Army Women 12pts—England U20 41
The Class of 2016 England Women U20 produced the goods at Aldershot on 18 February. They played rugby with great skill, passion and, in bursts, fiery pace.
It is therefore right that the Army Women’s team is recognized for an outstanding performance in holding a star studded squad to two tries apiece until just before half time and 17 pts–12 on the whistle.
The England players, which included one full-cap and members of the England 7s team, benefitted from playing club rugby and University rugby week-in and week-out. They were very fit and jigsaw locked, particularly in defence pulling back almost certain Army tries at the line.
The Army was also riddled with class. Three current internationals in threequarters Gemma Rowlands, Beth Dainton (both Wales) and prop Bee Dawson recently capped by England against Scotland and Italy.
England opened the scores with a scorching try finished by the Wasps No 11 Abi Dow. The second was wholly different with loose head prop Ellena Perry crashing over from short range.
Twelve points adrift the Army re-grouped to shift another gear. Two cracking tries followed from re-born hooker Paula Robinson and full back Gemma Rowlands who surged through a gap invisible to the touch line. She dragged two England players over with her and converted her own try.
The key decision to that play was made in selection. With Katie Hancock lighting fuses at No10, Rowlands was given freedom to choose her point of entry—the rest of the story is Whoosh for 40m and 7 points. Katie Hancock’s first cap was a triumph and opens up many selection opportunites.
Try scorer Paula Robinson returning to the squad had an excellent game in the middle of a front row that included England cap Bee Dawson. She was feisty in crannies where the air is thick, the sun seldom squints and the referee hasn’t a clue.
Dawson was replaced by new cap Fran Athors who joined Charlie Maxwell in a tight ship. England were shunted by the sheer power of the Army shove.
Off the back Jade Binskin-Barnes and Tara McGlade were both ever present, possibly more lightening than thunder, but highly effect in stifling England initiatives. Lock Ellie Gattlin probably had her best game in a Red’s shirt.
In the send half England scored three more tries without reply but it was far from one-way traffic.
England U20 were slick and accomplished. Although second on the scoreboard the Army remained composed throughout and performed for the occasion with flashes of excellence.
Head Coach Capt Glyn Barraclough hit the nail on the head when he said “that was the best team we have played against in 18 seasons”.
Hats off to the Army Women