North Wales Crusaders Women’s team added a new dimension to the parent club’s history by taking part in their first ever game on Sunday June 11th at Eirias Park Colwyn Bay. Their opponents were Heysham Atoms, also new to rugby league this season, but who travelled from Morecambe with several friendly games already under their belt.
The Crusaders had been training since the beginning of April under Head Coach Becki Davies, and supporting coaches Dom Dean, Jonathan Burgess, Cam Long and Rob Massam, having been assembled almost entirely from players new to rugby league. Nevertheless, the team had been quick to pick up their new sport’s basics and had developed a great team ethic off the field.
On the day, Cru made an uncertain start losing possession from the kick-off and conceding an early try from Heysham. However once nerves were settled, the home side began to show evidence of considerable resilience in defence, especially from the halfback pair of Abi Cousins and Sioned Phillips. With more possession the Cru began to threaten on attack and eventually after 10 minutes prop Codie Slack crashed over for the Crusaders Women’s first ever try, Phillips adding the goal.
In what was becoming a very entertaining clash, Heysham hit back with a try of their own, giving a six-point advantage which they held until just before half-time when top tackling Cru second row, Bea O’Neill, pierced the visitors defence for a vital try with a sharp burst from 20 metres out
Some distant thunder and light rain early in the second half provided a welcome relief from the heat before the interval, and it marked a turning point for the home side. First, Becky Jarvis-Evans broke clear in the middle and outpaced Heysham with a try under the posts, making it 16-12.
Collectively, Cru were showing more pace than the visitors, and it was no surprise when two tries followed from centre Eloise Kirby, who had already made her mark in defence. She backed up a great break by Sioned Phillips to cross from 20 metres out. Then she scored the try of the match by collecting a kick deep in her own half and sprinting along the touchline beating the cover defence by sheer pace and touching down under the posts - much to the delight of the sizeable home crowd who cheered on every step!
At 28-12, Cru now had to maintain their impressive defence in which they succeeded, apart from an opportunist try when Heysham took advantage of a ‘short’ kick off.
The final score of 28-18 was a fair reflection of the game and a great fillip for the rest of the campaign which consists of seven more friendly fixtures including the return at Heysham.
Head Coach Becki Davies reflected on the historic win …
“The Cru team on that pitch in minute 1 was a completely different team to that in minute 40. They defended hard and put their bodies on the line. They worked well in attack and formed a good structure to score and ultimately get the win that they SO deserved.”
“Heysham gave us a good competitive game and credit to them for being such a great opposition. We’re looking forward to playing them again in August up in their neck of the woods”
Becki added "The whole team put in a fantastic performance and I could not be prouder of them, but as a coaching team we unanimously agreed that Whitney Tucker deserved the award of Woman of the Match. She made some impressive line-breaks & her work rate was phenomenal."
North Wales Crusaders -28
TRIES Eloise Kirby (2), Codie Slack, Bea O'Neill, Becky Jarvis-Evans
GOALS Sioned Phillips (4)
Heysham Atoms - 18
TRIES Jadine McVernon, Rachel O'Connor, Lauren Helme
GOALS Katy Gribbons (3)