Wildcats begin the Waterfall Cup trail
By Graham Shaw
Full squad of 17 Wildcats showed how far they've come
The U15 Wildcats started their cup campaign away at Guildfordians RFC. This was always going to be a tough game with the opposition stacked with Surrey players and having recently come out 3rd in the National Cup - Surrey region. One thing I've learned as coach today is to have more confidence in our squad to perform way beyond their experience level - we now become the dangerous underdogs who've earned huge respect. It was fantastic to see the Wildcat squad of 17 turn out in our MS Webb sponsored kit - for Liyah Lomath and Nirvana Nasr this was their first 15 a side game!
The game was played in good conditions but on a pitch that definitely had a hill. The Wildcats started downhill and came out of the traps better than anyone could have expected. Charlotte Sandle marshalled the troops through the phases in her first full game as scrum half. This led to Hannah Carter demonstrating her pace and strength to run 30m and score in the corner. The team followed that with some solid defence putting all our training in to practice to close the gap - Finty McEwan, Nicola Thomas, Megan Thomas and Molly Hearn put in some awesome tackles. Jodie Wyatt had spent time in the week looking at what a flanker needed to do in the game - she set herself these targets and then came flying off scrums to force the experienced scrum half and fly half to knock on. Player led development is one of my main targets as a coach so to see Jodie excel in this way was incredible. This pressure resulted in several turnovers and switched in to attack mode. Agatha Joao then used her strength to burst through the line and score the Wildcats second try carrying defenders with her.
The Wildcats continued to dominate phases of defence and attack. As both teams settled in, Guildfordians started to come back stronger and string together phases. They pulled the score back to 10-5 before Nirvana Nasr stormed over for our 3rd try following some great passages of play. The team showed that they could drive straight through the middle as well as use good quality passing to get the ball wide. The pack with Nicola and Ines Holton leading the front row held their own in the scrums with ruby wallis making great breaks off the back. The decision making on the pitch was fantastic. Unfortunately Guildfordians scored a converted try just before half time to go in 15-12 at the break.
Playing up hill in the second half proved a challenge but with Kenzie Beck and Katie Conway coming off the bench, their determination pushed them through. The Wildcats started strongly until an injury caused a break in play - when it resumed the intensity and organisation that was so strong in the first half took a dip and allowed Guildfordians back in to the game with their third try. The remainder of the second half was scrappy for both teams.Sophie Shaw made some strong tackles and ripped the ball for a turnover (one of her targets from training). Renae Baker kept running with pace and strength and worked with Hannah and Eleanor Cracknell as a back three to cut off multiple breakaway tries. The Wildcats were camped on the oppositions line for over 5 minutes but couldn't find that crucial score. As the length and pace of the game started to takes it toll, Guildfordians pushed forward and scored a fourth try. The team never stopped and pushed through to the end but Guildfordians made the pressure tell, scoring the final try on the whistle of full time.
The players should be immensely proud of their efforts today and how they pulled together as a squad. They showed how far they had progressed and their potential for the future. Leanne Riley (Harlequins and England scrum half) was at the game as Guildfordians head coach and commented how impressed she was with the defence and determination of the team - you couldn't ask for a better compliment. We have a good run of games coming up where we can continue to develop our overall game. But for now everyone can sit at home with a smile knowing they pushed a strong team all the way.
Videos and photos to be shared by everyone if possible please
WE GO AGAIN AS ONE - Congrats Wildcats
Thanks all - Graham