By Ian Lodge
Westcliff Ladies 5 Thanet Wanderers Ladies 12
After the Junior Cup victory at Beckenham it was time to get back to NC2 league action last Sunday [December 3] with another long trip to Essex to take on high flying Westcliff Ladies.
On a winning run of 4 games Westcliff were flying high and the ensuing battle was clearly going to be tough from the opening exchanges. Both teams fielding a physical set of forwards and pacy backs and the early battle took place all in the middle of the park. In games like this missed tackles were going to be the difference and it was Thanet whose defence leaked first, Westcliff’s full back going over in the corner for an early 5-0 lead.
Thanet’s forwards were making in-roads with Keira Leigh-Gallup leading the attack on the Westcliff defence in tight areas and Georgia Elks running in wider channels outside the 10 / 12 pairing of Alex White and Rachael Austerberry. Elks was making yards for run and her leg drive nearly carried her over for a try from 30 yards out.
The half ended with a 5 point deficit but there was confidence on the Thanet team and the team and coaches knew what small tweaks would see them over the line.
In the second half, some straightened lines from the backs and higher pressure defence saw forced turnovers from Westcliff and it wasn’t long before Thanet made the most of one of them with skipper, Gee Cordell going over from 40 yards after turnover ball. White converted and Thanet let 7-5 with half an hour on the clock.
The line speed defence in both the tight and wide areas was impressive all day and centre Megan Bish was leading by example with her defence and flexibility; stepping into the back row after an injury to Neave Evans.
The final act was to be for centre Austerberry with Westcliff struggling to deal with her devastating second half running lines and after breaking through the defensive live, she went over to move in to a 12-5 lead which Thanet kept until the final whistle.
It was the first time that the teams had met and an encounter thoroughly enjoyed by both teams who are looking forward to the return leg at St Peter’s in March.
The Thanet team take a well earned week off now before heading back to Essex to take on Southend on Sunday week in their last league game of 2023 where they hope for a repeat of the convincing home league win back in September.