Raiders Ladies chasing Championship crown

The newly formed Barrow Raiders Ladies Rugby League squad have wasted no time in showing their intentions for the season. A blistering start to their campaign saw them cruise to victory in Games 1 and 2 before a titanic battle with probable title rivals Leigh resulted in a 12-12 draw. Yesterday then saw them travel to unbeaten Stanningley, and in another close game register a 14-8 win.

After 18 months of waiting the squad were absolutely buzzing to pull on the new shirts in their first competitive game, an away day at Halifax.

And they couldn’t have dreamed of a better start when after just 5 mins Nat Saunders crossed the white line to open the scoring, Captain Jodie Litherland converting to make it 6-0. Just 3 minutes later and it was dreamland for the Raiders as an Amy Sunderland try and Litherland conversion doubled the league. For the rest of the half it was one way traffic, Michelle Larkin adding two further tries and the boot of Litherland continuing to be at its accurate best the Raiders finished the half 36-0 to the good and now it was just a matter of “how many”.

The second half was slightly lower scoring, not surprising as Halifax would have been thinking of damage limitation. They could do nothing to stop Barrow scoring three more second half tries though, Leah Cottier, Beth Pattinson and Sam Norman all opening their accounts for the season and with Litherland still refusing to miss with the boot they stretched the lead to 54-0 before a late consolation for Halifax made the final score 54-4. A perfect start for the Ladies.

The following week the Raiders played their first game at the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium. Opponents Keighley Cougars were quick out of the blocks and took an early 4-0 lead although a Nat Saunders try soon leveled things up. The Cougars were up for a fight though and took the lead 10-4 with a converted try. Again the lead was short lived and this time served as a kick up the proverbial to the Raiders players.

Moving through the gears the Raiders started to break down the Keighley defence with ease, Sam Norman (right), Jodie Litherland and Jodie Crawford all crossing over and with Litherland finding her range with the boot they moved into a 22-10 lead.

There was no stopping the girls now though, they saw the opportunity to pile on the pressure and as we went into the second half that is exactly what happened.

Amy Sunderland, Michelle Larkin, Abbie O’Brien and Clare Geldard all getting on the score sheet before Larkin completed the scoring with her second try of the match to give the ladies an impressive 50-10 victory. The ability to score from all over the park , emphasised by 8 different players scoring tries this week, along with captain Litherland’s trusty boot is going to hold the Raiders in good stead for the rest of the season and strike fear into their opponents, knowing they can’t snuff out a danger without freeing up another.

So we moved to game 3, and Leigh were next into the Raiders Den. Leigh are fancied to be pushing for the top spot by the end of the season, and having lost to Widnes the previous week came to Barrow determined to get their season going. The spice of playing in front of a home crowd after easing of restrictions added to the occasion.

Both teams defended with real energy early doors, making it clear that this wasn’t going to be a high scoring encounter with big tackles breaking down attacks. Barrow were certainly the more dominant force in the early exchanges though, Kelly Friend, Mia Dobson and Kez Smith all putting in big tackles. The game continued this way for the first quarter with Leigh soaking up the pressure from Barrow players Louise Clark, Sarah Shields and Vicky Leithead.  Leigh started finding the odd gap in the Barrow defence to relieve the pressure and make Barrow work harder.  However as the game went on Barrow were starting to play more expansive rugby with Leah Cottier, Jodie Litherland and Michelle Larkin combining well with some nice passing. 

Barrow were in the ascendancy now and following some clever inter changes in the Barrow forward line showed their strength in depth as Jodie Crawford, Fern Henderson, Jodie Morley and Aimee Sharpe made their presence felt. With fresh players on the pitch Barrow soon took advantage as Litherland, Cottier and Larkin combined again to feed Abbie O’Brien out on the right. O’Brien showed electric pace to leave the Leigh defence behind as she scored under the sticks from 40 yards out, Litherland added the conversion, 6-0.

Following the score from Barrow, Leigh came into the game more with some fine breaks and clever kicking, making Barrow defend hard. The Raiders responded well though, Sam Norman picked the ball up at fullback and drove forward, triggering another fine spell with Nat Saunders, Amy Sutherland, Clare Geldard and Mol Wernham making some great runs. This pressure eventually took its toll on the Leigh defence as Barrow pushed forward and following a brilliant drive Mia Dobson crashed over, Litherland adding the conversion, 12-0.

This was turning into a good half for Barrow and they should have added to the total but Amy Sunderland just fell short in the corner. Raiders were having a really good spell but they needed to keep their concentration as Leigh were trying everything to get back into the game. Friend, Crawford and Smith who were putting in some crucial tackles for Barrow as the game was approaching half time. However following a couple of rare Barrow mistakes Leigh found themselves on the Barrow line and with a great move and piece of skill Leigh scored with Celia Faaimond darting over under the sticks, Kirsty Millington adding the conversion, 12-6 Half Time.

As the second half started it was clear that Leigh felt like they could get something from the game as they began putting Barrow under serious pressure with their forwards finally making an impact especially Holly Gregory and Mairead Quinn who were coming more into the game.  Leigh continued to press and big hits were needed to keep them out with Friend and Crawford outstanding.

Almost inevitably, Leigh got their reward after some excellent play led to Kellie Grey going over, Millington adding the conversion to make it 12-12.

This was definitely game on now as both teams were living up to their league favourites tag. Barrow responded well to the Leigh score and began to get themselves back into the game. Captain Litherland led by example again and following a great piece of skill and pace she broke the line however her clever pass was difficult to hold on to and the chance was gone.  The game ebbed and flowed as both teams looked for the crucial score.  Barrow were the better side in the final minutes and it was clear what they were trying to get Litherland under the posts for a chance of a drop goal and with just seconds remaining some great forward play again from Barrow put them right in front of the posts.

With Litherland waiting for the ball the Leigh defence were up very quick and the final chance had gone. A great game of rugby was ended by referee Josh Archer (who had a fine game). Full Time 12-12. A fair result between two teams who will be battling it out at the top come the end of season.

Yesterday saw the Raiders again on their travels when they visited Stanningley, who had won their first two games and so were to pose a stiff test. A test that once again the girls passed with a brilliant 14-8 victory. A full report on the game will follow as soon possible.

Sport Furness would like to thank Phil Stirzaker for his report on the Leigh game as well as Colin Brannon for the use of his photographs. It is much appreciated.

Written By
Mark Curwen

Mark Curwen

Bowls Editor

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