Tuesday evening finally brought the long awaited season opening game of the season for The Cheeky Ladies and Mechanical Engineering, two of Newcastle University’s intra-mural rugby teams.
The fixture had originally been scheduled for Wednesday 30th October, however torrential rain had shifted University matches onto the 3G surfaces meant to play host for the sides. This then led to the game being moved to a week later, which, as many of you have now worked out, was postponed again for the same reason.
This subsequently led us to Tuesday evening. Cold, drizzly and wet, these were ideal conditions for classic mud bath rugby; however, with Cochrane Park undergoing a facelift over the summer, the brand new 3G pitches that held the game was in immaculate condition.
The Cheeky ladies, before even kicking a ball this season, had suffered an injury blow. Captain Oscar Williams was forced to withdraw himself from selection due to a freak injury in a local gym, just two days before the re-arranged fixture. Archie Dixon-Smith stepped up to take Williams’ place as captain.
The game began in a stop start fashion, with much of the play-taking place with both sets of ten metre lines. This was no surprise due to the slippery nature of the ball, with handling errors creeping in from both sides.
Both teams very evidently had prepared moves within their respective back lines in training sessions during the preceding weeks. Sadly, the slippery ball meant that for much of the attempted exchanges of these moves would fall short due to the wet weather making running difficult on the foot.
Unsurprisingly therefore, the first points of the evening was from a penalty from Cheeky’s fly-half Ferg Anderson, who managed to calmly slot from the edge of the 22 for not only his own, but the Cheeky Ladies first points of the 19/20 campaign.
The rest of the half was largely a cagey affair, with neither team coming particularly close to the try line until the final play of the half, when a Mechanical Engineering back managed to break away from the defensive line of the Ladies to score, with the resulting conversion ticking the scoreboard over to 7-3 in favour of Mechanical Engineering at half time.
Some half-time inspiration from injured captain Dixon-Smith led to a revived Cheeky Ladies in the second, who managed to dominate proceedings from the off. The majority of the first twenty minutes of the second half were played within Mechanical Engineering’s own half.
A significant chunk of this was down to the excellent-ranging boot of second half full-back Johnny Plimmer, whose blistering spiralling kicks sending the back three of Mech Eng into disarray. On occasion, Plimmer even managed to clear
ball from deep inside Cheeky territory into the opposing 22. No mean feat on a perfectly still day let alone a cold November evening in the North East,
The extended period of attack from the Cheeky Ladies brought rewards around the 55-minute mark as Johnny Plimmer, fresh from kicking a ball out of the park probably, managed to scamper over the line, the resulting extras from Anderson returning the Ladies slender lead of three.
A freak injury then brought play to an abrupt pause. Scrumhalf Dig De La Slee receiving what appeared to be a wayward stud into his right leg. This resulted in an extremely deep gash, which thankfully managed to narrowly avoid contact with any bone. Somehow, De La Slee managed to hobble off the park to receive treatment. We hope a speedy recovery for him.
With play resuming after injury delay, the Cheeky’s picked up from where they left off. A timely penalty kick from Ferg Anderson was followed with a second try of the evening. This time Ben Pickles going on a jaunt of his own, taking apart multiple Engineering defenders in the process to cross the whitewash to extend the Cheeky score to 18-7.
Eddie Jones-esque ‘finishers’ in the form of Harry Hewlett, Archie Larcombe and Jack Theakston put in sturdy shifts as they entered the fray throughout the second half to ensure the ship was steadied for the remainder of the game. Full time 18-7 to the Cheeky Ladies.
Particular praise must also be given to debutants Will Counsell, Milo Linney and Jock Stodart, each of which begun the game and played key roles to victory. Calum Eastwood continued from where he left off last season as the solid dynamo in the pack, causing turnovers and panic for the opposition throughout the match.
The Cheeky Ladies return to action next Tuesday against Armstrong, Kick-off 6PM, with support being appreciated as always.