On a gorgeously, crisp day at Maiden Castle, Durham Women’s Lacrosse First team took on the reigning BUCs champions, Birmingham. This was an eagerly anticipated fixture, which would be a great acid test for the Durham team which has high hopes and expectations for the current season.
The Durham women, resplendent in their all white strip with palatinate trim, have been on fine form and rolled into this match-up unbeaten and hardly tested in their previous two fixtures.
In fact, the last team they had lost to was this Birmingham side in a closely contested BUCs final last March so it was safe to say there were some scores to settle.
The Palatinates certainly came out the blocks like this was the case, as some great tenacity from the get-go by Alice Goodinge high up the pitch resulted in Durham winning possession deep in Birmingham territory and a chance fell to Anna Featherstone who showed no hesitation in converting. Two minutes had hardly elapsed.
Durham continued to keep the ferocious tempo and defence up after the restart resulting in Birmingham spending long stretches of time bottled up in their own half. However the Midlands outfit kept composed, patiently soaked up the pressure and retained possession well in a calm and measured fashion.
They worked the ball up the field this way, exploiting Durham’s high and aggressive press and struck back with a well-worked goal of their own.
In response Durham stepped up the intensity another gear and the pressure generated by their all-encompassing press started to tell as Durham had the lions’ share of possession and territory and manufactured multiple chances on the Birmingham goal. Although valiantly defended by the Birmingham keeper, the sheer weight of pressure from the Durham attack was too much and the Birmingham defence was breached again to make it 2-1 in favour of the Palatinates.
The rest of the half carried on very much in this fashion, with long spells of Durham pressure and good attacking play being punctuated by sparse Birmingham counter attacks.
Emily Sambrook Smith put her name on the score sheet and Megan Clements and Izzie Clifton-Brown also added two more apiece whilst Birmingham converted one of their rare counter attacks to leave the Palatinates 7-2 up as the half time whistle blew.
After the break the Durham ladies certainly didn’t seem in the mood for any mercy or forgiveness, carrying on right from where they left off scoring basically straight off the restart after some sloppy play by the shell shocked Birmingham midfield was pounced on by Clements who expertly converted.
This seemed to break the will of opposition completely and the game was put truly out of sight by some breath taking attacking lacrosse by Goodinge. Taking the ball on the left wing, Goodinge cut in and ghosted past three Birmingham defenders as she jinked in and out towards the goal before finishing with aplomb past the flailing Birmingham ‘keeper.
Durham went on to add 6 more scores to their tally, Sarah Logan-Wright with one, Sambrook Smith completing her hat-trick, Featherstone getting another and Clements getting one more, whilst only letting a single goal go past their keeper at the opposite end. As the final whistle blew the score was 15-3.
Durham blew Birmingham off the Maiden Castle crumb from start to finish.
Although the 15-3 blowout suggests an attacking master class, the real reason for the one sided nature of the fixture was Durham’s stifling defensive work and propensity to force turnovers all over the pitch.
The defence not only denied Birmingham attacking opportunities but also supplied the attack with plenty of chances to attack the Birmingham goal.
Accordingly the MVP of the match was India Rose May who was a huge presence at the back and really put her stamp on the game.
Photograph: Mark Ganly