Fresh from team building in the New Forest and entertaining the crowds at the O2 Scrum in the Park, the Rosslyn Park Slingbacks were keen to get their season underway with the first of their pre-season friendlies against Richmond II. With many of the regular starters absent, opportunities were given for others to stake a claim in the squads for the first league fixtures in two weeks time.
In weather reminiscent of last season’s excursion to Prague, the Slingbacks knew it would test their fitness to the extreme.
From the opening kick-off though, the Park forwards rose to the challenge with blind-side Cat Bradley determined to punish any Richmond player who dared to touch the ball. Park battled towards the opposition’s line and a solid ruck from the forwards set up centre Jen Searle to make one of her trademark weaving runs to score the first Park try of the season in the corner.
Within five minutes, more dominating play from the Park forwards resulted in a simple penalty in front of the posts for fly-half Ulrika Andersson-Hall to increase the lead to 8 points. This seemed to jolt the Richmond players into action and a well-worked move just before the first water break on 20 minutes resulted in a try in the corner for the visitors.
Park came out in the second third with a few new faces to the game, determined to show the coaches what they were capable of. With searching runs made from debutant Lara Peet in the centres, and continued pressure up front from in-form prop Anna Butler, Park looked capable of threatening the Richmond line throughout the first 10 minutes of the second period. However Richmond battled back and found a chink in the Slingbacks’ defensive line to launch a counter-attack which resulted in a second try near the corner-flag. The visitors’ third try followed soon after due to a combination of the heat and a couple of talented Richmond players introduced to the game.
The second water break came and Park gathered round to contemplate the 15-8 deficit they were facing. Another re-shuffle of personnel and the teams took the pitch for the final 20 minutes. Park looked sharpest after the break and worked their way into the opposition half. Centre Clare Bowen, having replaced Searle in the no. 13 shirt, latched onto a loose kick to make a charge to the line. The Richmond defence brought her down just yards before the line but Bowen managed to get the ball away to her centre partner Peet to cap off a fantastic debut with a try under the posts. Andersson-Hall converted to tie the game at 15-15 with ten minutes remaining on the clock.
Park battled furiously to work their way up the pitch for one final assault on the Richmond line but a charged-down kick led to a break-away try for the visitors. With the heat sapping the last of the Slingbacks’ energy, Richmond broke away before the final whistle for a fifth try to make the final score 25-15.
Despite the narrow loss, the Slingbacks took a lot away from the day with many players making strong impressions on coaches Martyn Worsley and Matt Mandelbaum. Congratulations must go to the six players who made their debut in the famous red and white hoops - Peet, Rosie Collins, Lynelle Whitcombe, Hannah Wilkinson, Lucy Ross-Mackenzie and Natalie Lindeman. Special mention also goes to the players of the match blind-side Bradley and prop Butler.
Team: Butler, Daffy, Krause, Flower, Wood, Bradley, Potter, Phillips (c), Landells (vc), Andersson-Hall, H Wilkinson, Peet, Searle, Whitcombe, Delves
Subs used: Ross-Mackenzie, Collins, Bowen, Lindeman
The Slingbacks play Wasps II in their last pre-season friendly next Saturday (10 September) as a curtain-raiser to the Rosslyn Park Men’s First XV first home game of the season. The day also marks the long-awaited introduction of the ‘Slingbacks Too’ – the Rosslyn Park Women’s’ second XV – who will take on local rivals Barnes at about 10.30am before the Wasps II match. Come down to the club to see a whole day of action-packed rugby – three games for the price of one!