There was top-class entertainment for the non-existent crowds up and down the country. Even with absence of several Scottish and Irish players away on international training calls, so many players showed skills of the highest order.
Wasps v Quins
Scott Bemand. England’s backs coach was on hand to watch a game out of the top bracket. Has he pencilled in 12 or 13 names as starters for the next test?
We’ve had to wait to see how the Black-and-Golds would shape up. The back line started off as we had hoped and expected. Claudia Macdonald took a quick tap, Megan Jones made the first of several breaks and Ellie Kildunne let the world sit up and take notice. She escaped down the right then veered inside to cross under the posts. 7-0
Jones was giving her side huge go-forward with hand and foot.
Quins relied on their trusted, less flamboyant ways. A line-out turned into yet another Amy Cokayne try at the back of an unstoppable drive. 7-7
Still inside the first quarter Wasps indulged in quick interplay to allow Abby Dow to show her speed off the mark and burst through for a 12-7 lead.
But from there Quins dominated. For all Wasps’ magic outside, they couldn’t hold the forward power coming at them – the home front-row hardly added up to 60 years on this planet! – and their line-out creaked. Sara Cox managed to find a more excuses than usual under the new rules to order scrums, so that was right up the visitors’ street.
Even better for them was the accuracy of their play from attacking penalties. Ellie Green would set them up in the corner; Cokayne’s throw was accurate as usual and few teams can hold a Quins’ drive to the line.
In the second half they strode away with three more fine tries. Wasps’ lack of match practice told on them.
It was fascinating to see such a range of players: in age (38-19), in origins (England Sevens stars on view for the first time – Burton, Jones, Kildunne, Quansah) and in skills.
Megan Jones looked like an England No 10 with her all-round play; Kildunne reminded us of her wide range of skills with hand and foot.
But they weren’t enough to hold off the strength and cohesion of the visitors. For once they barely needed to use their gifted wingers, Jess Breach and Heather Cowell.
15 Kildunne Scott
14 Quansah Cowell
13 Rowland Tuima
12 Alder (C) Burford (C)
11 Dow Breach
10 Jones Green
9 Macdonald Packer
1 West Cornborough
2 Muir Cokayne
3 Stock Brown
4 Crake Ward
5 Millar-Mills Fletcher
6 Mitchelson Robinson
7 Kabeya Dainton
8 Burton Beckett
16 Kerr Dobson
17 Afilaka Viksten
18 Ransley Edwards
19 Caux Sheffield
20 Williams Mew
21 Wong Riley
22 Williams Amory
23 Mason Wilcock (injured; replaced by Mullen)
Player of the Match: Abbie Ward (2 tries to add to her 3 in Round One)
Exeter v Bristol
Another dramatic high-quality game at Sandy Park. The Chiefs had every excuse for setting a noon kick-off; there was another game coming involving a Chiefs side – strangely enough in Bristol – that one or two of them were anxious to see, plus a few million more of us. (And their men pulled off a famous victory to become European champions.)
There was a breathless start. Linde van der Velden broke and fed Gabby Cantorna who almost reached the line. Taylor Black finished the job.
Amber Reed leapt to claim the restart and ran all the way to the line. All inside four minutes!
By half-time the Bears had added two more: Keira Bevan took a quick tap for Simi Pam to score, then Sarah Bern drove through for the bonus point and what looked like a straightforward win, but the Chiefs had other ideas.
Phoebe Murray fed Jasmine Joyce to gain the bonus point (5-24), but the hosts came back strongly to worry the Bears. It was bad luck losing Bevan to injury, but could Bristol afford replacing Bern and Elinor Snowsill so early?
In their absence the Chiefs proceeded to score three tries through Van der Velden, Lauren Leatherland and Kate Zackary, but that last strike came just too late.
Two significant names were added to the hosts’ bench, Olivia DeMerchant and Poppy Leitch. Bristol limited themselves to ten Welsh internationals.
Lightning v Glos-Pury
This was another enthralling match with a second close finish. Lightning’s Player of the Match, Ella Wyrwas, scored two of their tries. Rhys Edwards was confident enough of Morwenna Talling’s abilities to switch her to No 8 in place of the England skipper.
It was one of those rare matches where the losers come away with two bonus points.
Sale v Saracens
It was the Sharks’ fate to meet two top-four clubs at the start of their programme. And this time it was the double champs Sarries. They did well to post two tries against them, but the well-oiled machine they faced had too much strength and know-how fore and aft.
A worrying moment came just after half-time when Poppy Cleall was shown red after being found guilty of a blow to the head off the ball. This is the wrong time for suspensions to kick in.
Darlington MPDS v Worcester
My pessimistic forecast for this game proved all too correct. The Warriors sliced through the home defences to post five tries and a bonus point by half-time (0-29). They kept their balance by scoring another five after the break.
Now who could help the Sharks out with a bit of sage advice and a wealth of experience?
DMPDS 5 Worcester 58
Exeter 22 Bristol 24
Loughborough 32 Gloucester-Hartpury 26
Sale 10 Saracens 40
Wasps 12 Harlequins 31
Table after two Rounds:
10. Darlington 2 0
Bristol and Wasps will catch the rest up in a fortnight’s time.
The list below reveals two female referees out of five, both of international standing. Of the fifteen appointments six were covered by women:
Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears
Referee: Charles Gayther
ARs: Adam Wookey & Clare Daniels
Wasps v Harlequins
Referee: Sara Cox
ARs: Hamish Grant & James Pidding
Loughborough Lightning v Gloucester-Hartpury
Referee: Nikki O’Donnell
ARs: Christopher Ridley & Katherine Ritchie
Sale Sharks v Saracens
Referees: Daniel Rowlands
ARs: Elliott Lewis & Nia Parsonage
DMP Durham Sharks v Worcester Warriors
Referee: Owen Taylor
ARs: David Charlton & Rebecca Rees
With thanks to rugbyreferee.net
The following contracted Red Roses were missing from Round Two: