Portsmouth Valkyries eased into the quarter-finals of the RFU Women’s Junior Cup on Sunday, writes Bali Salisbury.
The Rugby Camp outfit claimed a 36-22 victory at Chew Valley Cats in Somerset in the third round.
In their first game since December 10, the Valkyries showed little sign of rustiness as they ran in six tries in the success.
Makeda Lewis capitalised on an impressive start to score after just four minutes.
Chloe Stopard-Baker then added the conversion to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
The hosts replied on 12 minutes, though, with a well-worked try of their own.
While the conversion was missed, it was clear the Valkyries were not going to have it all their own way.
They had to work hard in defence against a well-drilled and organised Cats side.
Both teams tried to play rugby in the strong wind and some good hands by the backs allowed Valkyries’ inside centre Bronwyn Jacobs to cross the whitewash.
From the restart, which the Cats opted to kick long with the help of the conditions, Lewis caught the ball on her own 22 and made a mazy run to score a fine individual try.
Once more the consistent Stopard-Baker was on target with her kick, giving the Valkyries a 19-5 lead.
The Cats attack was relentless, though, and their ambition was again rewarded amid some tiring Portsmouth tackling.
The Valkyries began the second half with a 19-10 advantage, which Lewis quickly extended as she completed her hat-trick.
A mixture of the Cats’ refusal to lie down, some poor discipline and tired legs saw the visitors once again pegged back, though.
This time the Chew Valley outfit registered back-to-back tries to make it 24-22 and set up a tense finale.
Solid leadership from Pauline French and Alice Kightley, along with some powerful tackling in midfield by Stopard-Baker, helped repel wave after wave of Cats attacks.
Gradually the Valkyries began to get over the gainline and, with some good handling in the windy conditions, Laura Ineson calmed nerves with a well-worked try to make it 29-22.
With the Cats running out of time, Lewis took advantage to score her fourth and complete the win.
The Valkyries return to league action at Harlequins III on Sunday.
Portsmouth are then proud to host England Deaf Ladies in a friendly at Rugby Camp on Saturday, January 20.