The Final Whistle with Erin Collins
For a team unaccustomed to losing, a game that you aren’t dominating can feel like a game out of control. After three comfortable tries in the first twenty minutes, this match, the return fixture against Loughborough, was such a match.
The problem with being undefeated is that every team you play is out to be the team that beats the unconquered victors. Thus, not only are you playing for the sake of one victory, but to defend a title against those who seek to undermine you. Throw in a good dose of flu leaving Durham with no forwards substitutions and a bit of home turf pressure for good measure, and it’s enough to put anyone off their game.
The forwards battled on, with Liddie Harris valiantly stepping in as Hooker and Sarah Ward making her 1stTeam debut. Ironically, for a weakened pack, there were more scrums than in any game so far. Durham held up brilliantly and dominated the line outs with performances to prove the adage that “the forwards win the game; the backs decide by how much”.
Apart from handling errors, there wasn’t much to fault. However, it was these handling errors, causing all those scrums, that prevented Durham from capitalising. Both teams were guilty, making the game scrappy and disjointed. However, Durham’s speed and training kicked in to keep them in the attacking half for a significant majority of the game. Two of the three Durham tries, scored by Beth Blacklock, came from a quick pop from Katie Moran and Erin Kelly respectively. The third scored by Flanker Tania Forichon came from trademark pace and power.
Durham kept up the fight into the second half but couldn’t maintain enough possession to turn it into points. Their frustrations ran high but were largely channelled into some impressively dominant tackles that were probably heard far away in the next town!
A brilliant break in the last few minutes saw Loughborough run in and convert a try bringing the final score to 21:7 and sending the visitors home with something to celebrate.
Durham came off the pitch looking defeated. An outsider would not expect this from a team who had just won an exhausting game. However, Durham came into the match with the objectives of a. winning, b. achieving another bonus point and c. keeping a clean sheet against them. Only one of these goals was achieved. The next games will be tougher, and Durham needs to consolidate this performance into action if to maintain their dominance over rivals Northumbria and Edinburgh, teams who will happily capitalise on disjointed performances.
Lydia Otulakowski was awarded Back of the Match, Tania Forichon earned Forward of the Match, and Loughborough picked out Clodagh Cronin as their Player of the Match. And here in lies the crux of the argument - Durham played as a team of individuals today. Whilst these are all very capable individuals, including many who stepped up to the 1stTeam and held their own in a difficult match, Durham needs to regain its’ pack mentality.
I for one am glad the game ended this way. A team unaccustomed to losing got a taste of what it feels like to be out of control. They ended up reflecting on this and I have every faith that this result will be consolidated into strong and united performances in games to come. Indeed, if the team is to stay true to their motto “rise up”, there must be a depth from which to rise. I would caution opposition in the future, we now know that Durham Women’s Rugby 1stTeam are not only competent victors, but hungry to appease their own sense of achievement as well as everyone else’s.