Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Sunday, May 01, 2011

England their own worst enemy at FIRA Day One

England pushed all the way by Italy on Day One
The opening day of this year's European Trophy was one of mixed results - one of the closest games in the history of women's international rugby being followed by one of the most one-sided.

England A sneaked to a 5-0 win over Italy in a game that appears to have been riddled with mistakes. The game began well, full-back Kay Wilson scored following good work by both forwards and backs - but after that  things went less well. Handling errors - the largely unspoken Achilles heel of the senior squad in recent years - were so serious that they are a major feature of the RFUW's own match report (normally a model of positive spin). "They did miss many more opportunities than that in the first half" the report says, and goes on to highlight a few.

This appears to have raised the confidence of the far more experienced Italian opposition (an "A" team in name alone!) allowing them to overcome the problem that Italian teams seem to have had when facing teams called "England", and by the end of the game it was the women in white who were very much on the defence.

But defend they did, winning ugly in the end - which is always said to be the sign of a good team. As a result they should now reach the final as only the Netherlands and Russia are in their way. The former would normally be seen as something of a threat at this level, but without most of their leading players (now contracted to play only Sevens) the Dutch lost to Russia in their opening game. It was another tight game - 17-10 - but the Dutch have never lost to the Russia before, or even come close. Of course this might - and probably does - also indicate some improvements in Russian rugby, but regardless of how much Russia have have improved it is unlikely that they will trouble England A.

A crowd of over 1500 watched Spain give Finland a rugby lesson
While the games in Pool B were tight, Pool A was a different matter. The hopes for Sweden repeating their impressive performance against France A at the World Cup would have been slight even before most of the Swedish squad either retired or decided to concentrate on Sevens. As a result France's 40-3 win was what most observers expected.

France were "A" in name alone - this was the first XV - though there were some positional experiments. Most striking was the movement of captain Marie Alice Yahe from scrum-half to full-back, where she was also given all the kicking duties. This proved to be something of a success as she hit the target with three of her four kicks - a far better success rate than most previous French kickers - though having arguably the world's best scrumhalf not playing in that position is a high price to pay.

A similar win was expected for Spain against the novice Finnish XV - what was not expected was a cold, clinical massacre. 14 Spanish players crossed the line in their 119-0 win - the fourth highest margin of victory ever - and that in a game that was only 70 minutes long instead of the usual 80 (Trophy games are 35 minutes each way, for reasons no-one has ever explained).

Spain and France meet in the next round of games, on Monday, and that should reveal who is most likely to face England in next Sunday's final.

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