Blues Ladies too strong for Whitchurch

 Haverfordwest Ladies team (Ceri Coleman-Phillips)


WRU National Bowl Round One:


Haverfordwest Ladies 40 - Whitchurch Ladies 0

It was a birthday to remember for captain Ali Hopson-Griffiths with her Haverfordwest side running in six tries against Whitchurch to progress to the next round of the WRU bowl competition.

And there was certainly a party atmosphere in Merlins Bridge with Pembroke Ladies joining the supporting crowd after having their game against Dowlais postponed.

The Blues, who had fielded a bare 14 in their WRU plate defeat to Cobra the weekend before, were boosted by the return of a few old heads alongside promising new recruits.

Blues deny early Whitchurch scoring attempts

This was the first time the two teams had met, with Haverfordwest most recently playing in division one and Whitchurch winning the division three title last season.

The up and coming Cardiff side showed their intent early on, spending the first 10 minutes stringing phase after phase of attack, but Haverfordwest’s defence held firm and after a stern word from coach Jeff Clout, started to play their own style of running rugby.

Ali Hopson-Griffiths and Amber Starr-Palmer put in a double hit

Rhian races through to open scoring

With a foothold in the game, gaps began to open up which freed flying full-back and the season’s top scorer Rhian Swift for her first try of the afternoon.

Centre Amber Starr-Palmer who 24 hours previously had played in Army Women’s 27-7 victory over Exeter at Sandy Park, showed good pace to get the second try.

Another who showed no signs of fatigue was Holly Couzens, who fresh from competing in Crossfit Llanelli, pulled the strings from outside-half, constantly getting over the gain line and winning several counter-rucks. She got her just rewards with a try, before Swift flew over for another to make it 26-0 at the break.

The Whitchurch defence could not live with the pace of Rhian Swift

Powerful players injured – but good replacements available

Haverfordwest were dealt a double blow in losing tackle machines Emily Banner and Emily Carrington to injury, but there were not bad replacements waiting in the wings in former Scarlets’ centre Stephanie Harris and Lyn Ward, one of the most experienced and consistent players to wear the blue jersey before hanging up her boots.

Renowned for being feisty at the breakdown, Harris got stuck in, winning a turnover with her very first involvement. She later made a great intercept before being chopped down a metre short of the line. Couzens looked to have crossed after the ball was recycled but the referee called a knock on.

Haverfordwest continued to chip away and after winning a five metre scrum released wing Christine Selby to cross in the corner for her first try. Couzens nailed the touchline conversion to the roar of the crowd, missing just one kick all afternoon, for an impressive points haul of 15.

Despite the score, Whitchurch competed well with their scrum-half and full-back particularly dangerous on the attack. They looked certain to have got a consolation try, but the referee deemed it held up.

Recognition for Maria and Rhian

Maria Phillips, voted forward player of the match, covered more blades of grass at Pembroke Road than most, putting in tackle after tackle in defence and a willing ball carrier in attack. It was fitting that she got the final try of the day, shrugging off four defenders to cross under the sticks.

Swift was voted back of the match, while Delyth Foster continues to shine whatever number she wears on her back, this week filling in at scrum-half.

Try scorer Selby is looking a fine prospect on the wing after just three appearances, as is Cerys Phillips, while Meg Bowen-Jenkins and substitute Helen Abbott were solid on their debuts. Such new players are a welcome boost to Haverfordwest’s squad which had seriously struggled for numbers in the last two seasons.

Awaiting draw for next round – with some key players due back

Haverfordwest now await their second round opponents, and with the welcome return of influential players such as Awen Prysor, Jana Neumann and Emma Summons, are hopeful of another run in the WRU bowl competition, having lifted the silverware back in 2015. Just a handful of players remain from that squad, but there is renewed optimism with this new crop of talented players.

Speaking after the game, coach Jeff Clout said: “The girls did really well. It was a great effort and they showed massive determination to keep Whitchurch to nil. They played with smiles on their faces.”

Haverfordwest: Rhian Swift, Christine Selby, Ceri Coleman-Phillips, Amber Starr-Palmer, Emily Banner, Holly Couzens, Delyth Foster, Katy Lewis, Claire Lawrence, Sarah Lawrence, Ali Hopson-Griffiths, Emily Carrington, Maria Phillips, Cerys Phillips, Meg Bowen-Jenkins, Stephanie Harris, Lyn Ward, Helen Abbott.

Holly Couzens was outstanding at outside-half, with a points haul of 15.