Lightning v Wasps
Another magnificent match to set the blood racing. Third against fourth, and Giselle Mather was so intent on securing a vital fourth position (or better) that her team arrived the night before.
Pre-match you had to worry about Lightning’s missing persons, especially up front with two long-term captains missing.
And so it proved. Wasps had two vital Irish figures back there, Claire Molloy and Cliodhna Moloney, plus two of the wisest heads in the second row, Rowena Burnfield and Harriet Millar-Mills.
Lucy Nye ensured a reliable link to the most explosive back-line in the league, and Megan Jones had another immense game. She had to, because facing her was the extravagantly talented Helena Rowland to dispute the England No 10 shirt with her.
Jones took just three minutes to produce a magician’s run and complete it with an offload to Amy Wilson Hardy. She had only air left between her and the line. (0-7)
Lightning didn’t look on song all through. A Liz Goulden kick ahead ran dead, then it needed Emily Scarratt’s determination to stop AWH from scoring a second.
When they got to Wasps’ line, Sara Cox denied them more than once – ‘held up!’ was the call. Then the visitors enjoyed winning a penalty on their own 5m line against the put-in.
Things didn’t improve for Lightning into the second quarter. They yielded two penalties for Cliodhna Moloney to go over (0=14).
But they have one sure-fire scoring-machine, Lark Davies. She powered over for her 17th offering of the season. (7-14)
Then came a moment to remember. Lightning fell offside just outside Wasps’ 22. Jones looked up, tapped and went…and went. A series of violet shirts could be seen turning in an attempt to stop her, but she careered onwards. Only as a last-ditch tackle came in did she shunt the ball on to Abby Dow who screamed down the right touchline to score a try that might just make the Allianz Tries of the Round this week – if she’s lucky. For some of us it comes into the elite category, Try of the Season. (7-19)
A moment or two later Dow was on her horse again. As a reminder of Rowland’s all-round class, she covered across to scythe the winger down with a tackle as good as the one in the reverse game. Rugby at its finest.
Ellie Kildunne kicked off the second half, then produced another kick that put the hosts on the defensive again. The ball was transferred fast to the left for Celia Quansah to score a fine try. (7-26)
Helen Nelson’s introduction helped give Lightning more go-forward and Davies profited to score her 18th try. Only six more and she equals Kelly Smith’s record. But – does the Front Row Union allow such prodigality? She may lose her membership card at this rate. (14-26)
Wasps took immediate command in the last quarter, the kick-off finding touch inside Lightning’s 22/ Sadia Kabeya enjoyed a try from another series of rumbles. She and Maud Muir are two youngsters to have really impressed in recent weeks. (14-31)
Abby Dow thought she had scored another try in the right corner, but Millar-Mills was found guilty of obstruction – Scarratt made clear what she thought about things. No try.
But a moment later there was Dow on the opposite wing to score her second and bring up her 200th point for her club. So fourth beat third and another apple-cart was overturned.
Player of the Match: Cliodhna Moloney
15 Goulden Kildunne
14 Jones Dow
13 Scarratt Wilson Hardy
12 Hardy Alder
11 Ramsbottom Quansah
10 Rowland Jones
9 Davey Nye
1 Harper D West
2 Davies Moloney
3 Menin Muir
4 O’Donnell Burnfield
5 Duguid Millar-Mills
6 Trevarthen Kabeya
7 Field Molloy
8 Noon Burton
16 Meuller Crake
17 Bourke Stock
18 Fowler Ransley
19 Baker Balogun
20 Alejandro Mitchelson
21 Wyrwas Wong
22 Nelson Edwards
23 Swartz Mason
Huge drama at Hartpury. With the unofficial clock showing 79 minutes (!), the hosts’ Robyn Lock finally forced the ball over the Warriors’ line to turn a result that was heading the other way. Warriors had scored what looked like a decisive try three minutes from the end to lead 21-24, but the heartbreak continued for them.
You could say Exeter Chiefs have been climbing some steep stairs over the past months. Their visit to StoneX Stadium marked another near-vertical climb.
Sarries nearly found a new way of losing a game: two yellows equalled 13 v 15, and the Chiefs took a 10-21 lead. After Alex Austerberry did his head teacher’s job at half-time, Sarries regained their ascendancy to run away with the game.
As you watch Sophie de Goede play, remember you’re looking at a Maple Leaf captain of the very near future. She was declared Player of the Match
Of the fifteen England players in the GB 7s training squad only Abbie Brown, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Holly Aitchison and Sydney Gregson were missing from Round 15. Jodie Ounsley scored a try for Sale.
Ellie Green scored her trade-mark dropped goal for Quins. Let there be more.
Congratulations to the referees’ organising committee for putting England’s two top referees in charge of the two top games, Sara Cox and Nikki O’Donnell.
Bristol Bears 7 Harlequins 62
Gloucester-Hartpury 28 Worcester Warriors 24
Loughborough Lightning 14 Wasps 36
Saracens 34 Exeter Chiefs 21
Sale Sharks 31 DMP Durham Sharks 3
Table P W L B Pts
Saracens 15 13 2 12 67
Harlequins 15 12 3 13 61
Loughborough 15 11 4 9 53
Wasps 14 10 4 11 51
Exeter 15 9 6 8 44
Glos-Pury 15 8 7 7 40
Worcester 15 4 11 6 23
Bristol 15 4 11 6 22
Sale 15 3 12 3 15
DMPDS 14 0 14 0 0
Saracens v Exeter Chiefs
Referee: Nikki O’Donnell
ARs: Katherine Ritchie and Neil Sweeney
Loughborough Lightning v Wasps
Referee: Sara Cox
ARs: James Clarke and Jonathan Petzing
Gloucester-Hartpury v Worcester Warriors
Referee: Charlie Gayther
ARs: Andrew Wigley and Matt Shales
Bristol Bears v Harlequins
Referee: Harry Walbaum
ARs: Richard Waller and Ben Wood
Sale Sharks v DMP Durham Sharks
Referee: Owen Taylor
ARs: Nia Parsonage and Kieron Henry
with thanks to rugbyreferee.net
There were highly welcome returns to service for Vickii Cornborough and Sarah Beckett, but almost inevitably other names went missing from team-lists to add to longer term absentees:
Hannah Botterman prop
Laura Keates prop
Sarah Bern prop
Shaunagh Brown prop
International-class props don’t grow on trees!
Remaining fixtures for the top 4:
After next week’s round comes the break for the 6N. Wasps seem most favoured with their extra match, while the other three all have to face each other, Sarries twice. Quite cut-throat.
Saracens versus Quins (H), Lightning (A), Worcester (A)
Quins v Saracens (A), Worcester (H), DMPDS (A)
Lightning v Exeter (A), Saracens (H), Sale (H)
Wasps v Sale (H), DMPDS (A), Glos-Pury (A), Bristol (H)
The name Loughborough has been through some painful changes in pronunciation. The best thing is to follow the locals. On the bus the calm recorded voice says ‘Looffbre’ with a short first syllable. It needs practice. My distorted favourite is ‘Lugburg’. A commentator at the Super Series in Chula Vista reckoned Emily Scarratt played for ‘Low-bro’. That version takes the biscuit.