FOR the first time in the club’s history, Stratford Ladies were able to field two teams in a North East Midlands Ladies Touch League event – and the Redditch tournament proved a double cause for celebration as the Stratford Jags team triumphed.
Sixteen players were available for Stratford on Sunday and the Jags, captained by Jane McGovern and coached by Richard Pepperell, found themselves in a pool with hosts Redditch and Atherstone.
Speedy winger Rhiannon Ridgway opened the Jags’ account against Redditch with a fantastic line break. Captain McGovern added a brace of her own and, despite allowing the hosts across the line once, this was enough to seal the first victory – 3-1 – against Redditch this season.
In the next match Becky Coombe touched down three times for her first ever hat-trick, having played heads up rugby and spotted the gaps in the Atherstone defence. Ridgway added another to her total, leaving the Jags with a 4-0 win.
These results put them in first place in the pool and up against Wellesbourne and Camp Hill for 1st/2nd/3rd place.
Stratford Pumas, captained by Caz Farris and coached by Simon Farris, were in a pool with Camp Hill and Rugby St Andrews. The developmental squad consisted of six players new for this season, including Sue Pearson in her very first tournament.
They got off to a storming start with a try for Kat Lucas against Camp Hill. Despite some stellar defence, Camp Hill did cross to score and earn a 1-1 draw.
Rugby St Andrews were next and a fabulous second score for Lucas on the wing was not enough to claw back the two opportune tries scored by RSA who prevailed 2-1.
This put the Pumas in the third tier play-off against Atherstone and Woodrush.
After the break, the Pumas’ basic collective skills, running rugby and teamwork completely paid off. Farris and Sally Clarke both crossed the whitewash against Atherstone, having spotted gaps and broken through the defence. For Clarke, that was her first try in Stratford colours.
Farris added to her total with another line break and Lisa Connolly evaded a touch to score her first try for Stratford. The defence was excellent in both matches and each ended in 2-0 wins, securing top place in the third tier – a seventh place for the development side.
The Jags faced Wellesbourne and sealed their first win against them in 2019 with another try each for Ridgway and Jane McGovern. Solid defence only let the local rivals through once and the 2-1 win was secured.
They then faced Camp Hill, who Stratford Pumas had held to a 1-1 draw earlier in the day. Some structured and skilled play was on show from the whole team and another two tries for Ridgway and one for Jane McGovern sealed a 3-0 victory and Stratford’s first tournament win of 2019.
Player of the tournament for the Jags was Jane McGovern and for the Pumas it was Farris. Both captains led by example, instructed and encouraged the teams to play to their strengths, and were able to run in a few tries for themselves.
Coach Pepperell said: “The way this squad has been developing, it was only a matter of time before a second team and a tournament win were achievable and to do it all on the same day is truly testament to their collective hard work.
“They all play rugby with high levels of skill and at a high intensity and have really become a joy to watch. It all comes down to hard work, resilience and solid teamwork. They should all be proud of what they have achieved.”
Stratford Ladies’ next outing is their home tournament on June 30. This is a Super Sunday, so teams from the North East and South West Midlands Leagues come to compete. Training continues at Stratford RFC on Tuesdays at 7pm.