Eastern Counties so close to dream finale
Eastern Counties Women narrowly missed out on a dream finish to their season, losing 15-7 to an impressive Essex County Women’s team in the Division Two final of the Gill Burns County Championship.
It was the first time the county side had made it to the last stage of the competition and they were helped by six Bury Foxes players – with Danni Lee picked out as the Back of the Match.
Essex, an experienced competitor in the championship, starved Eastern Counties of the ball for much of the game but, despite this, were only able to score two tries to one in a thrilling and often bruising encounter.
It was a match that was played in front of a passionate and noisy set of supporters at Richmond Athletic Ground, home to both Richmond RFC and London Scottish RFC.
After the game, manager and head coach Aaron Swanborough told the squad to ‘hold your heads high’ following the narrow defeat.
He said: “I am immensely proud of what (they) have achieved as a group, making history being the first Eastern Counties Women’s team to make a county championship final.”
The game started with both teams going hammer and tong at each other, but neither were able to find a way through early on. Eastern Counties played some of the best defensive play they have ever mustered as they upped their game significantly on the day.
EC had little of the possession but an early chance allowed slick hands to get the ball to Georgie Lingham of Saracens.
She raced down the left wing as she has done so often in this campaign, only to be denied by a superb cover tackle by the Essex full-back.
It was a full 29 minutes before the deadlock was broken, with EC gifting Essex a penalty – and three points – in front of the posts after going off their feet in the breakdown.
The first try of the game came 50 minutes in, as an Essex scrum on the 5m line provided a perfect platform to score an unconverted try to take their lead to 8-0.
But EC continued to battle and a fantastic break by Libby Lockwood took the play deep into the Essex 22 before quick ball freed up replacement loose head Carmel Leak to charge over for a try.
Alice Middleton’s conversion narrowed the score to just 8-7.
Essex scored their second try and, what turned out to be, the final points of the day with less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
A quick tap by Essex’s scrum-half Ami Parsad started a move which left EC desperately defending but unable to halt the fly half from scoring – before converting her own try to leave the Essex side two scores ahead on 15-7 with eight minutes left.
EC threw everything at Essex in the final stages of the game but were unable to add to their score.