STRATFORD Ladies finished fifth and were unlucky not to end in a higher place at their first league tournament of the season at Old Laurentians on Sunday.
They took one of the biggest squads yet to a tournament, with a second debutant of the season in rugby novice Alice Mercer. It was great to see that, whichever six of the squad were on the pitch, the basic skills were solid and the work done in training on attacking and defensive moves was put into practice.
The first match was against hosts Old Laurentians. Stratford went ahead in the first half with a fabulous run-in from team ‘hen’ Rachel Browne. A rare (on the day) lapse in defence let the opposition straight back in after the restart before a run through for Caz Farris nearly resulted in a try, but was deemed to be caught on the line, so the match finished 1-1.
Next up were Atherstone, one of two new teams to the North East Midlands Ladies Touch League this year. Defence was outstanding thanks to the solid work of Laura Middlemast and Bec Charles in the centre.
Stratford scored three tries in the first half and nearly four as Sally Clarke’s run was ended just on the try-line. Four further beautifully-worked team tries were scored in the second half as all seven tries came from different players.
Captain Jane McGovern, Becki Coombe, Julie Allison, Heather Britton, Jessie Darling (with a fantastic one-handed show and go), Rachel McGovern and Browne were the scorers.
The last pool match was against Camp Hill which frustratingly ended with Stratford narrowly losing 2-1, despite a great second try from Rachel McGovern. As Camp Hill had also drawn with Old Laurentians, Stratford therefore cruelly found themselves in the 5th/6th place play-off.
The play-off was against Woodrush, the second new team to the league but who Stratford had faced at the Super Sunday previously.
Stratford continued to improve and finished by playing their best rugby of the day in a dominant 4-0 victory. Try-scorers were Rhiannon Ridgway, Darling and Browne (2).
Stratford coach Richard Pepperell said: “This is the best I have seen the squad play as a whole – trying things, playing with confidence, creativity and showing some real game awareness.
“Thirteen tries for and three tries against is an amazing statistic and credit to the work done in training.
“Player of the tournament was Rachel Browne for her workrate in attack, resulting in four of the team’s 13 tries.”
The next league tournament is at Redditch on April 7, after which there is a small break in competition until Camp Hill’s event on May 19. Training continues at Stratford RFC every Tuesday at 7pm and is open to all.