Bletchley Ladies ended their season in style, beating city rivals Olney Ladies 30-3 at Franklin’s Gardens.
Having suffered play-off disappointment against Barnsley, Bletchley looked to finish their season with more silverware at the home of Northampton Saints, having already won the league title.
Olney took the opening kick which was knocked on by Bletchley. Olney won their scrum and worked the ball wide, only to knock it out, giving Bletchley the first line out. They secured this and set up a maul, pushing forward. A quick peel off the back pushed things further forward, then a penalty from Olney gave Bletchley the kick to touch, taking play into Olney’s half. Another successful line out and play continued to move up the pitch. Caroline Collie gathered up a dangerously loose ball and passed to Rachael Taylor. She ran on, only to be tackled out, giving Olney a respite in the middle of their half. They won the line out, only to knock on, giving the honours back to Bletchley at the scrum, just short of Olney’s 22. Bletchley quickly secured this and passed out through the hands. A short pop over the top was taken by Olney, just 5m out from their line. They ran back at Bletchley, only to knock on in the first tackle, giving Bletchley another scrum on the 22. Emma Lucey whipped the ball out the back of the scrum, passed it out to Taylor who made a break to take the first points, putting the ball down in the corner; 0 – 5 and Bletchley were on their way, just three minutes into the game.
Again Bletchley knocked on from the kick, giving Olney a scrum just outside Bletchley’s 22. They passed out through the hands, but couldn’t find a gap in the Bletchley defence; four passes, then a ruck just over the 22, were followed by more phases from Olney, with Bletchley working them further away from the danger zone. Finally Bletchley’s persistence paid off; a forward pass from Olney, just 10m short of the halfway line, gave Bletchley their opening back in. They pushed up and took play into Olney’s territory, working through the phases. A knock on in tackle allowed Olney to take play back to the middle of their half, then a penalty form Bletchley furthered helped Olney’s cause. They took a quick tap and pushed up, this time finding the space to get back to Bletchley’s 22. Another penalty from Bletchley and Olney’s number 10, Jennie Miles, took the points from a kick in front of the posts; 3 – 5.
Bletchley’s restart kick went deep. Olney took it cleanly, moved up then passed back to their kicker who cleared their lines. Their respite was short lived. Bletchley took the catch, worked through the phases to push forward. After a good sequence, the ball found Collie who put it down in the corner, just three minutes from the restart, to move the score to 3 – 10.
Olney stepped up their game. Jodie Denton took the catch and set up a ruck. A second ruck and Bletchley knocked on, giving Olney the put in at the scrum. They secured this and passed out, then knocked on too, giving the honours back to Bletchley. The ball passed out to Clare Stacey, who made a strong push up to the middle of the pitch. They ladies continued to recycle the ball, then gave a penalty, allowing Olney back in; a quick tap and they were on their way, regaining lost ground. Bletchley weren’t going to let them off the hook that easily; a turnover at a ruck and Bletchley were back in the driving seat, pushing back towards Olney’s line. Taylor took an opportunity to kick deep, which was chased up by Stacey who secured the ball for Bletchley. She passed out and the momentum continued. Olney took advantage of the breather given by a knock on, followed by a penalty from Bletchley, and worked play back to Bletchley’s 22.
This time it was Cons Novas’ turn to save the day. She set up the ruck, the ball passed back to Taylor who kicked it down the pitch, to bounce and pop out just into Olney’s half, gaining ground but giving Olney a chance to push back. They held possession at the line out, then forced a penalty from Bletchley. Another tap and run took them back into Bletchley’s half. They passed out, then popped it over; Taylor took the catch but was tackled out, giving Olney another line out, this time in the middle of Bletchley’s patch. Bletchley dug in, forcing Olney to work across the pitch, looking for an opening, to no avail. Bletchley pushed them back towards their own half and finally took advantage of a knock on in Olney’s half to take their next try, as Collie put it down in the corner again; 3 – 15.
Novas took the ball from the restart and pushed play forward. Bletchley drove deep into Olney’s half, then gave a penalty. Olney kicked to touch, but didn’t throw straight at the ensuing line out, allowing Bletchley to continue their progress. Unfortunately they didn’t make the line before the halftime whistle went, leaving the score at 3 – 15 going into the second half.
At the start of the second half Olney gave a penalty. Bletchley took a quick tap, ran into their 22, set up a ruck and passed out to Taylor who put it down over the line, just one minute into the half, opening the gap further; 3 – 20. This was followed three minutes later by a further try from Taylor, giving her a hat trick and taking the score to 3 – 25.
Emily Gauci took the catch at the restart; Bletchley drove forward, passing through the hands. An attempt at an interception from Olney resulted in a knock on. Bletchley secured the scrum and continued their progress. A break from Collie took play to the 5m line before she was tackled out. Just five minutes from the last try, Emma Lucey picked the ball from the back of the scrum, saw a gap, ran round the blind side and popped it down in the corner for the final try of the game; 3 – 30.
Both teams fought hard for the remaining 25 minutes of play; Bletchley took the game to Olney’s 22, then gave a penalty, allowing Olney to clear to the half way mark. Bletchley turned over the lineout, to take the ball back. Bex Driscoll made some strong plays to drive up, followed by Jennie Davies, Stacey and Rachael Appleby, but Olney were determined not to let any more points add to Bletchley’s tally. A knock on gave Olney a scrum deep in their half and they pushed hard to try and move play towards Bletchley’s end of the pitch. They made a break to Bletchley’s 5m line, then a penalty from Bletchley gave them an opportunity to try and get their first try. Another penalty from Bletchley resulted in a yellow and they were down to 14, but they dug in and held up Olney’s try attempt.
Olney secured their scrum to restart play but knocked on, giving Bletchley the opening they needed to move play a safer distance from their line. They passed back to Taylor who booted the ball down the pitch; Collie chased and gathered it up. The ladies worked forward, then Olney ripped the ball at a ruck. Luckily for Bletchley, a couple of phases on Olney knocked the ball forward. Bletchley picked up the ball and advantage was played. They pushed up, then knocked on themselves, giving Olney the scrum just in Bletchley’s half. Bletchley gave a penalty at the scrum and Olney kicked to touch, giving them the line out, just outside Bletchley’s 22. Bletchley turned this over and worked through the phases.
Another break from Collie, up to Olney’s 22, was halted by a high tackle, giving Olney the yellow this time. Bletchley chose to take a scrum, picked and passed out along the line, but a knock on gave the scrum to Olney, just outside their own 22. They secured this and kicked to touch to end play before Bletchley could put any more points on the sheet, making Bletchley the first holders of the new Alliance Women’s cup.