On the day that Hurricane Ophelia swept across the British Isles Parkway Princesses got off to a whirlwind start against Marjon Kestrels in the clash of the newly promoted outfits.
Looking calm and assured it looked like another comfortable victory as the Kestrels were blown away in the first quarter by the impressive shooting of Sarah Taylor and Sally Reynolds. A 9 – 2 lead was no more than deserved at the end of the first quarter and with defensive pairing Sophie Dunlavey and Tamsin Davies looking as impassable as they have all season the Kestrels must have been thinking this was going to be an awfully long evening for them.
But as the eerie Sahara dust began to settle outside across the land so to did the Kestrels nerves and with the second quarter came a change in the wind.
The only team to defeat Parkway Princesses last season came out for the second quarter a different proposition. They became more composed and creative, they took their opportunities clinically and the Kestrels suddenly found their opposition in a flap.
Some last gasp interceptions and some defiant defending from Wing Defence Hayleigh Bickford ensured at half time the Princesses were still leading but the Kestrels had their prey in their sight now and the lead had closed to 16 – 13.
Captain Emma Price rallied the team at half time and a more resilient Parkway were to appear in the second half. Realising they were in a battle they attempted to batten down the hatches and weather the storm headed their way.
Sue May’s energy at centre kept the Princesses momentum in the third quarter but the game by now was being controlled by the Kestrels. Had it not been for a near faultless shooting performance by Sarah Taylor Parkways lead would have disappeared and their relief was visible when the third quarter ended and their lead was still intact at 22 – 18.
This game was hardly one for the purist as countless passes went astray and out of bounds, needless fouls and penalties were conceded and as the final quarter began it looked almost like Princesses had one eye on the clock.
Despite the Kestrels best efforts they remained just that fraction too far away as the timer, which was standing still for Parkway, seemed to accelerate for them. A nasty looking injury with fifty seconds to go forced the Kestrels to concede a game they really deserved something from but the final score of 29 – 26 will make them rue playing the first quarter as if their wings were clipped.
Princesses on the other hand will point to the fact that is four wins from four in their new division and despite not playing anywhere near their brilliant best they rallied and dug in and fought hard for the three points. At the end of the season these points may be invaluable and Parkway showed that they have the girls who can do it on a wet and windy night in October. Games like these are where true championship credentials are tested and, after standing strong together as a team against a very good side, Princesses have every reason to be smiling knowing they passed their test with gritty determination if not flying colours.
Report by Matt Smith