Foxes hold out in thrilling finale

DOTTING DOWN: Emily-Jane Stearn. Picture: Shawn Pearce

Andy Marshall hailed the never-say-die attitude of his Bury St Edmunds Foxes Ladies side after they overcame higher-league opponents to reach the last four of the RFU Intermediate Cup

Cheered on by a coach-load of travelling supporters on Sunday, the Foxes came from behind in a dramatic tussle at Old Leamingtonians to make the semi-finals of the national competition.

The embryonic side only played their first competitive matches last season, which saw them promoted to Women’s National Challenge East One, where they are now set to go down to a final-day showdown for the title and another potential step up the league ladder.

But Foxes head coach Marshall said reaching the last four of the national cup competition, their first time in it, having played in the lower step Women’s Junior Cup last term, has surpassed their wildest dreams.

“It was beyond all aspirations,” he said.

“It could not have been a closer game and at the end of the day, as with all things, the girls’ spirit and attitude refused to die and that got us over the line.”

Bury were awaiting the news of the semi-final draw as the Free Press went to print, with trips to Plymouth, Kenilworth (Warwickshire) and Supermarine (Wiltshire) all possibilities.

“The other three teams are in a league higher than us, so it will be really tough,” said Marshall, who also works alongside coaches Ashley Cook and Bob McKane.

Sunday’s match saw Bury get the better of a tight first half to lead 10-0 at the interval.

Capitalising on an unforced error, Bury turned over possession on Old Leams’ 22-metre line and Emily-Jane Stearn scooped up before running into the space.

The score was soon doubled from an attacking scrum deep inside the Old Leams half with no8 Stearn offloading to Georgie Palmer, who sped over the line.

The hosts quickly pulled one back at the start of the second half before a long period of pressure yielded another try, which was converted to put them 12-10 ahead.

Bury rallied, though, and a quick tap penalty by Georgie Palmer caught Old Leams off guard to put the Foxes 15-12 in front with 10 minutes to go.

The hosts mounted pressure on the Bury line in the last play, but were somehow held up before the ball was ripped away.

• In their league campaign, the Foxes are one point behind leaders Harwich & Dovercourt ahead of March 25’s final round. If Bury take maximum points from Lakenham on home turf and Harwich do not at home to third place Woodbridge, they could leapfrog them or tie for first.

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