Gloucester-Hartpury’s women’s team impressed again by starting the new year with a convincing win over Shelford.
Having finished 2016 with a flourish when defeating Worcester Ladies in their top of the table clash in Championship Midlands Two, Susie Appleby’s side showed they had lost none of their verve over the Christmas break when they hosted Shelford in their first league match of the new year.
Injuries to 12 players in the squad meant Chloe Elliott and Hannah Clarke got the opportunity to start in the centre. Both players impressed with strong carries and Clarke ran in a brace of tries.
With Mary Ann Gittings missing at full-back, Chloe Barton received her first start for a while and threw herself into action, scoring a try early in the first half. She then followed it up with some incisive runs and try-scoring passes, before running in a second try late in the game.
Shelley Ruddock showed off her finishing ability, tracking play and scoring a hat-trick. Meanwhile Leah Carey made her presence felt at number eight with powerful breaks from the base and unstoppable carries, scoring two tries in the process.
Although Gloucester-Hartpury got off to a flying start, Shelford responded with an early try and took the scoreline to 12-7 after 18 minutes. The hosts soon hit their stride again after a break in play due to injury and led Shelford 48-7 when half-time arrived.
Openside flanker Milly Wallis was in great form and weighed in with a try treble after the break. Chloe Limbrick kicked an impressive eight conversions at fly-half despite the tough greasy conditions, while scrum-half Tara Godby made herself a constant thorn in Shelford’s side and bagged two tries.
Shannon Stroud also impressed with her first game at hooker and Charli Norman went about her business quietly but efficiently, gaining lots of metres for the home team. In the second half, Hannah Hart marked her return from long-term injury by scoring a try shortly after coming off the bench. The match was called to a close by a referee with 17 minutes left on the clock and the final scoreboard read 86-7 to Gloucester-Hartpury.
Head coach, Susie Appleby, said: “I’m really happy with the depth of our squad and that strength showed. Some players were having their first starts or coming back after long injury lay-offs, but they seized their opportunities and fitted in like they had never been away.
“Leah Carey was imperious as always and our half-backs are learning to control the game really well. We now have a huge amount of competition for shirts, which is fantastic and exactly where I want us to be as we progress in the cup and head towards play-offs in the league.”
Gloucester-Hartpury are now 15 points clear at the top of Women’s Championship Midlands Two and will face Bletchley away on Sunday, 15th January.