Chard and Topsham ladies end all square after thrilling contest
- Credit: Archant
Chard ladies were involved in a thrilling 36-all draw when they entertained Topsham ladies in their first outing of 2019, writes Gavin Smillie.
Chard, who had enjoyed a first ever league win ion their last fixture of 2018 – a win over Winscombe - went into the game with a mixture of renewed confidence and trepidation given that Topsham pitched up for the contest boasting a 100 per cent season-long winning run, seeking their eighth successive victory!
After a bright start from Chard, Topsham counter-attacked down the left wing where centre Rebecca Partridge, albeit against the run of play, crossed to score the game’s opening try and a conversion from fly half Ann Webb made it 7-0 to Topsham.
Chard responded well and stuck to their game plan of keeping the ball and driving through the forwards, then using strong charges by fly half and centres to dominate possession for long periods of the first half.
All through the match the Chard scrum dominated, driving the visitors off their own ball.
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It was from a Topsham scrum, on their own 22, that Chard were able to go on and score their first points.
The ball came out the back of the visitors scrum and flanker Laura Jenkins pounced on the loose ball to gain possession and after a series of attacks fly half Natalia-Mia Roach crashed over for the home side’s first try.
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This set the pattern for the next 20 minutes as Chard continued to dominate, with Elaine Stainer, Emma Harris, Sarah Kneeshaw and Jenkins to the fore.
This created intense pressure on the visitors defence, and, after a series of penalties, Roach again broke on the blind side to score in the right corner to put the home side in the lead for the first time in the contest.
After more pressure from the Chard forwards, with Stainer and Jenkins making further ground, Kneeshaw then forced her way over for the home teams third try and, despite the conversion striking the upright, Chard led 15-7 after 24 minutes.
Once again, Topsham showed just why they are the table-toppers with their backs showing their class.
Despite excellent defence with Ella Pantling and Kerry Harris shining, the pace of the visiting backs told.
Again, after a breakdown in play just inside the Topsham half, a break down the left wing saw Tasha Curry beat the cover to score to the left of the posts.
The scoring in the first half was not over, as on the stroke of half-time an interception by Topsham full back Jade Wallace who had the strength to burst through three tackles resulted in a try that meant Topsham trooped off with a half-time lead of 17-15.
The second half was as good as the first with Topsham scoring first after the ball was ripped from Chard hands during a home attack and once again No 13 Partridge, sprinting down the wing to score her second of what would turn out to be her four tries in a fantastic individual example of finishing.
The home side refused to wilt though and, once again they played numerous phases wearing down the visitors defence until Jenkins scored near the posts.
The conversion by Georgia Adams brought the scores level at 22-22.
Again, Chard pressed, but it was not all one-way as Topsham backs posed a threat every time they had the ball.
Hard tackling on both sides meant that no score was easy. After multiple drives Chard captain and back of the match Kerry Harris dived through the covering defence to retake the lead and the try was again converted by Adams.
With seven minutes remaining, Chard scored what could have been the winning try as after being camped on the visitor’s five metre line, Stainer cleverly burrowed through to place the ball at the foot of the post. The conversion took Chard to a 14 point lead, with just six minutes remaining!
However, Topsham again showed their class as they mounted a valiant fight-back!
First up, after once again turning over Chard possession, Partridge sprinted down the right wing and made sure she cut back after crossing the line to score under the posts, to make sure the conversion cut the deficit to one of seven points.
From the kick off, and with two minutes to play, Chard regained the ball and tried to finish the game with another attack and score. Unfortunately, they were penalised for holding on in the ruck.
With the last move of the match, the visitors took a quick penalty, taking advantage of a tiring Chard defence to move the ball once again to Partridge who beat the tackles of Adams and Zoe Winloe to score under the posts.
Under intense pressure Ann Webb drop kicked the conversion to tie this incredible match, that will live long in the memory of both players and supporters who were lucky enough to be there.
Forward of the match was hooker Suzannah Wilton, who had a faultless display in all aspects of her play.
Back of the match was Kerry Harris, who’s return to form was impressive to see. Ella Pantling was named Player of the Match – she has been so consistent since joining the club.
The spirit of the game between the two sides showed when the Topsham captain nominated Chard’s Elaine Stanier as their Player of the Match because of her uncompromising, but extremely sporting display, which to be fair could be said of all players from both sides.