Women’s Rugby – Match Report

26th March 2010

The precursor to the main event proved to be a much better spectacle for all Uni’s fans, and it was shocking that there were not more. Although not quite as high scoring as the Men’s event, Women’s Rugby Varsity was edge-of-the-seat thrilling rugby. The individual performances coupled with a titanic forward effort dragged Uni over the finish line in poll position against a much bigger Trent team.

Looking at the teams before the match, Moyo and myself could not help but notice the size difference in the teams. On the one hand what one would imagine as a standard women’s team, basic skills with little genuine size. On the other hand a team that had a pack to rival most men’s team in size. This misjudgement was almost as big as the one Uni made concerning Trent’s men’s team.

As soon as the game started our error became clear. What Uni lacked in size they more than made up for with speed and sheer ferocity in contact. With a rampant back row led by outstanding Number 8 Jen Clarkson, Uni’s pack ran Trent off their feet in the first half, suffocating them and linking brilliantly with the backs.

And what a back division! Feeding off the sheer number of offloads from their pack, the Uni back line, led by Izzy Joris deputising at fly half and effervescent scrum half tore into Trent. Within 15 minutes Uni were on the board, choosing to run a penalty from ten metres out and Katie Fitzgerald went in virtually under the posts. Trent stepped up the pressure forcing themselves into the Uni 22, but struggled to deal with the physicality of Uni and lost the ball. Towards the end of the half and after shrugging off an asthma attack Izzy Joris provided the score that would give Uni an insurmountable lead.

A Midlands winger by trade, Joris had been inspirationally moved, by the coaches, into the No10 berth to give more speed and line-breaking ability to the Uni backline. And what a line break she made. With a ruck formed twenty metres in front of the Trent posts, Joris saw the weak Trent blindside defence and set off into history. Speeding round the blindside of the ruck she accelerated through two tackles, neatly side-stepped the Trent fullback and dived in under the posts. As Moyo put it ‘she’s not just girl fast, she’s man fast’. Epitomising the speed of body and speed of mind approach taken up by Uni, Joris put the game out of Trent’s reach.

After the half-time talk, Trent came out and began to play with more purpose. It paid dividends at first, the Trent winger scoring in the corner, the bizarre drop kicked conversion failing miserably. Then the inexorable physicality of the Uni defence began to tell, soaking up everything that Trent could throw at them. The telling moment of the half came when Trent’s Michaela Kurrigan broke down the left wing surely thinking she was in. She did not see or hear Uni’s fullback Emma Rice steaming across to make a thunderous hit to put her in touch just five metres out. A try saving, game winning and series levelling hit took all the wind out of Trent’s sails. All doubts of the weaker physical nature of women’s rugby had been banished.

The last twenty minutes descended into tit for tat rugby, neither side able to establish dominance as the game drew to a close. What was clear that Trent had been outplayed and beaten at their own game. Their unbeaten season had one blemish on it, and what a massive blemish it was. As for Uni, speed won out, ferocity dominated, this was as the referee put it after the game, ‘one of the best women’s games I have ever seen’. Congratulations to Uni’s women’s team, this was the type of game that highlights the growing influence of women’s rugby.

URN Player of the Match: Izzy Joris

Full-time: Uni 14 – 5 Trent

by Jamie Loyd