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Following on from a hugely successful season, LUWRUFC will have been bitterly disappointed after their fixture with York – not just because of the score, but because of the manner in which this loss came about.
The match was constantly blighted by injuries and foul play, which went unnoticed and ignored by the referee, in one of the few officiating howlers of the weekend.
In a fixture that was billed to be a near certain four points for the Red Rose, York certainly came out of the blocks hard, scoring an early try after sustained pressure on the Lancaster line. Eyebrows had been raised in the build-up, with York’s outside centre committing a barely legal high tackle on Lancaster talisman Claire Chiu. The referee chose to carry on play, much to the disgust of the Lancastrian supporters on the touchline.
As the game went on, further incidents of foul play from York led to the frustration of both players and supporters. York continued to infringe at the breakdown by constantly going off their feet and using hands in the ruck to illegally turn the ball over. Also worrying was the amount of high tackles that were flying in from the girls in black and gold, none of which were deemed worthy of disciplinary action by the referee.
Eventually, this brand of dangerous play began to take its toll, and Lancaster girls were forced off the field in worryingly quick succession. One of the first to go was VP (Activities) Liz Ashworth – who had been exemplary in her sevens fixture the day before – with a suspected torn knee ligament. Soon to follow was team Vice-Captain Catriona Hay, whose parents watched nervously from the sidelines as she was stretchered from the field, suffering from a tirade of injuries, which included extensive deep muscle bruising, strained ligaments and tendons in knee and ankle, and a hyperextended elbow. This left Lancaster without two of their best backrow forwards: Ashworth at open-side had been a stalwart in defence and at the breakdown, while Hay presented a constant threat in open play.
Captain Ellie Sutherland attempted to rally her girls to further heights, and it was not long before Lancaster scored a try through the ever reliable and deadly precision of Claire Chiu. In a score that was reminiscent of so many she has scored this season, Chiu blitzed past her opposite number, swerved around the fullback – skirting dangerously close to the touchline as she did so – and raced home down the left wing from inside her own half.
With the scores tied at 5-5, the Lancastrian support was once more in full voice. However, the injuries had not finished taking their toll on the girls in Red, and the paramedic team was put on permanent standby.
Outside centre Rhiannon Metcalfe suffered from torn intercostal muscles and damage to her ribs and diaphragm; Ellie Sutherland’s old injury returned to haunt her, as she picked up a torn ACL; Nicole Wurfbain dislocated her kneecap; Charlotte Neal came away with a broken thumb; and Emma Prior was left with a strained tendon.
This long list of injuries had a terrible impact on the game, and Lancaster could not force her way back into the match, as York scored a further two tries, the game ending 15-5 to York.
Ellie Sutherland commented afterwards: “After suffering multiple injuries – starting with 22 girls and ending up with 14 – the fact we still playing amazingly was incredible. I’m so proud of the girls for playing their hearts out for the full match and ending the season with a bang. The sevens on Friday was amazing, showing that we are a great team and work so well together.”
LUWRUFC have been a force this season, and will be gunning for further laurels in next year’s. Sadly, the club says goodbye to a number of its star third year players, but their legacy could not be better, as they leave the club as one of the most successful societies at Lancaster University.