Women’s firsts undone by rejuvinated Newcastle

York’s women’s firsts travelled further up north last week to take on Newcastle seconds, traditionally a comfortable win, but found themselves on the wrong end of a 12-0 scoreline

The women's rugby firsts, pictured here against York St. John, suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Newcastle seconds. Image: Courtesy of University of York Women's Rugby Club

The women's rugby firsts, pictured here against York St. John, suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Newcastle seconds. Image: Courtesy of University of York Women's Rugby Club



In the past, clashes between Newcastle and York Women’s Rugby teams have swung very much in York’s favour, who won the last encounter 65-0. Wednesday’s match proved to be a different story, however, as the women from the North East took the points in a 12-0 victory.

Expecting to breeze through the game, York were taken by surprise when they came up against a more structured, aggressive side than they had previously seen. Both teams held their own in the scrum but, unlike Newcastle who were seemingly able to conjure up a fresh front row every few minutes, York’s team were plagued by injuries. Flanker Lucy Davies, who had proven herself in tackling despite her illness, was eventually substituted. She was shortly followed by Second Row Fiona Parr, whose injury meant York were unable to capitalise on their strong defensive line-outs from previous matches.

After some shuffling of the forwards pack, the game recommenced, but the majority of play was a stale-mate situation. Neither team could break the other’s defence and the pitch was too narrow to send the faster players round the opposition’s line. Chances occasionally presented themselves to York; Shaunie Wilson, to whom such things seem to come as naturally as leaves to a tree, made a brilliant interception which saw her storming up the pitch. Yet Newcastle eventually brought her down and set up some attacks of their own.

York were put under more pressure than they had anticipated and as a result there was far too much panicked passin; with passes being thrown to nobody in particulary in the face of a tackle. Newcastle were able to monopolise on this weakness and, after a hard-won battle, managed to make it across the try-line and put themselves 5-0 up on York.

The two exhausted sides were given some respite with the half-time whistle, and York were able to rally themselves in the few minutes break. Coach Joshua Moatt got straight to the point; highlighting weaker play but also telling the players where they were strongest and how best to break down the opposition.

It was a talk which completely altered the outlook for York, having been disheartened by a difficult first half. They approached the second half, however, relishing the challenge which this transformed Newcastle team presented. This was not the only challenge, however, for the pitch itself became as formidable a foe as the opposition. Resembling the battlefield at Passchendaele more than a rugby pitch, even the referee was having difficulty negotiating the churned up, muddy ground and took a tumble whilst attempting to keep up with the play.

Both teams coped well despite being caked from head to toe in mud. If anything, defensive play became even tighter with newly-made Second Row Nikki George guarding the fringes of every ruck, ensuring no-one got past her. But without the open wings which York have been able to take full advantage of in the past, there was no hope of a breakaway try and York were forced to keep battering away at the body of Newcastle’s line. This was something Newcastle found more success in and eventually, despite an incredible try-saving tackle from Elaine Flynn, they were able to score their second try and boot the tally up to 12-0.

Despite the disappointing score-line, York can take away many positives from the match. In the face of a challenging team in challenging conditions they played some of their best rugby. Captain Aimee Miller proudly states that “even under the most difficult circumstances, the determination of the entire team is always apparent and we never gave up; this definitely puts us in a good position for our upcoming matches”. The loss didn’t dampen their good humour or their enjoyment of the game, and they were able to keep in good enough spirits to engage in a full-on mud-fight at the end.

York Team: 1.Linzi Hull, 2.Izzy Lewis, 3.Vanessa Felpeto, 4.Fiona Parr, 5.Angharad Ball, 6.Lucy Davies, 7.Nikkie George, 8.Sarah McLoughlin, 9.Emma Nugent, 10.Aimee Miller, 11.Harriet Allsop, 12.Shaunie Walsh, 13.Claire Hogarth, 14.Megan Nash, 15.Elaine Flynn

Subs: Alex Khoo, Sarah Goodchild, Aniela Mundinger, Jess Sharpe