Anika Butler has led the Wildfires to their maiden Jack Scott Cup victory, striking twice against the Sydney students’ seconds to clinch a key five-point win on the road in the competition’s fourth round.
The 17–12 win catapults Hunter into sixth place in the Sydney league standings, equal with Easts and Wests on 10 points. It also allows the Novocastrian outfit to leapfrog trailing clubs Gordon (0–2), Campbelltown (1–2), and Sydney Uni 2 (0–3).
Last round saw the ladies in green and white controversially denied the first chocolates of 2020 in a 10–8 loss to Campbelltown. A last-minute call against Hunter allowed the Sydney side a chance to complete their comeback, which they took full advantage of.
This time around, the Wildfires made sure they capitalised on their fast start in as many weeks, thanks in part to winger Butler, who put herself at the end of two well-worked team tries.
Sophie Clancy and Butler were the first two Hunter try scorers, securing a 12-point lead for the travelling squad. Shadows of the Campbelltown match may have crept into the back of the girls’ minds as Sydney Uni crossed twice to level in the second half.
Sherienne Koh struck first, before Brittany Merlo doubled the score soon after. Students kicker Penelope Leiataua added two more to the mounting University tally.
It was the Wildfires, and more specifically Butler, that would have the last say this time around, however.
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The live-wire winger put herself at the end of another team movement to cross in the 65th minute and regain the lead for Hunter.
It was enough. The Wildfires were able to close out the Saturday battle with their five-point advantage, and ensure the trip back to Newcastle was a little more raucous than it was after the shock loss the weekend before.
The Hunter Women’s victory marks the first time an NHRU team has won in Sydney across the women, men’s first grade, second grade, and colts since Sydney Rugby invited the Hunter organisation to join their shortened 2020 season.
Hunter now looks to make it two-from-two against Gordon next weekend. The August 22 battle will also mark the first time the Wildfires have played at No.2 Sportsground since the season’s second round.
Gordon have yet to chalk up a win in the 2020 season. The team lost 41–nil at the hands of Wests in the first round, and had their second-round match delayed due to a COVID-19 scare in the Sydney suburb in late July.
The team then returned with a bye in the third round, before being toweled up by fourth-placed Easts. Courtney Frankl clinched a hat-trick against the struggling Gordon women in a 30–nil win at Woollahra Oval in the round just gone.