Women’s Rugby: a journey through 30 years

Since records were available in 2004, the UEA Women’s Rugby Union 1st XV have grown significantly, becoming one of the University’s most accomplished sports teams. 

Comfortably crowned Midlands 2B league champions in 04/05, an eighteen-point gap separated the Wolfpack from the next-best side, University of Nottingham 2’s. 

Subsequently, the club gained promotion to the Midlands 2A division, where they remained for the following six seasons, achieving a total of four runners-up finishes, the pick of the bunch being in 10/11, where UEA finished level with Nottingham 2’s and agonisingly missed out on the title by goal difference. Regardless, with the introduction of the BUCS league system, this strong end to the season was enough to see UEA promoted to the Midlands 1A division.Whilst the 11/12 and 12/13 seasons were a struggle for the club, eventually meeting its fate and being relegated back down to the Midlands 2A tier, the Wolfpack have enjoyed a fruitful spell of success from 13/14 onwards.

The 13/14 season was particularly impressive, as the Women’s 1’s were crowned Midlands Conference Cup champions, beating Leicester 44-0 at Colney Lane, conceding just seventeen points over the entire cup campaign. They faced defeat just once in the league, with De Montfort pipping them to the title. A convincing Derby Day victory against Essex was positive. 

The club saw more of the same success the following season, finishing second after an impressive league campaign, and winning a second Midlands Conference Cup in a row, beating Oxford Brookes 5-11 in an admittedly tighter affair than the previous year’s final. 

Yet 15/16 was more impressive than them all. Not only did the club win a third successive Midlands Conference Cup that year, defeating Harper Adams 13-19 in the Final, but the Wolfpack and its Wolves cruised their way to league victory with nine wins from nine games to be crowned Midlands 2A league champions. Beating the likes of Anglia Ruskin 0-113, Bedfordshire 0-100, and Northampton 106-0, the UEA Women’s 1’s had proven that their rightful place was in the Midlands 1A tier.

Whilst the likes of Nottingham 1’s, Cambridge, and Birmingham proved to be daunting opponents over the next few seasons in the Midlands’ top tier, UEA established itself as no push-over, finishing third in 16/17 and 17/18, the club’s highest league finishes thus far. In addition, club captain, Sophie Sibley, was voted UEA’s 16/17 Captain of the Year, and the club received the accolade of being voted the 2018 Students’ Rugby Football Union (SRFU) Club of the Year. Full-back Hannah Shaw added to the honours by being named SRFU’s 2018 Player of the Year, as well as UEA’s Sportswoman of the Year in 2019.

Today in 2022, the Wolfpack, led by coach Amanda Jones and BUCS Captain Poppy Wakefield, comfortably sit fourth in the Midlands 1A division, two promotions away from reaching the country’s top BUCS Premier National tier. The UEA Women’s 1st XV have made great strides to progress up the league ladder over the past seventeen seasons, becoming a formidable club here at the Home of the Wonderful.


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Metin Yilmaz

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June 2022
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