Tue 27 Feb 2018 14:45

Sun 18 Feb 2018, 14:30

Workington RFC
Broughton Park FC

Once again this season, Workington Finches produced a performance at The Ellis that will be fondly remembered and talked about for years as they snatched a last kick 44 - 43 victory against fellow promotion chasers Broughton Park as the lead changed seven times and thirteen tries were served up in a red-hot, pulsating encounter.

Broughton Park were looking to complete the double over Workington, having narrowly defeated them at home earlier in the season and they took the lead on seven minutes when they managed to crack the hitherto tight Finches defence to score an unconverted try.

Kevin O'Neil's ladies hit back to go ahead four minutes later when strong scrummaging ended with Nicole Stewart crashing over the whitewash for her 17th try of the season before adding her conversion.

However, this lead only lasted two minutes before Broughton Park's expansive play again left the Finches trailing in their wake and they were rewarded with their second try, which was converted this time round.

A penalty by Stewart on 18 minutes reduced the arrears to only two points but for all their possession Workington could not find a way through Broughton Park's resolute backline and they fell further behind 8 minutes later when their slack marking was punished by the visitors who proceeded to nab another unconverted try.

Injury had ruled inspirational captain Sarah Harrington out of the match but just as she has been vocal on the pitch, so her guidance was clearly heard from the touchline and Workington in kind on the half hour when they drew level after excellent movement and well drilled scrummaging produced a well-taken try from the tireless Lauren Wilkinson and duly converted by Stewart.

Six minutes later, the Finches were back in the lead again with an identical try, this time it was Charlotte Bowman's turn to touch down and the ever-reliable Stewart was once more on hand to supply the conversion.

Broughton Park were not giving up without a fight and yet more nifty passing and devastating running led to them drawing level a minute from time with their fourth try of the afternoon and the conversion made the scores level at 24 apiece.

In the closing moments of the first half, the visitors broke clear and looked certain to score only for Nikita Wilson to deny them with a thrusting tackle with the tryline at their mercy.

The second half had barely got underway when a dangerous tackle saw Broughton Park reduced to 14 women and Workington wasted no time in capitalising on this when they regained the lead when excellent play from Stewart and Bowman led to Hannah Thornbury going to over to score, but this time Stewart's conversion fell just short.

All of a sudden, Broughton Park - despite a women down - found new impetus and they devastated their hosts by cutting their defence to shreds with three clinical tries in just five minutes, two of which were converted and at 43 - 29 up it looked as though they were ready to finish the job.

But one of the hallmarks of Workington's excellent season has been their improved confidence to apply extensive pressure on their opponents and they did just that as they set upon a campaign of dominance in their opponents' half with several attacks towards the whitewash and on the hour it was Thornbury who hit the jackpot with her second try, which again went unconverted.

Broughton Park were clearly rattled and straight from the restart were again pinned back in their own half as the Workington players took turns to bamboozle them into submission with dangerous surges and faultless passing - it was akin to watching a sledgehammer constantly banging on a rock until its' inevitable break.

On 75 minutes, what was left of the visitors' rock was finally shattered when Wilkinson found Bowman, who gleefully nipped into open space to claim her second try and Stewart's conversion brought the deficit back to two points again.

The excitement among the ground was almost too much to bear as the grandstand finish was now well and truly on and when Workington were awarded a penalty with a minute to go, hopes were high for Stewart, even though the kick was from some considerable distance.

But when the ball smacked against the post, it looked as though the chance had gone - however, the ball had landed back into play and Workington once more desperately searched for that final break and they got it with the award of another penalty, this close a lot closer and in front of the posts.

The unflappable Stewart, with all the time in the world, composed herself before calmly dispatching the kick and with that the final whistle sounded, triggering unbridled joy among Workington players and fans alike.

If JK Rowling had composed this match in a book, her publishers would have dismissed it as beyond far-fetched, but the story here was all too real as Workington maintained their 100% record at The Ellis.

To have victory snatched at the end was a tough pill for Broughton Park, but they should be proud of their involvement in the 80 minutes of what was a fantastic advertisement for women's rugby.

Every Workington player shone on the pitch with Bowman again calling the shots in the front row and Stewart continuing to reign supreme at Number 10, while Leonie Haile announced her return to action with a thunderous tackle within seconds of coming on as a replacement.

The victory moves Workington up to third in North West League 2 - only a point behind Leigh and 2 off Broughton Park and with Leigh still to visit The Ellis in April the dream of a maiden League title remains alive.

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