Even though 90% of the ladies had no rugby experience at all before last Wednesday, you wouldn't have thought this from watching them on the pitch as they showed great spirit in their tackling and rucking and weren't afraid to get stuck into Kilkenny RFC.
The future looks very bright for this team as they only have 8 training sessions under their belt before this game and yet they were able to put up an extremely valiant effort against much more seasoned players from the Kilkenny team.
Sarah Hanratty became the first ladies team captain and gave great encouragement and a boost in moral for all the ladies on their first nerve racking task of stepping out onto the pitch for the first time ever to face an opponent.
The game was played in Kilkenny's home ground on Wednesday evening September 29th, in three 20 minute segments. In the first segment, Waterford City's forward enjoyed a lot of ball possession but Kilkenny showed their experience by being able to win the ball on the ground and use it to score on the counter attack. Kilkenny scored 2 trys in this manner as they caught Waterford City's defence off guard. Waterford City however showed great character and came back and scored a fantastic try through prop Karen Whelan as she burst through three or four tackles in her 40 metre run to score just under the posts before the end of the first 20 minute segment. This was then converted by Kiara O'Hara. Elaine Whelan made some great tackles and was instrumental to the team in getting the ball to ground on more than one occasion.
The first 20 minute ended in a score line of 15-7 to Kilkenny which was a fantastic achievement considering the difference in experience between Waterford and Kilkenny.
In the second 20 minute segment Waterford City fielded an almost different team, due to the high numbers we have training. The girls relished in their chance to play Kilkenny. Again, the Waterford forward owned the ball for the first 10 minutes. They were enjoying it so much they didn't want to give it out to the backs. Yvonne Murphy, Carrie-Anne Barrett and Tracey Williams took on a lot of go forward ball. Unluckily, Kilkenny did show their experience again when competing for the ball on the ground as they won two or three balls on the counter rook and score off these as we weren't prepared in defence.
When the ball did get out to the Waterford backs, Anne Kennedy and Joyce Walsh made tremendous runs up and down the pitch which was great. The final score for this 20 minute segment was 20-0 to Kilkenny.
In the last 20 minute segment, we had a mix of players from the first two segments and we set them out to play against Kilkenny one last time. This final 20 was very competitive with Waterford City finally getting into their stride as all nerves had diminished at this stage. Lisa Leslie jumped very well in the line outs and won two balls for Waterford City's pack. In one of these drives Waterford City drove 20 metres up the pitch in a maul which was excellent but unfortunately one of the Kilkenny ladies got through to the ball carrier and stole the ball and ran down the pitch and scored a try at the other end which was not converted. The score in the final segment was 5-0 to Kilkenny.
Overall, Head Coach, David Whelan was very impressed with the progress of his team and how all the ladies played in this first match, considering they were only 8 training sessions in and most had never played a contact sport before. There are a lot of small positional things that we will have to work on but the ladies have gotten over the first hump already by playing their first game and should all be very very proud of their achievement.
Waterford City RFC would also like to thank all the guys on the first team who have helped coach the ladies team. A special thanks to Simon O'Hara, Kevin Whelan and Andrew Williams who have given up their time every Monday and Wednesday since the ladies have begun and have been so supportive of them on their short journey to this match.