CSU women down Orange City 49-12 as they warm up for the Westfund North Women's Cup

WHEN CSU lined up against Orange City for a trial match at University Oval on Saturday, co-coach Dave Ghrayche was hoping to get some of idea of what his new-look squad would bring to the Westfund North Women's Cup.

By the time the final whistle blew and CSU walked off the field as 49-12 victors, he knew he had a squad with the potential to challenge for a premiership.

Those members of last year's squad that fell one win shy of a Ferguson Cup decider who have returned were strong. Maddy Thomson's fend is certainly a weapon, Steph Doyle and Laura Belfanti created plenty in attack with their strong playmaking skills and Minna Annand's pace is an asset in both attack and defence.

But a number of the new recruits impressed as well, Olivia Flood looking particularly promising as her strong leg drive saw her gain good yards up the middle, cross for a try and counter-ruck effectively.

"We have a few new girls, which is good to see, and a lot of them have never played rugby before. But they all stood up, had a good go and played really well," Ghrayche said.

"We are a bit down in numbers to previous years, we had 30 or 40 last year and are down to 15 now, but that means everyone gets a bit more game time.

"This is just invaluable, like for a lot of the girls this is the first game they've played, so to have a trial game first instead of an official game is really good."

The trial match was organised after Dubbo Rhinos withdrew from the North Cup, meaning CSU will battle with Wellington, Parkes and Mudgee this season. The top two after 10 rounds will contest the grand final.

It took CSU a tick under two minutes to open scoring as strong Molly Kennedy work forced a turnover, Thompson counter-attacked to get her side within striking distance, then the ball was spread to Annand on the opposite wing, creating an overlap the speedster exploited.

It was a scene which repeated across the four quarters - CSU's forward pack setting a strong platform before Doyle and Belfanti then created for a back line full of pace.

At half-time was 15-0 and while Orange City struck first in the third quarter as flyhalf Bec Davis broke clear after a quick penalty tap, CSU hit back. Thompson, Flood and Doyle all crossed to make it 32-7 at the final change.

Number 8 Jorja Verwey scored early in the final quarter, while Thompson finished with a brace and Annand a hat-trick.

For Orange City coach Damien Moloney, who's side will play in the Ferguson Cup, the trial also gave a new-look squad a chance to gel.

Davis was a standout in both attack and defence, while CSU Mungals league tag convert April Rich showed promise.

"There are some fresh faces, but there's a lot to work with, plenty of potential," Moloney said.

"They've been training hard and there are lots of new combinations, so we've just got practice more. We were very happy to get a trial in and come and support CSU, it's a big day for them.

"Our girls were keen to play rugby, they were keen as well and that's what it's all about."

With a competition bye CSU has another trial planned this Saturday against Temora, while Orange City hosts Dubbo Kangaroos.

CSU 49 (Minna Annand 3, Maddy Thompson 2, Gabby Downing, Steph Doyle, Olivia Flood, Jorja Verwey tries; Steph Doyle 2 conversions) defeated ORANGE CITY 12 (Bec Davis, April Rich tries; Emma Straney conversion)

This story CSU's thumping trial win shows they're a cup threat first appeared on Western Advocate.