Loughborough Women’s first team will face a daunting task in South Wales against Cardiff Met in the semi-final of the BUCS Championship after dispatching a spirited Bath side 31-12 on the first XV pitch on Wednesday.
An aggressive and tireless defence prevented Bath from completing a single clean line break; while a creative backline put them to the sword in attack, with a notable brace from outside centre and club chair Beth Newton.
Newton had her first within 12 minutes, as the home side turned the ball over in Bath’s 22 to create an overlap.
A strike against the head in Loughborough’s 22 led to a reply ten minutes later, giving the away team a 7-5 lead. This lead didn’t last long, however, as a patient build up from the Loughborough forwards gave Newton room to break through and score her second.
Just before half time it looked as if she might be on for a first half hat-trick after cutting expertly through Bath’s defence from her own half, but a good tackle by the opposition full back meant that she had to offload to Jo Kirkby, who in turn offloaded again to make the score 19-7.
Loughborough struck again shortly after the interval, as commanding fly half Laura Dowsett manipulated Bath’s defence to create an overlap which was finished well by Loughborough’s Ally Crane.
The score remained at 24-7 for much of the second half, although Loughborough’s defence was beginning to take its toll on Bath’s energy levels.
The home side were totally in control at that point and were running the ball from anywhere. With ten minutes left, the pressure finally turned to more points as an impressive turnover by hooker Katie Wallis caught Bath off guard, allowing full back Kirkby to run in.
Credit has to be given to Bath for their response to the score, however, as a powerful line-out drive gave their forwards an opportunity to force their way over from short range to make the result look a bit more respectable.
Cardiff Met are flying high in the Premier South this season; but this performance will give Loughborough plenty of confidence for their semi-final clash on March 7.
Wallis and Kay Searcy were outstanding defensively, Dowsett bossed the game throughout and Kirkby ran superbly; but my star player today is Newton for her two tries and the ease at which she seemed to break Bath’s line.