Bucks showed why this weekend’s finals against league leaders, Blacks, will not be a foregone conclusion with their best performance in the SRU Women’s XV League yet. With a spot in the finals at stake, it was the ladies in green and white that triumphed at the playoffs last Saturday.
In the round robin meetings between the two semifinalists, it was the Skyllas that had come out on top – just, until now.
The issue for Bucks in the first round seemed to be holding onto a lead. In Game 1 of Round 1, Bucks looked to be dominating and were a try up until an awry kick in the final minutes that went straight to Bedok hands resulted in a draw. In their second meeting, turnovers in the lineout and lack of clean ball from the scrum allowed Bedok to get ahead by three tries before a second half comeback by Bucks which fell short by a try.
But there were to be no mistakes on playoff day. Bucks rumbled in the beginning, came to life in the half and withstood a late resurgence from Bedok to close out the game 20-17.
The first half hour of the semifinals was an error-ridden affair with handling errors and penalties flowing from both sides. It was Bedok however that copped the ire of the referee with multiple infringements at the breakdown and a yellow card was followed quickly by the first points on the board from Bucks. Bedok responded almost immediately through their gritty forward pack and kept the game in balance at 5-5.
So it proved that whoever scored first the second half in a tight game would have a higher chance of taking the game. Bedok will look back and rue the mishandling at the kickoff. Bucks took full advantage of the drawbacks of the Bedok split receive pattern and the Skyllas soon found themselves in their own 22m defending a barrage of pick and goes. Bucks came away with the points for their efforts and 5 minutes later, scored another in exactly the same position.
Alana Padilla, so often the maestro of her plucky side, poked, proded and sheparded her pack and unleashed her box kick. The switching of the positions of the two Pei’s was astute. With Lee Pei Qi at flyhalf, Bucks placed the boot with greater range in the pivot position and more critically, Ong Peiyi’s speed on the wing kept the Skylla’s counterattack options limited – for as they say, a kick is only as good as the chase.
With some well-placed kicks and the forwards having a good day in the office at the lineout, Bucks made no mistakes this time and consolidated their position well keeping Bedok in their own half. Any launches of Skyllas’ backline attack were contained by mid-field combo of Bucks stalwart, Lena Brantmark and Huab Arra Heloise Castro who delivered a sound defensive performance.
Ill-discipline was the Skyllas final undoing, as a second yellow card cost them a body and provided the opportunity for Padilla to score another try which proved to be the difference in the end.
As both sides began to tire, it was the Skyllas’ pack that dug deeper. A try following a barnstorming run by Ang Yueli and some cleverly orchestrated rolling mauls off some quick penalty taps brought them to within 3 points of Bedok but proved too little too late.
Bucks will face a much sterner test against Blacks this weekend but will be encouraged by their 25 point improvement between their first and second games against the league leaders. Having scored one of only two tries conceded by Blacks in the entire league, Bucks have smelt blood and no doubt build on the momentum which has carried them to the finals.
The SRU Women’s XV League 2016 Finals will kickoff at 1945h on Friday, 11 March 2015. The game will also be livestreamed on Voxsports.