Probably written this before but it's a strange thing about the last few weeks of the rugby season. You might expect that the frequency of games would decrease as clubs completed their fixtures. However, there are all manner of local and county finals to be played, previously postponed matches caught up on and the start of the short but significant county championships. So for the last few weeks it's been two matches at the weekend with a couple during the week in the lighter evenings.
I reckon I've photographed eight games since my last post. Of course this means that there's been less time to blog and tell you about them all. I'll get round to that in good time but I really wanted to use this post to concentrate on a major achievement by the Yorkshire Ladies squad.
I've had the privilege of photographing them for four seasons now and each year they've been perilously close to reaching the county championship final. The first year there was no final so, despite winning every game including an encounter with Lancashire at Burnley Rugby Club, they were left with a definite feeling of there being unfinished business.
The next two years produced extremely close semi-finals, both against Lancashire and both lost in quite cruel circumstances. The first of these was at Barnsley Football Club. As I recall, Yorkshire applied a huge amount of pressure on the Lancashire line in the second half but just couldn't break through. It was one of those where you get the growing feeling it's just not going to be; the opposition will break out and score. And that's how it happened. A Lancashire back took the ball well in her own half, ran downfield and scored. A great try on her part but it broke Yorkshire hearts.
Last year the same fixture for the same prize was played on Lancashire territory, at Broughton Park Rugby Club. Looking back, I think this was a case of Lancashire having the stronger squad, Yorkshire holding a lead for long enough to hope a victory just might be in the offing and then losing out to a couple of scores in the closing minutes.
So with a recent history of such close matches between the two counties, it came as a little bit of a surprise that Yorkshire's victory this time wasn't close at all! Playing at West Park Leeds Rugby Club, the women of the white rose put over forty points past Lancashire, only conceding with the final play of the game. A magnificent victory which takes them to Twickenham for the final this coming Saturday. Well done and best of luck to them all. You can see more shots of the game in the ickledot shop.
Have to say my absolute joy over the result was tinged with a little sadness in that I'm not going to be able to join them in their finest moment. A long arranged trip to the USA means I will not have my season's second trip to the home of rugby.
However, my disappointment is as nothing compared to that of Yorkshire and Harrogate scrum-half Leah Birkin. She unfortunately suffered a severe injury during the second half and has since undergone spinal surgery. Not only will she miss the match, her road to recovery is going to be quite a long one.
I've photographed Leah quite a bit over the last couple of years, at Leeds Beckett University, Harrogate and now Yorkshire. I've grown to admire her as a player and as an inspiration to her team mates. Her club has set up a fund to help her get specialist treatment in the coming weeks and months. If the oft used term 'rugby family' means anything, it's at times like this. If you're part of the family (or you'd like to join the family), please consider making a donation.