Women's South West South 2 (1)
Totnes 12, Chard 29

CHARD Ladies came into Sunday's game full of confidence after their draw at home to table-topping Topsham, writes Dave Webb.

Despite a slow start, the visitors overturned a 12-10 half-time deficit to win 29-12, securing their first ever away win in league competition.

Following a Chard knock-on from the kick-off, Totnes immediately dominated possession and using their strong backs forced the away team onto the back foot.

After a number of charges Lydia Gannon crashed over to score under the posts, the try converted by Jordan Paige.

Totnes continued to use their backs in an attempt to power through the Chard defence, but the away side were made of sterner stuff.

Hard tackling by the ever-reliable Laura Jenkins, Elaine Stainer, Zoe Winlow and Amelia Gilbert saw the Totnes attack blunted, and Chard gradually began to gain more possession.

Excellent control, and multiple phases, started to create dents in the home defence.

Fly-half Natalia-mia Roach fed her centres Sarah Kneeshaw and Winlow consistently, and with Suzannah Wilton pouncing on any loose ball on the ground, the stage was set for a series of moves that led to wing Kirsty Su scoring Chard's first try, to the right of the posts after 20 mins.

The pressure continued to be applied to the home defence, as Megan Armstrong and Jade Mowlem made storming charges into the heart of the Totnes rearguard.

After a series of penalties in the home 22, Jenkins took a quick tap penalty and burrowed over to score, taking Chard in to the lead for the first time.

Totnes immediately fought back and ended the half stronger.

The strong home pack won a strike against the head on the Chard 22, and rapid scrum-half Annie Jones took full advantage to cut through to score, leaving the home side 12-10 ahead at half time.

The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with Chard starting slowly and Totnes using their strong backs in an attempt to batter through the visiting defence.

The difference was that the Chard defence started forcing Totnes' attacks back, with everyone playing their part, especially wings Su and Liz George, who did not give an inch for the whole match.

The pack also gave a strong platform in the set pieces, holding their own in the scrums and disrupting Totnes' lineout ball.

As the half wore on, the constant controlled driving by Chard, both forwards and backs, saw the home defence begin to tire.

And the visitors' patient approach was rewarded when Megan Armstrong scored under the posts and Roach converted, taking Chard into a lead that they did not relinquish for the rest of the match.

Scrum-half Gilbert kept the momentum going, controlling when to move the ball wide and when to drive through the forwards.

As confidence grew and the home defence struggled to hold back the constant waves of attacks, Mowlem – who began in the forwards and ended in the centres – finally got the score that took the visitors 24-12 ahead, that try also being converted.

The final 20 showed the improved fitness and the growing strength of the Chard squad, with Lorna Boobyer and Hannah Rose-Franks shining as replacements, along with Sarah Jones in the engine room of the pack.

With eight minutes to go, from a lineout in the home half, Chard drove down the blind side and Armstrong was fed by Winlow to crash over near the right-hand touchline to score the final points of the match.

Totnes refused to give up, and pushed hard to reduce the deficit, but Chard were not to be denied and held out, with captain Kerry Harris leading from the front in a great team effort.

Chard: Kirsty Carlos, Suzannah Wilton, Emma Harris, Sarah Jones, Elaine Stainer, Jade Mowlem, Laura Jenkins, Megan Armstrong; Amelia Gilbert, Natalia-mia Roach, Liz George, Sarah Kneeshaw, Zoe Winlow, Kirsty Su, Kerry Harris (c).
Replacements: Lorna Boobyer, Hannah Rose-Frank.
Back of the match: Liz George; forward to the match: Jade Mowlem; player of the match: Kirsty Su.

Chard are back in action this coming Sunday, away to league leaders Topsham – the reverse fixture being a classic encounter which ended 36-36.