Final Score Newbury Ladies 14, Guildford Gazelles 20 – 14th January
Guildford’s Gazelles travelled to undefeated league leaders Newbury on Sunday looking to avenge a narrow loss earlier in the season at home knowing that only their best would do.
The Gazelles kicked off and their forwards set their stall out early by aggressively counter rucking and turning the ball over. Great continuity from Guildford with forwards and backs working seamlessly together allowed the Gazelles to move the ball from side to side gaining yards towards Newbury try line and after multiple phases Guildford finally found a gap allowing full back Zan Hudson to scoot over the try line for the first try of the game, which went unconverted.
This seemed to spark Newbury into life and they began to show why they had been undefeated this season. They aggressively targeted the break down and moved the ball well, moving swiftly into Guildford territory. A quick tap penalty from Newbury’s captain and scrum half, got Newbury within 5 meters of the gazelles try line. Guildford stood firm with resolute defending and a desire to get off the line which quelled the Newbury onslaught and a-loose pass from the Newbury back line allowed Harmony Driver to secure possession on the floor and Kate Jenkins to clear the Gazelles lines to relieve the pressure. This is how the game continued for the next 15 minutes, a ferocious battle close to Guildford’s line. Having relieved pressure again, Guildford disrupted Newbury’s line out and the Gazelles turned defence into attack with a sweeping move left to right before flanker Ruth Harper noticed space on the blind side. Acting quickly she picked from the base herself and ran in from 15 meters out to give the Gazelles a 10-0 lead going into half time.
Stirring words from captain Vicky Boothman at half time must have been over heard by Newbury as they started the second half in the same fashion as Guildford started the game, this lead to their centre breaking through the line and scoring close to the posts, successfully converted to make the score 7-10 with 35 minutes left to play.
Guildford rallied at this point not wanting history to repeat itself, the Gazelles forward pack started to stamp their authority on the game, aggression at the rucks allowed clean ball which Guildford moved effectively down field.
This continued at a Newbury scrum 5 meters from there line which was inexplicably reset numerous times with Guildford ripping the Newbury pack to shreds, finally the ref rewarded Guildford with a deserved penalty which captain Boothman took quickly to dive over the line leaving the score 15-7 with 25 to play.
The game now entered a crucial phase with the Gazelles looking to land the killer blow and Newbury fighting to close the gap. This lead to a thrilling end to end battle with both teams giving no quarter. Guildford still struggling to gain an advantage off the ref from their dominant scrum allowed Newbury to snaffle the ball in the Guildford 22 and a Newbury forward to crash over bringing the score to 14-15 with 10 to go.
In the past the Gazelles may have folded, however, sticking to a regimented game plan, fly half Jenkins used her trusty right boot to put the gazelles in the right areas of the pitch. After a succession of penalties, the Gazelles found themselves with a line out 5 meters from the line. A clean catch from Spencer Hastings allowed to forwards to set a driving maul which Boothman rode all the way to the try line to dot down on the blind for Guildford 4th try.
The game finished shortly after with a win for the Gazelles 14-20 condemning Newbury to their first loss of the season. Post-match the Newbury skipper congratulated Guildford and stated the best side won. There was no surprise to see the players of the match were tight head Charlie Thornbury and second row Becki ‘melman’ Simmons.
Coach Ali Davis said after “I’m really pleased coming away with a win. Newbury is a difficult place to travel to at the best of times let alone when they are undefeated.” He went on to praise the ladies for their approach in the week at training and applying what they had been working on all season to the game.