Esher U18 girls Emma Swords and Sarah Bern travelled to Sheffield this weekend. Both played integral roles representing LSE (London and South East England) in what was, effectively, a Home nations 7's competition for our elite young athletes. Sarah, one of the youngest players in the squad, was honoured to be named as Captain of the squad on her games debut and Emma a gold medal winner in the same games last year both proved to be pivotal players with the LSE team comprehensively despatching both Midlands and Scotland and were unlucky to draw against a hugely experienced and well drilled Welsh side in the group stages. The standard of rugby here was higher than ever and the physicality just as brutal as the boys game so the success was not without cost to the squad as injuries from these first games left the LSE squad without any pace players or a spare scrum half, putting more pressure on the remaining players to perform. Fortunately dealing with pressure is Esher girls' forte, Sarah moved from front row to centre as the Esher pair combined well to help boss the team and Emma controlled the play with both players demonstrating skill and maturity beyond their years.
Unfortunately a semi final rematch against a top class Welsh side early on a blustery Sunday morning proved a step too far for the bruised, battered and very much depleted LSE squad. Despite their best efforts LSE just did not get the rub of the green and Wales, always playing right on the edge, took advantage of some mistakes and took the game with some slick interplay eventually running out tournament winners against South West England.
Down but not out, Sarah and Emma rallied the rest of the girls and all regrouped to put in fine performances overrunning a very dangerous Ireland side to take a very well deserved bronze.
Typically upbeat and smiling despite their exhaustion, both girls said afterwards that they were delighted with the bronze. "The Welsh squad had been training together for two months and SW England had had several additional training sessions, we didn't have a coach until last Tuesday and we only had an hour and half training together before the tournament add in the injuries we sustained to our fastest players, we think we did rather well considering."
We think so too! If you see these girls around the club on Wednesday's or Sunday's give them your congratulations, they thoroughly deserve it.