Jess Breach made history as she and her England rugby sevens team-mates picked up bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games.
The West Sussex star was part of a team who performed brilliantly on the Gold Coast to finish third in a tournament full of top-class sides.
It was the first time women’s rugby sevens had been held at the Commonwealth Games and Breach, who lives in Felpham, savoured every moment – especially as she scored a try which proved crucial to the medal-match victory.
She said on Twitter: “BRONZE! Amazing experience, couldn’t ask for a better team! Been a long journey but worth it in the end.”
After coming through a four-team pool with two wins out of three, England lost in the semi-finals to eventual winners New Zealand but beat Canada to claim bronze medals.
It was an experience the former Chichester RFC junior and Pulborough RFC under-18 star shared with her parents, who were in Australia to support her.
Dad John admitted to shedding a tear as his daughter collected her medal. He said: “It was a great three days at the Commonwealth Games.
“The ladies did so well to claim a medal against a very strong Canadian side, who have been their nemesis since losing out on bronze at the Rio Olympics.
“Conditions for the final day and the semi-final and medal game were extremely hot and sunny – all the teams suffered with the heat.
“The bronze-medal match was a tense affair, with England going into an early lead followed by two further tries. Canada hit back just on half-time. Canada started the stronger in the second half, but a try from Jess in the corner (the only one for England in the second half) meant the ladies could hold on to the final whistle.
“It was a fantastic achievement by the ladies and for Jess to score and make a crucial tackle in this game were proud parent moments for us.
“We had a short time to share with Jess and the ladies after the game, shed a few tears at the medal ceremony and then said our goodbyes as Jess headed off to the closing ceremony and then packing for her flight to Japan on Monday for the World Series Sevens this weekend.”
Everyone at Chichester and Pulborough rugby clubs, where she played as a junior before going on to Harlequins, and at Bognor, where she has been helping inspire members of a new girls’ team in recent weeks, has been cheering her on, seeing her as the perfect role model to inspire the next generation of female players.
England women’s head coach James Bailey paid tribute to Breach and the whole squad, saying: “I’m over the moon and incredibly proud of what is a very special group. They’ve come together in a very short period of time and have put in a brilliant performance across the weekend – I’m a very proud coach.
“The success is down to the culture and the environment that the girls have created. That bronze medal match was all about that culture and the willingness to fight for each other down to the last minute – that’s what it’s all about.”
In the pool matches, England beat Fiji 17-5, lost 29-12 to the Aussies and enjoyed a 45-0 win over Wales. The semi-final saw New Zealand pull away in the second half to secure a 26-5 victory over Breach and Co.
In the ‘bronze final’ England dominated possession in the opening exchanges and Lydia Thompson stepped through the defence to score. Deborah Fleming got England’s second before she set up Claire Allan to score.
Following a Canada try just before half-time, a try by Breach’s restored the three-try advantage. Two quickfire Canada tries made for a tense finish but England held on to secure the bronze medal in Australia.
Back in West Sussex there was something else to celebrate for the family. John Breach added: “The day was capped off by Jess’ former side, Pulborough under-18 girls, winning their National Cup semi-final and making it through to the final.”