By Ian Lodge
Thanet Wanderers Ladies 1st XV got their league campaign underway on Sunday with an emphatic 57-15 victory over Southend Saints, featuring a hat trick from Rachael Austerberry.
Southend has made the long journey down buoyed by a 57-0 league victory over Gravesend last week and both team boasted strong squad of 20+ players.
Wanderers came flying out of the blocks and after a strong kick chase, gathered the ball and number 8, Milly Thurman-Newell powered over within the first 2 minutes. 5-0. That lead was more than doubled within the next couple of minutes after soft hands put full-back, Jess Anderson away on the left to touch down under the posts, converted by fly half Alex White for a 12-0 lead.
The battle in the forwards was fierce with Milly and Ella Thurman-Newell leading the way but strong defence and counter attacking by the formidable Saints forwards meant a fierce battle all day up front.
Wanderers were beginning to move defenders into uncomfortable positions meaning space was being created in the wider channels. Step forward centre, Austerberry who outpaced the covering defence twice in 5 minutes for long distance tries, both converted by White to extend the lead out to 26-0. Then not long before the break, prop forward Neave Evans got clear and scored from 40 metres out, once again converted by White.
Saints reduced that lead to 33-7 with some sweet hands sending Shelby Gilson over for a converted score to reduce the half time deficit 33-7.
Half time saw a few changes with Brioni Reah being welcomed back to the 1st XV fold and Louise Rubens returning to the club after a 6 years absence, both making a series of strong tackles and bullocking runs into the Saints defence.
Saints are a good side though, having finished 3rd in this league and their half time team chat made the world of difference as they came out and put pressure on the Thanet defence. But it was Thanet who scored first when Austerberry completed her hat trick in similar fashion before Saints got one back through Kassie Sparrow. Then poor discipline and a tiring defence let Saints in again shortly afterwards; something to work on in that area.
But it was to be Thanet who completed the scoring with late scores from captain Gee Cordell, playing in her new position at openside flanker before Milly Thurman-Newell completed her brace. White added a penalty at the end for a personal tally of 13 points from the boot.
Both sides open up their Papa John’s Junior Cup campaigns next week with locals derbies. Wanderers travel to Folkestone whilst Southend make the short trip to Westcliff.