Thurrock T-Birds victorious over Waterloo Ladies

Thurrock are through to play Aylesford Bulls on March 29th for a place in next year’s Women’s Premiership
Thurrock are through to play Aylesford Bulls on March 29th for a place in next year’s Women’s Premiership
©Lissy Tomlinson @Rugbymatters

The Championship Cup is contested by the Winners of Championship North and Championship South for the right to play the bottom Premiership Club and possibly replace them in the Women’s Premiership.

Both Thurrock and Waterloo having won their respective Leagues 2 years running were desperate for Premiership Rugby.

The game took place at the neutral venue of Broadstreet RFC in Coventry with both teams noisily supported by travelling fans.

With so much at stake and in such terrible conditions this game was never going to be an exhibition of champagne rugby, but despite the errors, it was played with such intensity and physicality it  delivered an absolutely classic game of a different type.

It was very much a game of 2 halves and Thurrock T-Birds ultimately coped better with the truly awful conditions and executed a game plan that leaves them one game away from Premiership Rugby.

Despite choosing to play into the strong wind, Thurrock showed the threat of World Cup winners Rachael Burford linking with Kay Wilson early on, collecting the ball almost on her own line Wilson was finally dragged down by a Waterloo tackler well past half way.

Despite the conditions both teams tried to bring their fast paced A game, running everything, offloading and constanty trying to gain some momentum in tough conditions. World Cup winner Heather Fisher, returning after a long injury break was everywhere for Thurrock. Her chase of a kick through from Zaza Nojoko on 10 minutes allowed India Harvey the time to collect the loose ball, beat one defender and drag 2 tacklers over the line for the first score.

The next 15 minutes were all Thurrock, the pack in the shape of Jonga, Nichols, French, Jordan and Phelps carrying hard through the midfield which set up moves that allowed Wilson and Corales to both be just dragged down short of the line.  Everything was happening within reach of the Waterloo try line and it looked as though Thurrock would eventually get another score.

However, Waterloo had other ideas. From a dropped Thurrock ball inside the Waterloo 22, they set off on their own attack. Thurrock were unable to turn their narrow attack into wide defence in time and isolated defenders dropped off tackles to allow Waterloo's Corrine Allmark to score, and with Beth Stott's tidy conversion putting Waterloo ahead 7-5.

With Phelps held up over the line, it seemed it was always just a matter of time until the next Thurrock score, with Heather Fisher showing incredible pace for a No8 and again dragging 2 tacklers with her over the line.

Determined to get back in the game, Waterloo pressed from the kick off and 2 poor kicks from Thurrock into the strong wind allowed them some time and space on the ball. Waterloo opted for an kick at goal to get something before half time, which Beth did with ease.

The successful penalty left the game evenly balance at 10-10 at half time with both side believing that a win was in their grasp.

Now with the ever increasing wind and driving rain it became a game of territory.

Pressing for the win and a little over enthusiastic at the breakdown, Thurrock started to concede too many penalties, Waterloo wanted to run everything due to the strong head wind, but failing to gain feild position proved vital for the 'Loo.

Thurrock threatened the line in midfield, and the T's finally went wide for Harvey, Corales, Francis and Wilson to link up, allowing Wilson over in the corner for 15-10.

Waterloo never gave up and defended desperately, but the pressure from Thurrock along with the harsh conditions meant s fightback was hard to reach.

Lalla Vazi finally nailed the last and vital score of the game after sustained pressure to take the scores to 20-10.

Pinned back in their own 22, with the wind coming at Waterloo head on, 10 points was just to big a mountain to climb with 10 minutes remaing.

The Waterloo Ladies never gave up, but the fight proved too much in the second half.
Now Thurrock T-Birds face the bottom Premiership team, old local rivals Aylesford Bulls in a playoff for a place in next year’s Women’s Premiership on March 29th.