Thu, 15 Nov 2018
ENGLAND Women’s head coach Simon Middleton praised the support from Newbury’s rugby community as international rugby returned to Monks Lane on Tuesday night.
Hundreds of Newburians and players from men’s and women’s rugby clubs across Berkshire gathered at the home of Newbury RFC as England Women’s National Academy Side faced the USA Women’s Selects.
The friendly fixture saw the USA clinch an entertaining 25-24 victory against an England outfit which combined a mix of pathway talent and five players with senior international experience, captained by Richmond lock Rowena Burnfield.
The USA battled back from two tries down to hold a slender one-point lead heading into the break at 15-14, after tries from Saracens duo Bryony Cleall and Georgie Lingham had put England on the front foot.
We’re live at Monks Lane as @EnglandRugby Women’s National Side take on @USARugby Women’s Selects. The anthems have just been played exceptionally by Newbury’s @WatershipBrass Band #wrugby pic.twitter.com/I7kjo0niQl— Newbury Today Sport (@NWN_Sport) November 13, 2018
The hosts capitalised on an early penalty when Cleall crashed over following a driving maul from England’s forward pack, before Harlequin’s Ellie Green added the extras.
The USA’s Megan Foster pulled a penalty back, but England showed greater attacking appetite - epitomised when Lingham scooped up a spilled ball inside USA’s territory to wheel in over the whitewash, with Green again successful from the tee.
The visitors responded through a converted score from Evan Hoese, before Lingham was sent to the bin for a high tackle.
Buoyed by the extra woman, Joyce Taufa’s vital try on the cusp of half-time switched the momentum in a thrilling second-half contest.
Ellie Underwood pulled one back for the hosts five minutes after the break, clinically finishing after a quickly-recycled scrum.
But England's lead lasted all but ten minutes before Hoese dotted down her second and Cortney Kuehl handed the USA a six-point lead on the hour mark after gathering a loose ball from England’s 22 to storm over.
A Hannah West try four minutes from time was not enough to overturn the deficit, but Middleton was satisfied with his side’s performance, given their limited training time.
“To be honest, the States probably just about edged it,” the Red Roses coach said.
“We just didn’t give ourselves enough opportunities in their 22 to score.
“I’m really proud of the girls – they’ve had one training session together.
“Normally they’re knocking the hell out of each other on the weekend, so tonight it’s been a bit like a Barbarians thing.
“There was some really good individual stuff and collectively, the units have come together – I thought the forwards were outstanding in particular and we dominated the set piece.
“The States looked better conditioned than us, they build a lot of their game around athleticism.”
.@EnglandRugby women’s head coach Simon Middleton on @NewburyRFC hosting a women’s international: “It’s been a fantastic place for the girls to play in. With the band playing, the atmosphere was amazing. Newbury have done themselves absolutely proud.” https://t.co/mylZGNYHh7— Fiona Tomas (@fionatomas_nwn) November 13, 2018
And the Red Roses coach showed his gratitude to Newbury RFC for hosting his side’s maiden international fixture.
He said: “They’ve really looked after us and it’s been fantastically well organised.
“It’s been a fantastic experience for the girls to play in with a crowd like this and the band playing the anthems, it’s been amazing.
“They’ve done themselves absolutely proud in Newbury.”