Hard lessons learned before Ashfield Ladies’ new season

Try-scorer Vicki Fegan offloading the ball during Ashfield Ladies' defeat against Barnsley Ladies.
Try-scorer Vicki Fegan offloading the ball during Ashfield Ladies' defeat against Barnsley Ladies.

Plucky Ashfield Ladies suffered a heavy defeat in their final pre-season friendly before the league campaign gets under way this weekend.

After the previous week’s resounding victory against Mellish, Ashfield faced a much stiffer examination away to Barnsley Ladies, who are tough opposition and play in the league above them.

From the start, Barnsley demonstrated their strength and class of rugby, with powerful runners and well-executed set-plays, and they duly stormed to a 61-7 victory.

Despite this, it was Ashfield who got the first score of the game. After excellent play by the forwards, the ball got to winger Lauren Stapleton and she made a good run before offloading to coaches’ player-of-the-match Vicki Fegan, who outpaced the defence to score a try. Prop Chip Harrison nailed the conversion to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

However, this show of rugby skill only served to spur Barnsley into action and from then on, it was the home side who dominated the play, scoring 11 tries and converting three of them.

Despite valiant tackling by flanker Hannah Cartwright and winger Ellis Thorpe, Ashfield couldn’t regain their grip on the game, nor deal with Barnsley’s consistently strong running.

In the latter half of the match, Ashfield’s scrums improved to the point of domination and several players began to work harder in the rucks, with replacement centre Emma Jessop returning to the field for the first time after maternity leave and making several turnovers.

Ashfield also took the opportunity to field four new players, all of whom gave a terrific account of themselves, including replacement winger Luci Allsebrook who deftly caught number eight Leanne Reeve’s ludicrous pass to make a strong run down the wing.

Despite the improvement, Ashfield were unable to convert their slim amount of possession into points and so ended up on the wrong end of a one-sided scoreline. But they headed home having learned some hard lessons and having shown admirable character and team spirit.

This Sunday, Ashfield travel to Doncaster for their first league game in National Challenge 1. They are always looking for new players, regardless of fitness and rugby knowledge, especially as they have development team fixtures this season as well. E-mail ashfieldladiesrufc@gmail.com