Cornish Girls Sign Off In Style
by Ross Tucknott (Backs Coach), Anna Garmen and Paige Clarke (Players)
Cornwall's U15 girls' third festival outing finished on a high in Gloucestershire as they matched their previous best of 4 wins from 6 with some new-found expansive style to add to their powerful trademark forward play.
The 5:30am start at Chiverton was the start of a real “on-tour” style day, with the squad emerging from the coach at Cheltenham Tigers and rocking their way through the clubhouse to the changing room in an eclectic array of onesies, setting the tone for the fun still to come!
The 15-a-sides: Devon, Somerset and Gloucestershire
Any hope of easing their way into the day evaporated with the schedule setting Cornwall against top opponent Devon in the opener, but it was the black and gold jerseys who struck first to shock the favourites. Flanker Josie Plant had already made a couple of impressive opening surges from the kick-off before Cornwall won a scrum on halfway, easily secured by the dominant Cornish pack. Then with Devon confused by the Cornish running lines, looping fly half Emily Hoskin isolated their winger and offloaded to skipper Betty Matthews, with the full back beating her opposite number to open the scoring but narrowly missing her own conversion attempt.
Devon then rallied, playing with the combination of sweeping passing moves, strong support play and intense competition at the breakdown that saw them go undefeated across the campaign, but despite the intense pressure the hearty Cornish defence was only breached once across the following ten minutes, leading to a converted try under the posts. Then, with Cornwall under yet more pressure and with half time approaching, Devon gathered a clearance kick on the Cornish 10m line and a single missed tackle was sufficient to see the green and white hoops to score their second between the uprights, kicking the extras to go to the break 14-5 ahead.
Cornwall restarted and piled on the pressure, letting Devon know they were still in a game by driving Devon back to their own try line and forcing a clearance kick. A Cornish infringement at the breakdown then help Devon work their way deep into the Cornish half but then gave away a scrum from which centre Becky Bennett dragged in multiple defenders with an arcing run then offloaded to winger Maddie Meagan, who won the race to the Devon try line from inside her own 10m line, making it 14-10 with the conversion missed.
Stung back into action, Devon's response was swift as strong carries crafted space in the Cornish line from which they capitalised with a third converted try to make it 21-10. There the scores staying for most of the remainder of the half as both sides tested each other thoroughly but, shortly after hooker Pyper Karkeek had made a massive try-saving tackle on the near side, the talented Devon wingers finally found joy on the far side after the Cornish defence had been sucked in by a flurry of phases with quick ball, giving the Devon side another try right before the final whistle to put a gloss on what had been a far tighter contest than the scoreline suggested.
Devon 26-10 Cornwall
Next up were home side Gloucestershire, who had narrowly succumbed to Cornwall on both previous occasions but were improving with every game. The early exchanges simply reinforced the expectation of another tight match as each team worked through the phases without managing a telling blow. As Gloucestershire mounted another attack some excellent defensive work from Chloe Vickery led to a turnover from which number eight India Bennett smashed her way through numerous challenges back up to her own 10m line before Cornwall won a scrum. Scrum half Chianna Alee's pass met the on-rushing Matthews who broke through the line and raced home under the posts, converting her own try.
The Cornish pack was winning scrums against the head, and with Matthews in particular snuffing out Gloucestershire's repeated attempts to avoid the black and gold forwards it felt like the opposition's try on the half time whistle was very much against the run of play. Gloucestershire finally managed to break through the Cornish defence, but a wonderful try-saving tackle from flanker Emily Joyce proved a brief reprieve as the claret shirts scored from their subsequent 5m scrum, missing the extras to trail the Cornish 5-7 at the break.
Cornwall restarted, Karkeek immediately won the ball back and as the Cornish forwards turned the screw their opponents gave away a pair of quick penalties, the second of which was quickly spun wide to vice-captain Sophie Daniel who drew Meagan's defender to put the winger in for her second unconverted try.
This time the Gloucestershire's response was much swifter, quickly winning the ball back from the restart themselves and going through some strong phases before working a hole in the Cornish defence to score their second, but crucially missing an easier conversion to remain two points behind the visitors.
Cornwall finished in the ascendency, centre Millie Osman's clever kick plus Daniel and Alee's hard chase gifting the team a succession of scrums and penalties deep inside the home 22. India Bennett carried strongly once more over the line only to knock on, another Cornish attack found itself held up in a mass of bodies, and solo drives from Daniel and fly-half Nicola Wormsley similarly met with impregnable opposition before the final whistle sounded.
Gloucestershire 10-12 Cornwall
The Cornwall girls finished their 15s campaign as they started it 4 weeks previous: with a dominant display over Somerset. Clubmate front rowers Lucie Mills, Evie Curnow and Ellie Bardoe had politely asked to finish up alongside each other, but the treatment they dished out to the opposition front row in the opening Somerset scrum (and indeed every single scrum all first half!) was far less reserved, driving them backwards at speed and winning back the ball. Mistakes surrendered possession again, but strong defensive work from Lilly Jehu and Osman saw Somerset driven into touch.
A huge carry from Mills soon saw Cornwall just short of the line, but the referee was no position to see Bardoe pick up and ground the ball over the try line; in the few seconds before she had got around for another angle a pair of Somerset hands had cheekily squirrelled their way under the ball. The sense of injustice soon evaporated though, for India Bennett picked and drove over from the following scrum for an unconverted score and to put an end to the backs getting all the glory... momentarily, as full back Ellie Richards raced through the defence off a scrum after the restart to put Cornwall 0-10 up.
The Cornish forwards were firing on all cylinders now, working from halfway in a series of blistering phases in which the whole pack were involved and culminating in Plant picking and breaking through at a guardless ruck to score between the posts, Richards adding the extras to go in at half time 0-17.
The second half started more scrappily, but Cornwall started to impose themselves once more largely through impressive carries from Richards and prop Eloise Maniglia who was held up over the line. Cornwall refused to surrender territory and soon it was flanker Emily Joyce scoring with Matthews adding the extras, then Matthews came close to scoring again herself after quick ball through the back line nearly saw her through again.
Somerset cleared their lines into the waiting arms of Richards who released winger Abbey Smith at full speed, jinking her way through the defence. Halted ten metres short, Smith offloaded to Daniel who ran an unstoppable support line to complete the morning's scoring and earning the team their largest winning margin of the campaign.
Somerset 0-29 Cornwall