The inaugural women and girls’ exhibition match played prior to the final pool fixture between Japan and Canada raised the visibility of our female wheelchair rugby athletes.
Hannah Thompson reports:
Although wheelchair rugby is a mixed sport just two athletes from the four representative international sides competing in the King Power Wheelchair Rugby Quad Nations 2019 were women – Kylie Grimes for Great Britain and Kae Kurahashi for Japan. Just 13% of the Great British Wheelchair Rugby player base is represented by women and girls; the landscape is shifting and tonight’s women and girls’ fixture hopes to inspire more to get involved.
Two select teams were formed by players from across Great Britain’s domestic league and talent programme.
Competing for the Warriors in red:
Faye West (Captain), Grace McGowan, Ella Beaumont, Jennifer Lang and Imogen Steele.
Whilst the Vixens side donning the blue vests lined up with:
Gemma Lumsdaine (Captain), Diana Man, Tilly Robinson, Donna Stenner, Sophie Price and Coral Batey.
The match was also supported by an all-female officiating team comprised of referees Hannah Aldridge and Sophia Azzi, and table officials Sue Aldridge, Catriona Brown, Heather Williams and Jaz Thompson.
There was a slight change of the rules with three eight-minute thirds with one-minute intervals.
The red quartet started off the scoring with Faye West darting across the line. The first third saw end to end play with the Vixens hunting down the Warriors who led by one for the majority of the first third. West took the points for the Warriors with Batey on a hat-trick for the Vixens. As the clock counted down the final seconds, the first third concluded with Tilly Robinson scoring to level the scores 7-7.
Starting the second third, Batey took her fourth to take the lead for the Vixens. Jennifer Lang replied quickly to make things even. A turnover from Batey put Vixens two ahead – the first time the match had gone above a difference of one.
Strong defending from the Vixens saw off some intense play from the Warriors to maintain a two-point lead. Robinson won a turnover in a game changing moment preventing Lang to break through and allowed the Vixens to pull away, 16-13.
The final third saw some individual prowess and sheer confidence with Batey leading the overall point scoring with 11, just pipping Warrior’s West’s 10. The third started much like the prior with the Vixens poaching the first point. The blue blockers grafted hard to allow Robinson to exploit the open space putting Vixens four points ahead. The momentum sat in the laps of the Vixens who maintained their composure to take the win.
The final score 19-26 to the Vixens.
Overall, a fantastic and competitive showcase which enthralled the crowd and will hopefully inspire the next generation of women to try wheelchair rugby.
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