Match Report: Hard Fought Defeat in Cajun Country
Nashville 0 v New Orleans/BatonRouge 21
Tough pill, Stone Lions, to end the season with this uncharacteristic scoreless defeat! Sleeplessly exhausted after that 9 hour overnight trek, fan‑less on the pitch with the exception of one valiant hugger (the one and only, the Emily!), unaccustomed to playing in such muggy, sandy heat, and certainly to playing down on the scoreboard…. so many factors contributed to the outcome. No excuses were offered by this valiant team of fighters, however. Instead, crestfallen looks, heartbreak and self‑pity (if that ever surfaced) were quickly turned to pensive introspection, critical re‑evaluation of strategy, team cohesion and individual performance. That is what a loss is for, as we both know, steadfast reader. And your fallen heroes’ reaction does not disappoint. New determination, stronger unity and smarts is what your team has brought back from New Orleans.
The first half was a close contest – closer than the score might imply. The Cajun team boasted several of the larger forwards this humble observer has documented, and yet your Stone Lions’ pack held strong in scrums and rucks, slowing the contest to our own pace, attempting to set up the line. Our pods cut deep into the opposition’s line and few balls were turned over without a fight. The matchup was even, however; more even pack to pack than it has been most of the season. Still, for the majority of the first quarter, Nashville pounded hard on their red zone and the ball remained 90% of the time past the half, a score imminent. Alas, the team somehow failed to come together and climb up those final few meters past the try line.
Expended that first burst of energy, and given a solid opponent with an organized defence, the tides turned slowly, inexorably, tragically. One try came after a crucial error far down the back line, where a less than perfect pass was intercepted and ran a good 80 meters back, no full-back in sight. This Prop cannot pretend to understand the exact mechanics of the play, yet the blow to the heart of team was palpable. No fingers are pointed here, but an important observation and learning point must be made. One try does not a match determine, Stone Lions. Five points or seven are but a trifle, an insignificant crumb in the grand scheme of 80 minutes, and your spirit as a united 15 is much, much larger than any error one of us might make.
This, your faithful correspondent, noted with pride two flashes of brilliance from your determined Stone Lions. First, a trick play from a penalty came together at long last. Your scrummie Hailee Sells, demonstrating wisdom and foresight made the perfect call. Prop Rainy Atherton, who we all know shows no qualms in making up random stories and showboating at any opportunity, sold the fake perfectly and drew the “big black amazon” (siq.) to the wrong side of the defense. Lock and 8-man Soccer Russel did not squander the opening and gained something like 25 meters and nearly punched in the try. Not only that, but (as any good forward) she did not panic at being wrapped up in sight of a score in reach; she placed the ball properly and helped her team maintain possession. Well played, packies.
For this writer, the joy of a prodigal son returned was never curtailed by the adverse conditions! Alex Fortney, playing Center, was an asset to the back line all game long. With Kiwi’s and Sarah’s help a tricky and well-timed switch was engineered. Your #13 exploded past two defenders where the hole had been opened and found herself deep into Cajun territory in the typical back-line’s play (let me be perfectly honest, I do not understand how this is done… Forwards find ourselves chasing hard to be in support and suddenly see one of our players behind enemy lines… somehow… magically…). As the half-time pep-talk pointed out: “This team does not win without it’s back-line! We know our speed, our power and follow through to score come from the backs”. This match showed the Stone Lions fighting, never giving up, yet finding their efforts insufficient to generate enough plays like the one expertly described above, consistently enough.
Near the end of the first half a loud bell was heard, far and wide, even from the furthest side-lines. What was that? I believe that was #3’s head struck by a large mallet or wrecking-ball… not sure. Hitting rewind to review that play shows Bulldozer, for some reason, tackling the New Orleans’ Hooker as she tries to throw the ball in from touch. Nah. Can’t be, why would she…? In the very next moment a scrum collapses on top of one of the locks, who must come out on a knee injury. These gals are fast! Don’t even remember them binding up… Wait, when did winger Farrah Aghaei come into the match? Wow, she’s making some pretty good plays, standing stiff and fearless! I had better make a note of them for the match report later…. Sorry Farrah, I can’t tell which one of you made that tackle… good one though! Is it just me, or was the second half only about 15 minutes long? I have a feeling your witness to the glory, your tireless reporter may have lost consciousness for a couple of seconds. But boy, those clouds are pretty! Thus the feats of our daring and courageous Coach Kathleen O’Neal, who donned her cleats and scrumcap near the end, shall remain unsung (by this author, at least…. this news column is open to others’ input!).
By Rainy Atherton