On Sunday North Down Women’s Rugby team welcomed Portadown Bluebirds to Donaldson Park, Donaghadee for their penultimate league match of their very first season. Once again, NDWR were able to field a strong team with several substitutes waiting for their chance from the bench.
Portadown kicked off playing down the hill towards the town and the next ten minutes were exhausting with both teams not giving an inch.
Resolute defence from the North Down ladies constantly repelled the Bluebirds but as is often the case, one missed tackle led to the strong Portadown second row scoring between the posts. The subsequent extras were easily added.
The game restarted and it was more of the same with the Portadown Number 8 featuring strongly. From a Portadown scrum, the number 8 picked and drove towards the line but although she was stopped short, she was able to off-load to her scrum-half to score. The conversion was missed.
The North Down Women were hurt by this score but instead of faltering, they charged up the field and pushed hard to get their first points on the board.
The North Down set plays were functioning well with Sian Owens, Julie Patterson and Danielle Perry giving the Portadown front row a hard time in the scrums while Jordan Withers and Jill Shaw climbed high to win good ball form the lineout.
The good clean ball gave the backline opportunities to move the ball and attack in the wider spaces.
Colleen Hutchinson was having her usual strong game and charged towards the line diving outstretched to dot down the ball. Although her team mates cheered, it was unfortunately only the 5 metre line that had been crossed!
However, Colleen was not to be denied her try and shortly afterwards was able to score far out to the left which made the conversion too difficult.
Half time came and the North Down side were lifted by the 5 points to 12 scoreline knowing that they would be now be playing down-hill with the win well within their sights.
Straight from the restart North Down set about correcting the score line but the Portadown defence stood strong.
After a few probing kicks from the NDWR outhalf, Shel Laffin, it was a deft chip over the top that she chased down and got to the ball before the defence to score the second try.
Unfortunately, the conversion was narrowly missed leaving the home side trailing by just 2 points.
The North Down ladies could now feel that a victory was within their grasp but the more experienced Portadown team slowly kept the ball and crept up the pitch towards the North Down line. A lovely back line move saw the Bluebirds score their third try and take the score to 17-10.
The home team now pushed and pushed to try and level the game but the final whistle came too soon and the Bluebirds were victorious.
Although this was a defeat for the Northdown side there are numerous positives that can be taken from this performance.
The substitutes added to the strength of the team and seamlessly got up to the speed of the game, the encouragement between each other was immense and finally, it was only eight weeks ago that the NDWR team took on the Portadown Bluebirds, with the latter putting on quite a few points.
This game illustrated the huge positive steps that the North Down ladies have taken over a relatively short space of time and indeed, the visiting team were full of praise for the effort displayed.
Updated 12:54 - 24 Mar 2019 by STEPHEN NUTT