Cornwall Girls U.15 compete well at Tavistock
Report by backs coach Ross Tucknott.
Cornwall Girls U15s kicked off their 3-legged, festival-style campaign in style, beating Somerset and Gloucestershire and losing narrowly to Devon.
A warm, sunny Tavistock RFC saw a blistering opener as Cornwall hit the ground running against a much-fancied Somerset, with second row Paige Clarke opening the scoring after just 8 surging phases from halfway to tryline. Then from the restart Cornwall marched straight back once more, with 11 different players handling across 10 more phases of sweeping backs moves and driving forward runs to set up Josie Plant for a relatively simple finish, with Somerset's only consolation being that the extras were so far eluding our kickers.
It was almost a third straight after, but a pass from centre Millie Osman which looked set to give full-back Betty Matthews and wing Ellie Richards a clear run-in instead slipped through the fingers and to the feet of Somerset's nimble fly-half, who hacked it forwards three times and won the race to dive on in over the try line. Somerset converted to close the gap to three points, but Cornwall continued to dominate and were rewarded by Ellie Richards powering through a high tackle to the line after yet more patient play orchestrated by scrum half Anna Garman.
Somerset then enjoyed their best spell of the game, with a succession of Cornish penalties finally costing them as the opposition 7 powered past a tackle and over the whitewash from a tap and go, the conversion reducing Cornwall's lead to a single point at the halfway mark. Introducing fresh legs though made an immediate impact, with replacements Hannah Dawes and Abby Smith combining to race from deep inside their own 22 to be stopped just short by a high tackle, with fellow sub Hannah Statton picking up and finishing instead. Captain Sophie Daniel's conversion attempt sadly proved to be her last play of the day after injuring her foot, but her replacement fly half Emily Hoskin's kick into the corner soon after set the platform for Plant to peel from the back of the maul and power over for her second try.
Cornwall then finished with a stylish sixth try after a turnover won by centre Tamsin Wilson's powerful counter-rucking. Plant and player-of-the-day Evie Curnow powered forward, then the ball went through the hands to Smith who cut back inside through several opponents to score between the posts, giving a grateful Hoskin the teams' first (and only!) conversion of the day.
Final Score: Somerset 14 – Cornwall 32
With the first game over-running a little, there was precious little respite before the next half-hour encounter with a Devon side who had selected from a player pool triple the size of our own, and the fatigue, heat and nerves of both sides showed in the opening exchanges. Winning a scrum against the head then put wind in the Cornish sails, with winger Maddie Meagan then Plant making massive line breaks to put Cornwall into the Devon 22 only for a knock-on in front of the posts to hand the home side some respite. Respite turned to territory after a pair of Cornish infringements, and strong tackles from Meagan and flanker Maeve Turley were needed to thwart a dangerous break down to the right.
Perhaps after 12 scrums in 14 minutes the referee was just as fatigued by them as both packs, so play continued as he waved away what appeared to be a Devon knock-on inside the Cornish 22 as solely off the knee instead. Smith dived on the loose ball but green shirts were the first to follow up, and with the Cornish winger unable to recover quickly enough Devon raced into the corner to break the deadlock, with the extras missed from out wide.
The home side then manage to weather another 7 minutes of pressure inside their 22, culminating in tired Cornish legs being adjudged to have gone of their feet at a ruck on the Devon try line. With ball finally back in hand Devon broke, stopped temporarily by a fantastic one-on-one head-on tackle by vice captain Matthews on her own 22, but the green horde played the ball through their hands admirably to put themselves in at the corner then back around under the posts for a converted score with four minutes left.
With time ticking away, a canny interception by second row Lilly Jehu on her 22 set in motion a series of powerful driving runs from the majority of the pack all the way up to the five-metre line, giving Clarke the platform to pick up and drive over for her second try of the day, with Matthews missing the conversion on the final whistle.
Final Score: Devon 12 – 5 Cornwall
Having finished on a high, Cornwall started against Gloucestershire where they'd left off with Plant completing her hattrick. Then followed Cornwall's longest period of defence all day, as slowly but surely the black and gold shirt drove back their opponents tackle by tackle from the the Cornish 5m line all the way back to the Gloucestershire 10m before forcing the knock-on. Plant was soon after held up on the line then drove just short, before Clarke completed her own hattrick from a tapped penalty from 5m out.
The remaining quarter of an hour saw plenty of Cornish pressure without reward, only for a succession of tired infringements to then force one last big defensive effort at the end to maintain a hard-fought lead against some ambitious flowing rugby.
Final Score: Gloucestershire 0 – 10 Cornwall
After a much-needed break over lunch play resumed in a 4-way sevens tournament, giving most of the Cornish girls their first taste of the format.
After a long morning of 15-a-sides and facing fresher 7s specialists it proved a bridge too far for Cornwall though. The girls fought hard to achieve very respectable losses to eventual winners Somerset and home side Devon, but with both injuries and play time mounting it was decided to award final opponents Gloucestershire a walkover in the final game.
However, despite the defeats the overwhelming consensus from the girls as they came off the pitch was that 7s was good fun. Exhausting... but good fun! With two more rounds of this festival format yet to come against the same opponents there'll be plenty of opportunity to explore and improve on our showing here.
Thank you to Tavistock RFC for hosting us so well, to the referees, and to the parents who cheered on their girls from start to finish!
Squad: Sophie Daniel, Josie Plant, Evie Curnow, Ellie Richards, Rosie Innins, Eloise Maniglia, India Bennett, Millie Osman, Pyper Karkeek, Lucy Mills, Farrah Sarle, Paige Clarke, Hannah Dawes, Hannah Statton, Emily Joyce, Avril Crabb, Anna Garmen, Izzy Holmes, Nicola Wormsley, Maddie Meagan, Emily Hoskin, Maeve Turley, Betty Matthews, Abbey Smith, Tamsin Wilson, Ellen Armstrong, Chiana Alee, Lilly Jehu, Ellie Bardoe.
Coaches: Gavin Mountjoy, Ross Tucknott