ON a wet afternoon which definitely signalled the start of the new rugby season, Abbey Nuns beat Chesham 28-5 to round off their pre-season friendlies as they look ahead to the league starting next Sunday, writes Fiona Tomas.

Chesham started the first quarter the brighter team, showing great physicality in the rucks and kicking well for territory, however superb Nuns defence kept them at bay and forced errors in the greasy conditions.

The pack, once again enjoying an afternoon of superb scrummaging – partly due to the immense second-row pairing of Natalie Mitchell and Hannah Lee-Gill – held firm and allowed scrum half and stand-in captain Ellie Rice to find fly half Annette Tomas (pictured) who took advantage of the Chesham winger’s deep position to race from inside the Nuns’ 22 to dot down under the posts.

Inside centre Annabel Hawkins, who had an exceptional day from the tee, added the extras to make it 7-0.

The Nuns began to settle into the game and started to knit some phases together. Forwards Mitchell and Meg Fowler carried well, releasing their counterparts Pippa Robinson and Alyssa Bossom into the fray.

Good handling from the backs ensured the ball moved well, although the Nuns were often thwarted by the accuracy of the final pass not going to hand.

Chesham were quick to capitalise on loose ball and returned the threat with gusto, forcing the Nuns to turn on the defensive; debutant Megan Watts showcasing her immense tackling ability from the wing.

Nuns scored early in the second quarter from a solid line-out which allowed Tomas to find outside centre Louisa Burgham, who beat several defenders on one of her many trademark runs of the day to score. Hawkins again coolly slotted the extras, making it 14-0, and coach Jack Reynolds rang the changes after an injury to Kodey Hamblin.

Sarah Northover played the rest of the game at half back while Siobhan Kearns and Zuzia Briggs came into the pack. Chesham capitalised on the new combinations to release their pacey backs to cross for their only score of the afternoon and it was 14-5 at half time.

The second half brought more changes for the Nuns; Tomas, forced off by injury, was replaced at fly-half by Rice and Burgham and Gabriella Millard swapped roles in the backs in order to increase the experience of the squad.

The forward pack was bolstered by the long-awaited return from injury of prop Harriet Driver and this quarter saw some of the best forward phases of the match.

Claire Stevens, Jess Potter and Fowler all led from the front, allowing Northover to release the backs. Excellent strike running from Burgham and Watts released Millard down the wing as the Nuns inched ever-closer to the line, the ball finally finding Burgham who raced in for her second. Another successful conversion put Nuns 21-5 to the good.

Abbey knew how to close out the game and the best team try came in this last quarter. Another excellent line-out saw Fowler storm towards the line, and the forward of the match accolade, followed by more phases.

The ball eventually worked its way out to the backs with Hawkins showcasing some fine play-making skills to release the fourth debutant, Rachel Moodie, on a storming run. It was the strength and power of back-of-the-match Megan Watts however, that sealed the final try and the Nuns victory, with Hawkins slotting her most difficult kick of the day, 28-5.

Next Sunday the Nuns travel to Guildford for their first Championship Two fixture.