Cheltenham 12 v 22 Thurrock T Birds
WITH illness, injuries and a few “not available” the table topping T-Birds travelled all the way to Cheltenham with a bare 15 players, hoping that they were strong enough to complete the job.
On a bright but cold day, despite being driven back into their own 22 by successive penalties, the T-Birds started brightly themselves.
In almost their first attack, Nakita Akintade was given space on the wing where she skipped through 3 tackles and touched down in the corner to open the scoring.
Just a few minutes later, with Cheltenham now defending wider as the forwards drove up the field, Kat Emerson, wearing an unfamiliar 13 shirt cut through the centre field, and with second row Tammy Nichols running a fine support line, she collected the pass for the T’s second in only 12 minutes.
Determined to at least compete in front of their own supporters, Cheltenham raised their game and mounted a period of sustained pressure after Ts failed to deal cleanly with the kick off. Aided by a series of penalties, Cheltenham camped on the T’s try line and finally managed to overload the defence out wide for a score of their own.
Determined to give no quarter Ts played probably their best rugby of the game with both forwards and backs attacking relentlessly. A backs move from a quick penalty was followed by a ruck and forward drive over the line for prop Charlotte Micallef to claim her 6th try of the season.
With the score at 5-15 at halftime both sides came out determined to score first in the second half and Cheltenham again put together a period of sustained pressure in and around T’s 22. Finally a poor kick through landed squarely in Kat Emerson’s arms, a simple pass put Becky Francis into space where she outstripped 4 defenders to run over half the pitch and score under the posts.
With the game now won at 5-22 T’s were looking for the 5 try and a bonus point, but with no subs of their own and with Cheltenham bringing on a series of fresh legs this looked more and more unlikely.
Tired legs led to a defensive mix up and Cheltenham ran a training ground move which created a 3 on 2 and a try for their outside centre.
This galvanised the Ts back into action and tired legs forgotten they pushed deep into the Cheltenham 22 straight from the kick off. Again the forwards finished off a good backs move with Charlotte Micallef becoming the top scoring front row in the league with her 7th try of the season, also securing the vital bonus point.
The conversion from Laura Kavanagh brought the final score to 12-29.
Players of the match were twin sisters Francesca and Sophia Jordan at 7 and 9 respectively.
Still sitting top of Championship One South, this Sunday, 22nd of January sees the T-Birds play their final home match of the season against Hove, kick off 3pm.
Please come along to Oakfield, show your support and see some great Rugby.