Exeter have earned their first win, the first by one of the two new clubs. That is an important marker for the future
First the results:
Exeter 19 Worcester 7
Gloucester-Hartpury 5 Saracens 43
Loughborough 17 Harlequins 33
Sale 18 Bristol 40
Wasps 105 Darlington Mowden Park 0
The Chiefs saw off Worcester, who must have come away from Sandy Park deeply disappointed by their inability to control the game. Despite the first appearance of Paige Farries, the Canadian flyer, to match Lydia Thompson on the other wing, they were unable to wrest initiative from a side bolstered by having even more international stars starting the game.
With so much talent swilling around in the Allianz it can be tricky for the coaches fitting everyone in in sensible positions. Both Alex Matthews (Worcester) and Poppy Leitch (Exeter) found themselves in the second rather than the third row. Clara Nielson was listed as No 7 for the Bears rather than No 2. There’s no doubting their skills, but are their teams sacrificing some of their overall strength by these switches?
Saracens have made a major addition to their squad Sophie De Goede, the Canadian No 8, who almost certainly has a rugby record that will never be beaten: both her parents captained their national side. She herself captained the Maple Leafs Under 20s in the Tri-Nations tournament of 2018 and figured prominently in the 2019 Super Series. Her welcome presence in the Allianz Premier 15s serves to widen the inequalities of the enterprise even further.
She came on in the second half of a game that left the hosts, Gloucester-Hartpury, fighting for air. They had several Welsh caps back on the field, but the absence of Ceri Large, Mo Hunt and Zoe Aldcroft was bound to be felt severely.
They did open the scoring through a try from Millie Wood, but thereafter Sarries took charge. As in past seasons, Glos-Pury have many talented young players at their disposal, but experience and forward power are what are needed at the top of the tree.
A Cause for Concern
Darlington have now shipped 338 points in four rounds. This is desperately sad for all the players and their support staff, but the RFU must be looking into why things have come to this unacceptable position. The league cannot afford to have a club suffering like this for the next three seasons. It does nobody any good.
Wasps add themselves to the sides that have scored a hundred off their own bat. That makes a total of four, four too many.
Loughborough v Quins
There was a bejewelled game on Loughborough’s new pitch at Holywell, a few bus-stops across the campus from their old home. No wonder Simon Middleton came along to watch. There was international talent up and down the line on both sides, but Lightning couldn’t equal Quins’ skill at retaining possession and advancing menacingly through a powerful pack and resourceful backs.
Mo Hunt, the coronavirus victim, still managed to find herself co-commentating with Johnnie Hammond in the livestreamed game. She selected Shaunagh Brown as the Player of the Match; richly deserved as she was a constant threat to the hosts’ defences and the scorer of two tries. But other players had strong claims: Leanne Riley, Vickii Cornborough, Emily Scott. Abby Ward and Helena Rowland, whose performance in the purple No 10 shirt made people sit up and take notice. She adds herself to the tiny number of current players who can kick with facility off either foot, and her passing, running and eye for the gap didn’t go unnoticed in high places.
The game was a great advert for the Allianz.
Exeter Chiefs Women v Worcester Warriors Women
Referee: Adam Wookey
ARs: Lloyd Davies & Max Weston
Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC v Saracens Women
Referee: Joe James
ARs: Daniel Rowlands & Ryan Collier
Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins Women
Referee: Nick Wood
ARs: Peter Caunt & Jonathan Petzing
Sale Sharks Women v Bristol Bears Women
Referee: James O’Brien
ARs: Kieron Henry & Nia Parsonage
Wasps FC Ladies v DMP Durham Sharks
Referee: Sam Phillips
ARs: Michael Woods & Melanie Liley
Table P W L B Pts
Quins 4 4 0 4 20
Saracens 4 4 0 4 20
Lightning 4 3 1 3 15
Wasps 4 3 1 2 14
Bristol 4 2 2 3 11
Glos-Pury 3 1 2 3 7
Worcester 4 1 3 2 6
Exeter 4 1 3 2 6
Sale 3 0 3 0 0
DMPDS 4 0 4 0 0
Only two Red Roses from the Italy game were not scheduled to take part in Round Four: Ellie Kildunne and Morwenna Talling.