Four games were played on the Saturday as Worcester and Bristol waited a day longer. Only one result offered a margin below 34; the worrying gaps in success show no signs of narrowing.
Wasps v Saracens
Sarries weren’t at their destructive best in the fine cold weather at Twyford Avenue, but they weren’t allowed to be by a defiant swarm who kept buzzing right to the end.
The visitors went straight on the attack down the slope, winning scrums and rucks to put the pressure on. A side entry allowed Lisa Martin to kick her first penalty.
Then a fine combined move took the ball deep into the left flank of Wasps’ defence. From there the ball swung back into midfield and Mackenzie Carson drove over under the posts. 0-10
Wasps countered at once. But when they were offered a penalty, they opted once more to take the three points – a policy that goes back a long way. Lizzie Goulden, returning to the side, did the necessary. 3-10
Would that limited response be enough against a side like Sarries? Only time would tell.
When Zoe Harrison swung a clearance kick downfield, it struck Tova Derk smack on the head as she made a brave attempt to charge it down. Fortunately she recovered quickly.
Wasps were taking the game to the opposition with a will, but they couldn’t find a way of getting over the line. Instead it was Hannah Botterman at the other end who finished off the only other try of the first half. Wasps’ score doubled with a second Goulden kick
It was a strange fact that neither of the two Wasps who graced last week’s test match against Italy appeared in the same positions here. Abby Dow wore No 15 and Claudia Macdonald No 14.
It was Macdonald’s place on the wing that was questionable. If the England selectors wanted her there, then fine. But her absence from the base of the scrum can’t have helped her side’s cause. When she did move there late on, Wasps’ pressure grew.
In the third quarter another Goulden kick narrowed the gap (9-17). Sarries at last got their line-out routine right when Molly Morrissey caught cleanly, the pack drove and Rocky Clark scored.
It took Wasps most of the game to hit the mark there. Then they summoned a great forward drive to roar over the line. The pack deserved the congratulations they got from the backs.
Bit after this indignity Sarries returned to the top of the slope. Poppy Cleall forced her way over to put the game beyond reach.
Three non-combatants were present : Harriet Millar-Mills, much missed by her club at present, added her advice whenever possible as water-girl; Lauren Cattell and Bryony Cleall looked on, Bryony now able to wear two shoes, which is an encouraging sign
Result: Wasps 21 Saracens 32
Player of the Match: Hannah Botterman
Quins’ demolition of Waterloo was a result we have to expect these days. Eight players shared the tries around in this unfortunate rout. The midday start can’t have helped the visitors, faced with such a long journey to the Surrey Sports Park from north Lancashire.
Richmond took on Lightning under lights five hours later. Emily Scarratt was missing from the visitors’ line-up through injury, but their overall strength was quite enough to ensure a nil-return for the hosts.
Katy Daley-Mclean has nothing more to prove, but her contributions to the game were still remarkable. Equally glowing was Rhona Lloyd’s display. Richmond had few answers to her speedy thrusts down the wing or, by way of contrast. through the midfield. If only Scotland could offer her as much ball as Lightning did here in the cold and dark.
Richmond showed plenty of go-forward, but they couldn’t find a way of taking their attacks all the way to the line. Their future in the Tyrrells looks under threat unless Mike Panoho can find a quick solution to their scoring problems.
Gloucester-Hartpury 60 Darlington Mowden Park Sharks 12
Harlequins 81 Firwood Waterloo 0
Richmond 0 Loughborough Lightning 34
Wasps 21 Saracens 32
Worcester Warriors 15 Bristol Bears 12 (report to follow)
Other (more significant) news
Congratulations to La Toya Mason who refereed Quins-Waterloo – the only woman to be appointed for the Tyrrells matches this weekend – and to Tamara Taylor, another Sharks player, who has received her Level Four Coaching Certificate. Mason is the second leading world player to take to the whistle after Selica Winiata, the distinguished Back Fern full-back, was appointed to referee in the World Sevens Series.
The following contracted Red Roses were listed to return straight from the autumn tests:
Leanne Riley (bench)