The UNE Lions made an encouraging start to their 2018 Uni 7’s campaign in Tasmania on the weekend, but it wasn’t without some heartache.
The Lions’ side containing Inverell’s Rhiannon Byers, Moree’s Ashleigh Walker and Narrabri’s Lauren Nott finished ninth after annihilating Uni of Melbourne 39-0 in their final game.
It was the Lions only win for the opening leg of the second season of the national competition.
But it could have been a very different story with the Lions either leading or level in three of their four pool games with a minute to play.
Two of those they conceded a try after the bell to lose.
“There was a lot of heartache and a bit of frustration for the girls,” program manager Tom Bower said.
“But that’s sevens rugby for you. One decision or one moment can really change a game.”
“(But) It shows the talent that we’ve got, we’ve just got to finish it off.”
The only real blowout was a 22-10 loss to the University of Sydney, with a first-up 15-12 defeat by Bond University followed by losses to the University of Canberra (24-19) and third-finishing Griffith University (20-17).
“The best thing for our girls is they know they can compete at the top level,” Bower said.
One of the biggest lessons they will take out of the weekend into the next round in Canberra in a fortnight is playing for the full 14 minutes.
Other than that there is just a few things to tweak.
“We had the second best for and against in our pool,” Bower said.
They have drawn a pretty solid pool again for the Canberra tournament, he said, but are expecting to have the services of Wallaroo Grace Hamilton.
The UNE student will bolster their go-forward.
In saying that, Bower said one of the Lions’ points of difference to the other teams on the weekend was their carries and their physicality in attack and defence.
Aussie Pearls player Cassie Staples also provided some valuable pace outwide.
He said they have this year taken a more holistic country approach with the squad, and the majority have represented at a minimum NSW Country.
They will train together in Singleton on Sunday.
Several of the players will be backing up from local grand finals and finals, including Nott and Byers, whose Inverell side tackle Pirates in the Central North qualifying final.
Bower said the weekend was a good step up for Nott.
“I was really happy with how some of the development players stepped up particularly Lauren,” he said of the St Alberts student.