Report by Tom Kelly
After soaking up some early pressure, the Birmingham tight-forwards produced an incredible scrum on their own five meter line to turn over the ball from which they launched a deadly counter attack. The ball was switched quickly to the blind-side where outside-half Mash Aiston moved the ball on quickly to Sophie Staniforth who ran in unopposed to score a 95 metre try to give Birmingham the early confidence boost they needed. Unfortunately for the hosts Garnet Mackinder missed the tricky conversion but the classy outside centre soon made up for her mistake by bursting through a weak Loughborough midfield to touch down under the posts and convert her own try to stretch the lead to 12-0.
The clinical finishing of the home side sparked an impressive response from the visitors who soon fought back. After a ten minute period of complete domination Loughborough finally managed to break through the defiant Brum defence with Jo Kirby sliding in at the corner after good work from centre Ally Crane to reduce the gap to seven points. From the restart the visitors pressed on again to try and tie the scores however a poor kick from Loughborough fly-half Laura Dowsett gave counter-attacking ball to Staniforth. The left wing then cleverly offloaded to Mackinder on the loop to stroll over untouched and from nowhere Birmingham had stretched their lead to 19-5. The away team soon began to lay siege to the hosts’ try line and strong carries from the tight-five soon led to a penalty five metres out from which No. 8 Danni Avonn crashed over to reduce the lead to seven points. Immediately after Katie Wallace then strolled through a gaping hole in home team’s defence to tie the game at 19 all going into half time.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with Loughborough being frustrated by a superb Birmingham defence who managed to rack up a mammoth 63 tackles by the final whistle. As the half progressed the visitor’s star performers came to the fore with Avonn and Crane in particular causing huge problems for the home side. Emily Wingrave put the visitors ahead for the first time with a simple walk in to convert a four person overlap, however any thoughts that Birmingham were finished were quickly forgotten. After a scrappy exchange with multiple knock-ons the ball found its way to Mackinder who completed her hat-trick in scintillating fashion beating four opponents in a 60 metre wonder try under the posts to give Birmingham a narrow 26 -24 lead.
From this point on however the huge defensive effort began to show and the visitors took full advantage with Loughborough’s blind-side flanker Katie Wallace scoring from close range before setting up Danni Piert in a blistering five minute period which saw Loughborough rack up ten points and effectively put the game beyond Brum’s reach. Another late try from Avonn rubbed salt into Birmingham’s wounds and put a generous gloss to the score line.
In a post-match interview, head coach Liam Mather praised Birmingham’s ‘incredible’ defence and spoke of his pride in their performance which was certainly merited. The women’s side now has a solid looking start to their season with a won two, lost two, scorecard. However with these two losses coming against Loughborough and Durham, arguably the two strongest sides in the league, there are promising signs ahead for this hugely spirited side.