first match!
Horsham Lionesses 26 v Cranleigh 0.
The second game was not to be as productive. Playing into a howling, freezing breeze, up a substantial gradient and having laid dormant getting cold on the sidelines watching the game between our 2 rivals, our ladies took to the park in good spirits, if a little numbed by the wind chill. Stepping onto the pitch they were greeted by Hove 2’s / Brighton University ladies that included several Hove 1 Champ 2 players, all of whom were already warm from their game against Cranleigh. It did not bode well.
Despite the daunting challenge ahead the Lionesses played with brave hearts and strong determination. Down the hill came a rampaging opposition, met equally by our tenacious defense. Wave after wave was repelled by the Lionesses and the opposition was kept away from our try line time and again however the pressure and numbing windchill finally took their toll and Hove went over to score.
Play was restarted with a canny grubber kick keeping low under the strong wind, deep into the opposition 22 with a hard chase and rib busting tackle by Blue kept us on the front foot. This was followed a period of dominance by the Lionesses, borne from hard tackling and aggressive rucking throughout the squad, notably from Blue, Abi, Alena and Joe “the hack” Thomas employing parts of the dark arts best not covered here, who battled on having dramatically winded herself landing on the ball.
Our scrummage could not be bettered all game and on a warmer day and flatter pitch we would have provided the possession we needed to allow our backs to show the delectable handling they had done in the first game and the Lionesses showed that with the team balance they have they a can be a dominant force against any true Inner Warrior opposition. Hove/BU’s player composition swung the game in their favour and they scored twice more as the slope took its toll on our now flagging warriors.
Lionesses 0 v Hove/Brighton Uni 24
Special shout outs go to Jen Radwell, striking fear in the hearts of the opposition with every carry, and Heather “gummy” Williams for unknowingly charging down a conversion with her head. As her gumshield flew over the dead ball line her teammates gather round to console and mickey take in equal measure. The ladies rallied one more time. After the restart the referee commenced a period of tenacious time keeping whilst the players and fantastic support from Horsham shivered on the touchline waiting for the final whistle and sanctuary of warmth of our cars. And then it came. A shrill note piercing the wind to signal the end of a great day for women’s rugby.
A fantastic performance by every Lionesses who pulled on a shirt today, witnessed by a large group of travelling supporters. The stalwart coaches, when discussing the outcome sagely, suggesting the move forward in performance and determination likened our Lionesses to the 1st XV several years ago. A true reflection of all the hard work being put in week in, week out.
Scribed by Pete “The Gunvor” Softley
Edited by Fubar