Heartbreak for the Ladies
A grey, late winter day saw a record crowd gather expectantly at Fortress Sutherland for the eagerly awaited cup match against rivals West Park Leeds with a place in the final up for grabs for the victors.
This day had been eagerly anticipated by all those linked to Novos Ladies with an intensity in training indicative of how our Novos wanted to ensure that West Park Leeds left Sutherland Park empty handed for the second time this season. Number One fan, Mr Willis, had even worn his willies for the occasion to ensure any adverse weather conditions did not spoil his enjoyment of the game, the balconies were packed with those loyal to the ladies in red, white and black and even our canine fans were sporting Novos colours on the side lines. Even our previous coach, Callum Harris, was on the sideline, sporting a delightful blazer and chino combination that I’m sure wasn’t the previous night’s attire.
The game kicked off in a swirling breeze with Novos having the best of the early skirmishes including excellent line breaks from ‘Le Flash’ Fouin and Janey ‘Twinkle Toes’ Eccles. Novos early pressure led to a line out on the West Park 22, well won by our ladies who continued to press home the advantage resulting in Elle ‘TV Star’ Bloor driving over the whitewash sending the watching hordes in to raptures . While Dubai converted the resulting conversion with aplomb from her starting berth of fly half, eagle-eyed spectators were left wondering if the ‘Sutherland Sniper’ had stuck again, with ‘Magic’ Magistrali hitting the deck on the sideline, no doubt she will have compared notes with Tash and Janey after the match....
Novos taking the lead seemed to wake up the opposition, with them beginning to find a foothold in the game via some excellent scrummaging. A period of West Park possession saw strong tackles from Janey, Dubai and skipper Sedge whose aggression and determination showed how she was leading from the front. One of the biggest cheers of the day was reserved for Tash ‘Bulldozer’ Robson whose kick-chase was followed by a bone crunching tackle from our hard running inside centre. Further excellent covering tackles from ‘Lil Sam’ West out wide led to Novos regaining possession and Ceri ‘Stop me if you can’ Storer making up the yards with some hard runs through the West Park line and Novos stating to build the pressure again.
However, West Park were not to be cowed and pushed back at the Novos resurgence, winning a try and despite a thunderous tackle from Dubai, West Park were able to ship the ball out wide and score a try of their own after 30 minutes although they were not able to convert. The watching faithful sensed the shift of momentum on the pitch and raised the level of their vocal support, Mrs ‘I’m normally so quiet’ Coops urging our girls to re-find the intensity that they had started the match with. West Park seemed to scent blood and stepped up their own pressure which was magnificently soaked up by the Novos defence with excellent tackles from Fran ‘Mockers’ Mockford, Jess Ritchards and Jen ‘Kleenex’ Meaghs, with Captain Sedge trying to rally her troops and lead by example. Elle Bloor was relishing the physical battle, putting in a number of thunderous ‘thumper dumpers’ with Lydia ‘Shy Bairn’ Cowell tenacious in defence and some excellent work at full back under immense pressure from ‘Lil Sam’ West before the half time whistle came to the relief of those on (and off) the pitch.
As the second half kicked off, the gathering clouds over Newcastle seemed an ominous portent to those on the sideline, hoping to see Novos reach a major cup final. The occasion so tense that even the resident High Heaton seagulls had decided to keep away.
West Park started the second half on the front foot, with further sterling work from the Novos defence, this time with Jen ‘I don’t want to need Kleenex today’ Meaghs stripping the ball well in the ruck and Dubai ferocious in the tackle and both wingers, Mrs ‘I’m married now’ Stewart and Becca ‘Never Shuts Up’ Stanger marshalling the flanks, screaming at the Novos line to ensure there were no gaps for West Park to find. Captain Sedge tried a dart through the West Park Leeds just prior to Rachel Yost deciding to have a little lie down on the pitch, was it a nana nap or had she taken a knock? Those on the balcony were unsure.
Much to the relief of those on the sideline, Yosty and her dodgy knees were soon back in action keeping the West Park attack at bay alongside hard tackling from the entire Novos defence , however, the Yorkshire outfit went through the phases well and scored a try down their left hand channel to take the lead in the match, missing the conversion to make the score 7-10. Novos once again raised their game, refusing to let a cup final slip away from them, Ceri’s strong running almost making a way through. The increased Novos pressure paid off with Dubai expertly converting a deserved penalty to level the scores as the wind began to pick up.
Sensing this was the perfect time for a tactical masterstroke, Coach Morallee introduced ‘Donkey Claire’ Davies and Sarah ‘Dramatic Ankle’ Marshall into the fray, with Yostie and Mockers making way for a well deserved break. The clouds overhead continued to gather as Novos pushed hard to retake the lead, strong running from Jess Richards and ‘Le Flash’ Fouin almost paid off and Jen ‘Please no Kleenex today’ Meaghs continued to tackle hard. There was a collective intake of breath as our Captain went down after putting in another hard tackle, however, it appeared to be cramp and after a quick stretch she determined to carry on. The West park pressure was building again and although there was a brief respite via a Novos penalty, West Park soon had the ball back in hand, the player side stepping a Novos tackle and diving over the try line to break the hearts of those in red, white and black, the conversion scored as the leaden skies reflected the mood on the pitch as West Park once again took the lead, 10-17.
Fresh impetus was needed, and Shiv ‘VW Breakdown’ Ashton-Cleary, took the place of Lydia ‘Shy Bairn’ Cowell, who had put in one hell of a shift. Novos almost had an instant reply with a wonderful backs move resulting in the ball being sent to Mrs Stewart out wide although Novos fell agonisingly short of the try line. Our Sutherland Park heroines, continued to try and find a way through, Becca Stanger well wrapped up by the West Park defence and ‘Lil Sam’ continuing to impress at full back. The tension on the sideline was palpable as the two teams battled out on the pitch, cracking tackling from the Welsh Wonder and Sarah ‘Dramatic Ankle’ Marshall despite her opponent pulling her hair in a primary school fashion showed the level of determination of those on the pitch, unwilling to accept defeat until the final whistle sounded. While West Park celebrated, our Novos girls were clearly devastated to suffer a semi-final defeat and the watching hoards were left to ponder what might have been.
However, the ladies on the pitch had given their hearts and souls to the Novos cause and although understandably gutted to fall at the final hurdle, the determination, passion and effort could not be faulted, leaving all those watching with a overriding sense of pride in those who put their bodies on the line for the club we all love.