Match Report by Tom Branston
Worcester Valkyries were beaten by three tries to one in their pre-season encounter with Aylesford Bulls on Saturday at Droitwich RFC.
In a game that was played in four quarters and a number of players given valuable game-time, it was the Valkyries that took the lead early on when Bianca Blackburn claimed a brilliant individual try.
But a brace for Chantelle Miller and one for Fiona Pocock saw the visitors run out winners ahead of the reunion of the two sides in the first game of the new season on Saturday 10 September at Sixways (kick-off 2pm).
Valkyries fielded a mixed side of youth and experience against a strong Aylesford outfit, who recently had an influx of new coaching staff and players ahead of the 2016/17 Women’s Premiership season.
Valkyries began the game the better side in the early exchanges, breaking tackles, winning rucks and running well with the ball.
This was rewarded with an early try for Valkyries following good work from Megan Goddard who fooled the Bulls defence with a dummy pass that allowed her to run into Aylesford’s half, before the ball was offloaded out to Blackburn who surged into the 22 and broke two tackles to dive over the whitewash.
But Aylesford responded quickly to level the scores, following a penalty which led to a five-metre scrum and the visitors shipped it wide for Pocock to dive over in the corner.
Valkyries’ Zoe Bennion proved difficult to deal with after she carried the ball from inside her own half to be tackled just short of the Bulls 22.
Valkyries came close to a second try when Bennion again surged forward after great hands from Ceri Large setting up the chance but nothing came of it as the ball was lost forward in the slippery conditions.
With the game tied in the early stages, Valkyries were proving hard to break through, but while defensively great, they proved competent in attack as Lisa Campbell carried the ball 25 yards untouched.
England international Large continued to impress with scintillating form on the ball with a number of runs breaking the line and exploiting gaps.
With half-time looming and the Valkyries proving difficult to handle, it was Aylesford who took the lead against the run of play.
Bulls won a penalty in which they moved the ball swiftly from the halfway line and Miller escaped a last-ditch tackle to get over the line.
Changes were made at the halfway stage with Valkyries Director of Rugby Donna Kennedy bringing on young replacements Charlie Clark, Amy Wiggley and Charlie Burn, who all impressed.
It proved to be a frustrating afternoon for Worcester though as sustained pressure couldn’t be converted into points.
Aylesford’s Miller then scored her second and the Bulls’ third try when a lineout in the Valkyries half led to a quick offload from Pocock for Miller to cross in the corner in what were the last points scored in the match.
It was a physical test for Valkyries ahead of the Women’s Premiership campaign but now all eyes are on the league curtain-raiser in a fortnight’s time.
04m | Blackburn try 5-0
11m | Pocock try 5-5
39m | Miller try 5-10
52m | Miller try 5-15