Friday night saw the ladies from Bucks and Blacks duke it out in the finals of the women’s league. What promised to be a cracker of a game certainly delivered, and then some more.
From the get go, a highly physical Bucks forward pack made the hard yards. While this was answered by a series of massive tackles, they kept eating up territory via good, tight forward’s play. A series of rolling mauls eventually brought them within the Blacks 22 early on. However, after a change of possession, standoff Christabelle Lim immediately defused the pressure on Blacks with her excellent boot.
Even so, there was no repelling the Bucks. Multiple turnovers from loosies Constance Lambert and Tiffany Neo gave them the possession they needed. With ball in hand, and leadership in the form of Captain and prop Jackie Osborn, eventually they were able to capitalize on a 5m lineout and grinded it out for first blood.
5-0 down, the Blacks started throwing everything but the sink at a resolute Bucks defense. Standout centre Clarissa Grace Lim sparked the attack with a surging run, creating a platform for the tight five to further pile on in the offensive. With a ruck right before the try line, again it was Clarissa that did well to score from a sleek hands move from the back line, to provide Blacks with the games sole converted try.
With half time looming, it was now the Bucks fly half PeiQi Lee that ran the show. Her silky passing skills in open play enabled centres Lena Brentmark and Arra Castro to combine superbly and repeatedly to bring Bucks right to the opposition tryline. History repeated itself as a rolling maul unlocked the Blacks defence, and it was definitely game on at the half time break with Bucks leading 10-7.
The restart was a shaky affair, as handling errors from both teams saw possession swing between both teams rapidly. However, this was not a sign of things to come. Ten minutes into the second half, and the Blacks took first claims to give the spectators a performance. From this point forth, it was suddenly the Blacks dominating all around the field. In particular, scrum half and captain Derelyn Chua was massive in effecting counter-attacks. Showing that heart trumps size, her physicality in the tackle-and-jackle seemed to turnover possession for the Blacks at will.
While the Bucks fly half and back three tried to keep up with the pressure by clearance kicks, the forwards were working double time in defense to put in many defensive hits. However, one got the sense of the inevitable as the Black machine kept plundering forward. Again, Christabelle Lim, who was spectacular from start to finish, showed off her flashy steps and pinpoint kicking. Of her many dazzling plays, the one that sealed the deal this side of the half was undoubtedly brilliant.
A chip from Christabelle unlocked a desperate but determined Bucks defense. The Blacks midfield quickly regathered the ball, and the entire forward pack did well to respond to this switch up of play by quickly securing possession in the ruck. With the Bucks reeling, the Blacks swung the ball wide and it eventually reached fleet-footed winger Chong Hui Min, who turned her defender inside-and-out to finish well deservedly in the corner.
With less than five minutes to go and just two points down, the Bucks definitely did not look like a team that was about to give up. Pounding the opposition line with a ferocity that mirrored the start of the match, the Blacks had little option but to kick possession away from their own 22. However, it was too little too late as an exhausted Bucks team knocked it on at the death.
Cue the celebrations as the Blacks team snatched victory with a scoreline of 12-10 from a Bucks outfit that had poured their heart and soul into the championship match. Definitely a final that showcased talent and grit from the Singapore Ladies, and one that bodes well for Singapore Rugby.
Interview with Blacks captain Derelyn
SRU: Derelyn, congratulations on winning! What went right for the team today?
Derelyn: I think what went right was that our forward pack was really strong. They were composed, no silly penalties, and they brought the entire team through the game.
SRU: How does it feel to lead the team to the championship?
Derelyn: It’s amazing; the team has worked really hard. Both the backs and the forwards worked really hard on the field today. But what people don’t see is the kind of hard work they put in during trainings, and off the field in the gym and fitness.
SRU: Who is your Woman of the Match?
Derelyn: My Woman of the Tournament personally, is Alvina Ow Young, our full back. But for tonight, my Women of the Match goes to the loose forwards, Priscilla, Yu Hui and Chiew Hong.
Interview with Bucks Captain Jackie
SRU: Your girls played really hard today, I’m sure you are proud of them. Unfortunately that was just short – what would you look to improve next year for this team?
Jackie: I think that, we know we had our opportunities, and we came into this game knowing that we could walk away (with the championship) if we played the very best we could. Unfortunately we had our moments. The thing we would take away for next year is that we need to stick to our offensive patterns and systems for a hundred percent of the time. I think we only stuck it for sixty percent of the time, and then for the other forty percent we really struggled with silly mistakes. So I think… consistency.
SRU: Is there a message you would like to leave for the girls?
Jackie: I told them after the game, next year, if we make it back to the final, which is definitely the plan, it would be the third year in a row that we make it to the finals. So there’s a saying third time’s the charm, and that’s the message I left them with.