Sunday 6th November was not just the return fixture between Huddersfield St Josephs and Barrow Ladies it was Barrow Ladies first competitive home game in over 10 years. The game turned out to be a belter with both sides giving their all in front of an excellent crowd who showed their support throughout.
The game got under way with Barrow Ladies fielding a full squad for the first time this season. The squad, including once again a mixture of youth, experience and some fine rugby union players, who are starting to show their skill in this different code of the game.
Barrow Ladies started at a very fast pace with home advantage and good warm up proving invaluable as they raced into a 10-0 lead with two outstanding tries. The first was another great piece of rugby skill by Sharron Tucker who once again glided passed the Huddersfield defence to feed the excellent running Michelle Larkin through the gap to score, the wide conversion was missed by Sharron Tucker with a good attempt. The next try was an outstanding piece of skill from Katie Gower who broke through the Huddersfield defence and raced into score with a 50 metre run. No mistake this time from the reliable Sharron Tucker who stroked the conversion over from way out on the touch-line.
This seemed to spur Huddersfield into action as they finally got off the bus to play some quality rugby. From the restart they capitalised on a mistake from the Barrow Ladies defence to orchestrate a fine unconverted try, 10-4.
Barrow Ladies were showing how much they have improved with some fine running from Rachel Jones, Amy Beard and Aimee Rose Sharp who if I am not mistaken played the full 80 minutes in the forward line, a great achievement. Barrow ladies were again in control and Jodie Litherland playing her first game of the season was showing all her experience and skill to frustrate the Huddersfield team.
Both sides were again holding nothing back in the tackle, which led to some great hits from Emily Stirzaker, Michelle Larkin and Fern Henderson who, as well as making some line breaking runs was producing some big hits. Huddersfield however were not giving up and forced another error from the Barrow Ladies defence as they seemed to be struggling under the high ball. Huddersfield again took advantage of this set of six to reduce the deficit, 10-8.
The game was now being played at a frantic pace and the referee was using all his experience to keep the game flowing. Barrow Ladies were making use of their full squad with some good interchanges, Sarah Boaler came on for the hard working Kelly Friend who was having her best game in a Barrow ladies shirt. Sarah Boaler a rugby union convert was straight in the action with a fine run.
As half time approached Barrow Ladies upped the pace and produced another outstanding try with the ever improving Sarah Wilkinson breaking through the defensive line with blistering pace to score from 40 metres. Sharron Tucker added the conversion from under the sticks, no mistake this time, 16-8.
That should have been it for half time but from the kick off Barrow Ladies again made an unforced error and allowed Huddersfield to score another try just on the whistle. With the conversion missed the half time ended 16-12.
The second half began with Huddersfield on the front foot and playing some excellent rugby forcing Barrow ladies into several mistakes. These mistakes increased the pressure on the Barrow Ladies defence, but Huddersfield were thwarted by some unbelievable defensive work from new girl Samantha Norman, Jesse cape and Kayleigh Stockdale.
This pressure eventually told however as Huddersfield crashed over in the corner to level the score with another unconverted try, 16-16.
The second half continued with Huddersfield applying the pressure for long periods and it was only Barrow Ladies much improved defensive line preventing them from scoring. There were some fine interchanges made by Coach John Johnson with the introduction of Fleur Stanton, who slotted well into the Barrow Ladies team and Becky Brown for the injured Sarah Boaler which boosted the Barrow Ladies forward line.
Even though Barrow Ladies were spending most of the time in their own half there was always a possibility of a break with the pace and skill of the Barrow Ladies team.
This came to fruition as the impressive Jodie Litherland again broke the Huddersfield line to feed Kelly Friend, who after her rest on the side line ran in to score a fine individual try. Sharron Tucker missed the conversion with another difficult kick from 40 yards, 20-16.
As the second half went on Barrow Ladies were beginning to tire and they were being put under great pressure from the Huddersfield team. Huddersfield kept pressing but were beginning to get frustrated as Barrow Ladies led by Sarah Wilkinson and Sharron Tucker were producing some exceptional all round rugby. This frustration then increased when the ever dangerous Barrow Ladies produced another break through Michelle Larkin. This was followed by a fine kick to the corner by Jodie Litherland, that was followed up well and Emily Stirzaker took advantage of some sleepy Huddersfield defence to score. Sharron Tucker made no mistake this time as the conversion went over via the crossbar with a fine kick, 26-16.
To Huddersfield’s credit they did not give up and continued to pressurise the Barrow ladies line, playing some clever illusive rugby. Eventually they were rewarded with a well taken converted try under the sticks. This was not what the flagging Barrow Ladies needed as the game entered the final stages, 26-22.
Barrow Ladies however with some resilient last ditched defending held on to win 26-22 and record a great win. Just goes to show that with 5 tries a piece the value of a good goal kicker is priceless.
Tries: – Michelle Larkin, Katie Gower, Sarah Wilkinson, Kelly Friend and Emily Stirzaker
Conversions: – Sharron Tucker 3 (5)
Referees Player of the match: – Sarah Wilkinson
Huddersfield Player of the Match: –
Many thanks to Barrow Island and the injured Amanda Studley and Julie Garnet for the amazing food and hospitality.
Report courtesy of WRLA