Sunday afternoon saw Southend Saints travel to Haverhill for the first game of their season.
The travelling support was fantastic and outnumbered the home fans, winning the encouraging verbal support battle !
Sporting their fantastic new kit, Southend took to the pitch and from the off were applying pressure to the Haverhill forwards.
The first scrum of the match was an indication of the pack strength and hard work that has been done in this area over the past few months as Southend dominated and pushed the Haverhill pack backwards for a scrum penalty. This proved to be a theme throughout the match.
Alison FLANAGAN (8) was able to get quick ball at the base of the scrum and pass out to scrum half Shelby GILSON who in turn got ball through hands to Cat MALCOLM and onto the backs to try and penetrate down the wings.
The lineouts were also functioning brilliantly with Niamh REEMAN getting the ball accurately to Kirsty FLYNN (6) which meant that Southend could secure possession.
Southend looked the stronger team for most of the first half, not only because of the strong set pieces by the pack , but also through really good defence. Southend not only won all their ownscrums but overturned many of Haverhill’s too, such was the strength.
Great tackles by Charlotte RANDALL, Rebecca DAVIS, Emma CONNORS and Shelley BUCKLEY kept the Haverhill advances pinned back.
Eventually the pressure on Haverhill was too much and some great through the hands rugby saw Kassie SPARROW run in the first try. Half time 0-5. Conversion missed.
The second half saw the same dominance in the scrum for Southend, but soon had to go uncontested due to Haverhill suffering some injuries and having to drop to 14 players. Due to this, Gemma VANHINSBERGH who had been playing really well in her first ever match was sacrificed to even the numbers. The Southend forwards continued to make tackle after tackle and carry the ball well on advance.
Southend had started to settle well into the game by then and played some really lovely rugby and continued to resist any Haverhill advances with some really strong defence.
Amy ROGERS at full back gave a confident performance with some intelligent clearance kicks and also taking on several long runs at the advancing Haverhill forwards making lots of ground before offloading.
Southend enjoyed a long spell of pressure on the Haverhill 22 and it was during this attack that captain Alison sustained a nasty ankle injury and had to leave the pitch (reluctantly). DAVIS switched to number 8 and a few other changes were made and soon after Southend were rewarded applying constant pressure with another try by SPARROW. FLANAGANs absence in the forwards was evident and showed how much power she had contributed, so the rest of the forwards dug in deep to deny Haverhill any attacking opportunities.
There were some good interplay and neat passing skills displayed by backs Hannah HUTCHINGS and Annie SEXTON, linking smooth passing moves with Adele MORTON.
The substitutions made second half added fresh legs and strength to the team to ensure that a clean defensive sheet was maintained.
Full time Haverhill 0 – 10 Southend Saints. Forward of the match – Kirsty FLYNN
Back of the match – Kassie SPARROW