Sunderland Flames 24, Barnsley Ladies 22
Fielding a side lacking several regular first team members, Baarnsley Ladies went down to their first league defeat of the season in this re-arranged fixture.
Although Barnsley had won the previous two encounters against Sunderland they knew it was going to be a difficult match as their hosts had recently beaten second placed Birkenhead in a clash which had effectively handed the title to the Shaw Lane side.
Barnsley started brightly but Sunderland’s defence held firm and after eight minutes the home team took the lead with a try and conversion and four minutes later they doubled their advantage.
Barnsley kept plugging away and were rewarded on 20 minutes with a try from Rosie Whittaker and conversion from Alix Taylor, but on the stroke of half-time Sunderland were awarded a penalty which they duly converted to go in at the break leading by 17-7.
Sunderland were pushed back into their own half on the restart and the pressure paid off when Claire Fisher touched down for Barnsley’s second try, captain Taylor again slotting home the conversion.
Barnsley were annoyed when the referee had Hannah Greenaway removed from the pitch for a so-called a head injury after the official had allowed two Sunderland players to continue after suffering similar injuries.
The visitors were awarded a penalty on 27 minutes which Taylor once again dispatched to bring the scores level.
Barnsley then took the lead when Hailey Swann touched down in the corner with five minutes to go but this time the conversion was missed, and that was to prove costly.
Sunderland fought back and,right at the death, scored a try in the corner to once again level the scores. The conversion was kicked, which, under the circumstances with the pressure and angle, was a superb effort, to win the match.
The referee blew for full time to signal jubilant scenes from the Sunderland squad.
It then turned a little farcical as the referee asked the Sunderland players why they were celebrating after losing – he had the final score as 22-21 in Barnsley’s favour. It took the coaches from both sides to convince him the score was in fact 24-22 to Sunderland.
Barnsley picked up a losing bonus point, but, as they had already secured the title, this was of little consequence.
Barnsley will now play Bletchley Ladies in a promotion play off match on April 15th at a neutral venue to be decided by the RFU. The winners will be promoted to Women’s National Championship North.
- Picture shows Claire Fisher on the way to scoring her try.