By Ella Sezen,
For the final fixture of the season, Worthing College Women’s Rugby Academy travelled up to Birmingham for the AoC National 7’s, having qualified regionally. This was the last time many of the team wore the blue and white kit of Worthing.
First up, Worthing faced NC Pontefract, who they had never played before. The West Yorkshire team were physically strong and showed clear talent through their off-loading ability, but Worthing’s speed proved too much for them to compete against. Pontefract’s kick off was seen out by Martina Giampaglia for an early Worthing lineout. A line break from Captain Emily Hird allowed space out wide for Aimee Porter to score under the posts, allowing for Giampaglia to convert the try. Isobel Mayhew then scored two tries using a quick step and her speed to run around Prontefract’s defence- Martina converting both. A knock-on from Worthing allowed Pontefract briefly get back into the game with a score under the posts. Simple hands down the line from a scrum allowed Tatum Gabriel to get on the scoreboard. Pontefract demonstrated their powerfulness with their second try. Final score Worthing 29 NC Pontefract 14.
Worthing faced Hartpury next. Nerves were mixed with excitement as Worthing have fallen short of beating them before, despite coming close and knew that this was a must win game if they wanted to become National Champions. Worthing were first to score, with a team try; undoubtedly the try of the season. Aimee Porter, yet again showed off her speed and power, getting past 3 defenders to score out wide. Mayhew scored her third try of the tournament, yet again demonstrating her ability to manipulate the defence, breaking through them and putting the ball down under the posts. Hartpury kept their intensity high however, with strong counter-rucking. This allowed them to regain possession and score twice out wide. But Worthing couldn’t be stopped. Megan Brown scored a superb solo try, stepping around the defence and out running past them straight from the kick-off.
An effective penalty move, allowed Brown to score again. The game was made closer yet, with Hartpury over-loading the wing to score another try. Final score 22-17.
An elated Worthing College had one final game to play versus Exeter College. Worthing had faced Exeter numerous times over the past season and they knew that they had the ability to win. Exeter were first to score however, which made Worthing realise that they would still have to play their hardest if they wanted to win the tournament. Exeter put immense pressure on Worthing, with a series of scrums on the 5 meter line. Worthing’s defence proved too much for Exeter, with a series of strong tackles from Roberta Haywood, Teya Ashworth and Lucy Relf. An Exeter line out was won by Lucy Relf and allowed Haywood to run blind and run off the defence scoring under the posts.
Exeter scored again, meaning going into the second half Worthing would have to leave everything on the pitch if they were to win. A Worthing scrum allowed for them to realign and Emily Hird was able to use her speed and agility to run through Exeter’s defence, scoring an incredibly important try for her team. A series of off-loads enabled Roberta Haywood to get her second try of the game and ensured that Worthing had won their final game. Final score Worthing 19 Exeter 12.
Worthing, after 2 years of hard work and many ups and downs, had reached the ‘tip of the spear’ and were now AoC National Champions.
“The AoC National Women’s Cup is one of the “major” trophies on the Women’s Rugby FE circuit and to finish third in one and win another shows that this Worthing College team has some of the best players in the country. I am so proud of the journey each player in the programme has made, and for them to peak at the right time is a credit to their hard-work, determination and perseverance. Credit goes to all the players but especially Emily Hird, who has captained the side through good and bad times over the last couple of years, and has lead them on this epic journey. I wish all the girls who are leaving this year, all the best for the future, and I will be looking forward to seeing them continue their rugby journey representing Universities and Premiership teams and of course England!” said Mark Rugman, Women’s Rugby Manager.