Source: Bruce Perkins

A Tale of Two Crises – Tyrrells Round 10 – Rescheduled Match

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Richmond v Saracens

Few games of club rugby have been as momentous as this one. Both Richmond and Saracens were facing crises of the first order, and Storm Dennis was threatening to wreak more havoc than Storm Ciara the previous weekend. Ciara had brought two Six Nations matches to the front pages.

Richmond had been told by the RFU that they would need to re-apply for membership of the Tyrrells Premier 15s. To say they were disappointed barely does justice to their emotions.

Saracens had received the biggest fine ever applied to a club, and their sponsors, the German insurance giant Allianz, were pulling out at the season’s end.

Then there was the rugby – and it was rescheduled, since the pitch at the Athletic Ground was waterlogged back in December.

England players were allowed to take part. Hannah Botterman explained: it depended on how long they spent on the pitch at Murrayfield last week. It was good to see Bryony Cleall’s name reappearing on the bench-list after a long lay-off.

The game began as so many have for Richmond. Sarries knocked on at the kick-off and paid the penalty as the hosts developed an attack. Inside five minutes Ro Burnfield drove to the line and over. Could this great start continue?

It took Sarries nearly 20 minutes to answer. Jodie Rettie, making a welcome return from injury, claimed the try. Rocky Clark took a pass from Martin to put her side in the lead, but Richmond kept up their strong performance. On 40 minutes they got to Sarries’ line once more but were penalised there. They deserved the cheers they got as they returned inside.

The half-time score was 7-14.

The second half also followed tradition. Even before the big guns came off the bench – a couple of Clealls, Vicky Fleetwood, Zoe Harrison – Sarries’ pack began to take charge. Further back, they had Sarah McKenna to place huge kicks into distant corners and Lisa Martin to complete defensive exits and add conversions.

Botterman went over on the end of a multi-pass move. Ten minutes later it was Fleetwood’s turn to stretch the lead. Poppy Cleall added to Richmond’s woes before Sarries’ last try came from the Canadian Alex Ellis as a reward for the hard work the pack had put in. This is where Sarries have had the advantage from the first day of the Tyrrells three years ago: whatever the combination they offer, the forwards have the ability to make every game safe for them.

Richmond got very close to the enemy line more than once in the second half, but couldn’t unlock the door. The conditions had worsened as Storm Dennis began to kick in. It was wet, windy and dark grey – perfect for a game of rugby. Or do we prefer snow?

It was good to see LaToya Mason, herself a distinguished Red Rose with 70 caps, take charge of this game.

This result restores Sarries to top place, with Quins two points behind. Richmond remain locked in ninth place, the only side to lose to Firwood Waterloo this season.

No more Tyrrells till the Six Nations is done and dusted.

Result: Richmond 7 Saracens 42


Referee: LaToya Mason
ARs: Chris Bartlett & Stephen Ward


15. Louise Burgess
14. Kirsty Lee-Griffiths
13. Georgia Gray
12. Samantha Wharton
11. Maia Daw
10. Abi Chamberlain
9. Freya Aucken
1. Laura Kapo
2. Rosie Dobson
3. Hannah Luff
4. Fiona McIntosh
5. Rowena Burnfield (captain)
6. Rebecca Ball
7. Sadia Kabeya
8. Libby Povey

16. Zoe Barber
17. Rebecca Schorah
18. Sophia McGauley-Cave
19. Sian Hobday
20. Lizzie Musa
21. Holly Williams
22. Polly Roberts

15. Sarah McKenna
14. Rachel Laqeretabua
13. Aine Staunton
12. Chantelle Miell
11. Lotte Clapp (captain)
10. Lisa Martin
9. Eloise Hayward
1. Rochelle Clark
2. May Campbell
3. Hannah Botterman
4. Molly Morrissey
5. Alex Ellis
6. Sonia Green
7. Kat Evans
8. Jodie Rettie

16. Donna Rose
17. Bryony Cleall
18. Poppy Cleall
19. Vicky Fleetwood
20. Zoe Harrison
21. Cara Wardle
22. Hannah Casey


Rumours flew around of numbers of Richmond players leaving the club, after the news of their need to re-tender for admission to the Tyrrells Premier 15s next season. Could it have any significance that at least three ex-Richmond players were due to turn out for Saracens’ Development side against them? Not to mention Rachel Laqeretabua in the 1st XV. How are the mighty fallen!

The need for this game to be replayed, though a quite separate issue, was another hint at the problems facing this distinguished club. On 21 December it became the only game pre-Christmas to go AWOL.

In the lead-up to the rematch Richmond posted two reminders of past glories, a defeat of Saracens in 2014 and a searing run by Alex Matthews in 2015. By way of riposte Sarries offered a clip from last year’s contest. These three help to summarise Richmond’s sad descent from their glory days when they provided England with a host of outstanding players.

We have yet to learn how precisely Saracens Women will be affected by the major events taking place over their heads, the massive fine, the relegation and the loss of sponsorship. What, for example, happens to Allianz Park itself? For many years Sarries were a wandering side as Nigel Wray attempted to find suitable accommodation. From the public recreation ground at Bramley Lane they moved to Enfield FC and Vicarage Road Watford before the current venue was established.