Garstang Sparlings (14) vs Chester Devas (7)
Garstang Sparlings welcomed Chester Devas to Hudson Park for their first ever rugby encounter.
With the weather on their side and the crowd raring, the starting 15 were ready and waiting to receive the first kick. The whistle blew, the ball flew and they were off.
The newly married Hannah Quinn took the ball well and ran straight back at the Chester pack. Chester had not come to be walked over though and tackled strong. The Garstang forwards rucked well and kept possession.
After a few rucks the ball was knocked on by an unfortunate Garstang and the first scrum was formed. The front row of Quinn, Hannah Slater and Sarah Wrathall set low and the first scrum was all blue with a consistent Jenny Nickson shipping the ball quickly to the backs.
The Garstang forwards held strong but the back line seemed to struggle with a string of knock ons from a normally tightly run pack. Captain Emma Dobson was seen physically putting her head back into gear with a severe self-reality check, but the head slapping seemed to work. After 20 minutes of the Devas holding Garstang in their own half, the backs let fly with Jess Ford and Lauren Haworth playing a cheeky switch, putting Chester on the back foot. With a boom, Haworth was through the middle to drag the ball, and a Deva, over the line to score.
Katy Stone placed the kick dead centre and Garstang Sparlings scored the first seven points of the game.
Garstang coaches rang in a few changes which saw Lauren Jenkinson switch for Megan Brown and Minnie Biggin for Kathy Kinahan. These changes also saw the return of Kathrine Dawson, who despite having a baby and missing some gamechanging training, looked more than comfortable dominating scrums and rucks, especially when backed by her to ‘Bosh Buddies’ Helen Rowe and Aimee Hall. The Devas had their hands full with the mauls and rucks. This didn’t put the Chester team off at all and after some good phases, the Devas ever present and alert number 10, took to finding the smallest of holes in the Garstang defence, which once again saw Garstang back in their own half.
Garstang and Chester fought hard and with very little of the first half left, Garstang found themselves just inside Chester’s 22. Dobson exploited a gap and threw a dummy that Stu Dawson would have been proud of, to skip the first tackle and off load just before contact to a strong, oncoming Kinahan. The great support line took the ball right under the posts for another five points for Garstang.
Stone popped the ball between the posts securing another 2 points and Garstang went in to half time leading 14 – 0.
The second half set off at a similar pace. A few changes meant Sarah Helme was back in her favoured position at 15, Becca Duffy on the wing and the return of Amy Kelsall covering the other. With a face of thunder, Kelsall was back from injury with vengeance.
Chester was fast to break Garstang’s defence, testing the full 15 and finally the cracks showed. A well worked move saw the Devas send a player steaming under the post, but not without a last ditch tackle from Helme. The kick was good and it took the score to 14 – 7.
Dobson set the kick back and Chester took it well running back at the Sparlings. The following 20 minutes saw both teams fight hard and play good rugby.
Neither team backing down, small changes were made and Jenkinson was back on for Garstang. Brown moved to centres and Jade Kershaw christened her boots in her rugby debut.
A last valiant run by Emma Barton saw her clear out two or three players and make some good yardage before being taken down and tweaking a knee. Barton left the field closely followed by Rowe after a head injury.
A few hard-earned injuries from both sides and a quick rejig from the coaches, the 15 players went in to the last 5 minutes holding Chester tight in their half with great runs from replacement Prop Evie Holder, Emma Gardner, Hall and Wrathall. The last few minutes saw some equally good tackling from all the girls especially Jenkinson who left her mark imprinted on a Deva.
With just one play left the Sparlings got a penalty 25 metres out between the sticks.
Stone stepped up as casual as always, but her tired legs set it just short of the posts.
The final whistle blew and the Sparlings erupted. They’d won 14 – 7. Chester Devas played an amazing game right to the end and the girls thank them for that. The crowd’s thoughts mirrored the achievement on the pitch, as major improvements were achieved by the still new Sparling team.