The first game in this year’s Damer Allsvenskan saw the Lionesses take on Vänersborg RK away from the Lion’s den on a beautifully sunny day for rugby.
Once again international commitments and last minute drop outs conspired against the team and meant that we fielded only 11 players in a game of 12’s, which had the girls behind the eight ball from the start.
This report isn’t going to pull any punches, the game finished with Vänersborg running out winners 104-7, but just reading the score would not do justice to the performance of the 11 girls that took the 700km trip north.
If ever the phrase ’a tale of two halves’ was to be used, it was for this game because whilst the first portion of the contest was a very dissapointing display from the ladies, where they were thoroughly out played by their opposition, the second half gave us a very encouraging and in some ways impressive performance from the girls.
VRK’s early backline play was just too good for their Lugi counterparts, who were one player short out wide, as some strong and direct running from VRK’s inside center really caused problems in defence which meant that Lugi were three scores down before the crowd had settled into their seats. Whilst Elizabeth Sonnenholzner and Malin Carvalho Nejstaard were tackling anything that moved, their team mates were not so keen early in the game, and this meant that VRK broke through Lugi’s line on numerous occasions and were always playing on the front foot making life very easy for the home team.
Early encouragement came through a good break from Catherine Blanc who burst through the middle on a crash and took the ball 30 meters before finding herself in a forest populated by VRK players and not a Lugi in sight, meaning that the team wasn’t able to capitalise on their first true attacking platform. The rest of the first half continued to see VRK dominating as Lugi’s tackling, defence and support around the ruck area was lacklustre leading to Lugi’s line being crossed on numerous occasions.
Despite the nearly insumountable total, the second half saw the Lionesses begin make a vast improvement in all aspects of their game. The level of tackling from the entire team improved dramatically, which really made VRK work for every inch of grass. Captain Emma Lönsjö led from the front and could be seen hunting down numerous players in blue, started to cause some real problems for the opposition around the breakdown and became a real source of inspiration for the team as demonstrated by winger Rebecka McCarthy who single headedly cleared out three VRK players in a critical ruck near Lugi’s try line.
No matter what the standard of play, being down by so many points would see many teams give up the ghost and not play, but the Lugi Lionesses are not a normal team. Their play throughout the second half never saw the give an inch that VRK didn’t earn as the defensive work was stellar and unforgiving and the contest up front was much more even and overall a more watchable spectacle.
Eventually Lugi were rewarded for their hard work. When a series of well put together phases put VRK under a lot of pressure they gave away a penalty from 25 meters out. The opportunity was seized upon by Blanc who’s tap and run saw her shaking a couple of tackles and finding herself with enough open grass to score under the posts and add the extras herself.
At the end of the day the result on the scoreboard was a big disappointment for the girls, but upon reflection the second half performance was a real source of encouragement and a gave the team a glimpse of what they are capable of when they put their minds to the task and do the basics correct. This report may have picked our a few specific names but all 11 players on the day should be commended for their second half effort and dedication to the cause.
Squad: Lina Adeen, Catherine Blanc, Jorun Borggren, Ann Gustavsson, Emma Lönsjö, Rebecka McCarthy, Malin Carvalho Nejstaard, Kristina Petersson, Linnea Roslund Elizabeth Sonnenholzner and Anna Thynell.
Lioness of the Match: Catherine B., Malin CN. and Emma L.
(written by Ross Watson)