England Women Overcome Courageous Canada

Over a week now since this historic fixture. Held at Castle Park, home of Doncaster Knights Rugby Club, this was a truly momentous and memorable occasion. A fantastic one for ickledot too - photographing my very first senior international. Since this wonderful day, England women have played another fixture, defeating Ireland, this time at the HQ of rugby union, Twickenham Stadium.

As mentioned previously in this blog, playing (or photographing in my case) at Twickenham is undoubtedly wonderful. It should be the highlight of anyone’s career to step onto that hallowed turf. I’m lucky enough to have taken photographs there with Yorkshire Under 20s on several occasions and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. However, the one downside is the lack of atmosphere. If the fixture is anything other than a men’s England international or one involving a Premiership side (or a concert for that matter) it can appear to be empty, even if several thousand are in attendance.

Passions high as England near the tryline

However, at Doncaster the atmosphere was buzzing; the stand and terracing full even though there were only just over 3500 in attendance. No doubt this was the thinking of the organisers. If so, it certainly worked.

First try for England, the ball just visible though scorer Lark Davies isn’t!

You can read more comprehensive match reports elsewhere, and it is over a week ago, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice it to say, proceedings began with England in the ascendancy, Canada recovering somewhat to bring the sides within a score of each other and then England closing the match as reasonably comfortable winners.  

Takes quite a number of red shirts to end a long and determined run by England’s Hannah Botterman

Canada was no push over though and I noticed they too have tasted victory since. There were quite a number of photographers around, more than is usual when Doncaster Knights play. The TV cameras were also there. It was a bright day, the winter sun streaming onto the ground from one end of the pitch. I opted to stay at that end for the full game, being with the bulk of the photographers for the first forty minutes and then alone for the second half. 

Another England try in the shadow of the main stand

My limited rugby knowledge tells me that England were particularly dominant in the forwards, several of their tries being a result of mauls rather than fast running. They all count of course but are sometimes difficult to photograph as the ball often ends up buried under a pile of bodies. It’s not only referees who have difficulty with those! Anyway, I was pleased to get one or two of England’s first try with the ball clearly visible.

A long run ends with a dive over the line for Canada’s Elissa Alarie

While this wasn’t the case for a later one, the reaction from an England player made the shot just as pleasing. By the time Canada scored their second try, though I was at the correct end, I’d moved to the ten metre line as England were fairly constantly on the attack. It was an interception and the full back had to run practically the length of the pitch. Over the last few metres she had a big smile on her face and she dived for the line. I was side on to her so it was good to have the crowd in the background.

A moonlit final huddle for our England heroes

Judging by their expressions, the England squad and staff were really pleased with their visit to Doncaster. It was so good to see them staying behind taking selfies and signing autographs for the many young girls (players themselves no doubt) who had seen them play. As mentioned in a previous blog, I think anyone with a downer on women’s rugby really is a dinosaur; rugby is a game made just as much for women and girls as men and boys. Seeing their heroes ‘in the flesh’ will encourage even more of the county’s girls to get involved in what is already a popular and growing female sport in the region.

England’s Sarah Hunter (left) and Rachael Burford happily wait for the post-match photos

Announced on the day, the big news is that England will be returning to Doncaster in February 2019, this time to play France in the Six Nations competition. I cannot wait!

England coach Simon Middleton, just one of the many players and staff happy to pose for selfies

PS While researching this blog, very excited to discover that the RFU website has used some of my pics, with a credit, here and here. Excellent!