Source: Ash Goodchild @AshSportsPhotos

The Bristol Bomber – Allianz Premier 15s – Round Five

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Harlequins v Bristol Bears

Quins suffered a second successive home defeat as Bristol gave a convincing audition for the star role this season. They proved too powerful up front and opened up the home defences time after time. The sole area of inaccuracy was the line-out, but that was a bug that affected several teams on the day.

This was Bears’ first encounter this season against a top-4 club. Doubters wondered whether they had been really tested thus far. Here came the answer.

Quins went on the attack from the start, aided by a string of penalties which threatened to become too frequent. Three times they opted for the kick to the corner; thrice they were held. The fourth time Lagi Tuima missed the posts from in front, but Natalia John was yellowed.

Quins paid dearly for that sequence. With Bears still 14-strong, Alisha Butchers broke out and fed Courtney Keight on the left. She slipped the attentions of Heather Cowell and fought her way over the line.(0-5)

Lagi Tuima made up for her miss by offering Beth Blacklock a wonderful slip-pass as she ran an acute angle. Bears did well to stop her, but she off-loaded on the ground for Emily Robinson to go over. (5-5)

On 25 minutes Bears thought they were over, but were called back for a knock-on at the line-out. The pace was furious, the tackles painful to watch. Bears won two scrum penalties, but there were no more scores before the break.

Half-time: 5-5

Gerard Mullen and his assistants will be reviewing the second half with some anxiety. In that time the visitors added a further 19 points without response. They looked a thoroughly well-oiled machine. The forwards came to dominate their areas of responsibility and linked with the backs so well that time after time attacking moves offered the end player space to invade.

Just four minutes in Sarah Bern made a huge break through midfield; she danced left and right in front of Ellie Kildunne, shaped a backhand off-load to her left, thought better of it and, as she came to earth, lobbed another to her right for Grace Crompton to complete the deed. An utterly astonishing virtuoso sequence. (5-12)

Jade Konkel was sent on to repair the damage.

It is now accepted fact that a series of kicks ahead (aerial ping-pong) can lead to disaster for one team That team was Quins. The ball fell into Jasmine Joyce’s hands and off she went. She tied Kildunne in knots and went over despite the attentions of two would-be tacklers. (5-19)

The Stoop crowd, normally vociferous, was noticeably silent.

Despite the addition of Vickii Cornborough to the home pack, Bears were enjoying themselves up front as much as out behind. A tidy line-out and drive saw Hannah West mark her seventh try of the season. (5-24)

Right at the end Quins did get over the line, but – can you believe it? – they were penalised,

On this form Bristol are going to be hard to beat. They have class written right through the side from front row to the back three.

Result: Quins 5 Bears 24

Player of the Match: Sarah Bern

Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Warriors

The two Midlands sides (let’s exclude Wasps from that number for the time being) found the try-line too far to reach through an error-prone first-half. Once more Lightning paraded a young side but with enough experience and class around (Hunter, Davies, O’Donnell, Rowland etc) to give hope for better things. Till now they had mustered a single win and five points.

The first chance to score came from a Warriors penalty. They opted for goal and Minori Yamamoto put them ahead.

Lark Davies responded immediately with a trademark catch-and-drive (7-3), but into the last quarter the tide turned.

Alycia Washington earned her corn with a powerful break down the right from a turnover. She fought off tacklers to put Warriors in the lead again. (7-8)

Then Laura Keates, making a long-awaited return from injury, crowned her day with a second try to stretch the lead to 7-15.

With only three minutes to go Davies repeated her medicine and Rowland converted. (14-15). Amid scenes of great tension a Warriors’ attack was rewarded with a penalty which Ellen Murphy calmly slotted.

This was a vital away win for them, a sign of better times to come. For Lightning it is a worrying portent for the rest of the season.

DMP Durham Sharks v Sale

Can we possibly say DMP did well to hold Sale to a mere 31 points? For the visitors this was a first win of the season, so a great relief.

DMP 0 Sale Sharks 31
Harlequins 5 Bristol Bears 24
Loughborough Lightning 14 Worcester Warriors 18


DMP Durham Sharks v Sale Sharks
Referee: Nathan Howarth
ARs: Patrick Wheeler and Richard Arthur

Harlequins v Bristol Bears
Referee: Charlie Gayther
ARs: Peter Buchanan and Michael Maple

Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Warriors
Referee: Katherine Ritchie
ARs: Matt Astle and Nia Parsonage

with thanks to


After the two Sunday games there is a 5-week break for the autumn internationals but also, most importantly, the start of the new Allianz Cup, designed to allow every member of the ten clubs the chance to tie up her boots for action.

With more Scottish players adding their names to the AP 15s (for example, Abi Evans, Lisa Cockburn, Sarah Law and Christine Belisle) we need to remember that for every leading Celtic international playing in England it means one fewer leader for the club structures back at home.

This cannot be to the ultimate good of British rugby.

The AP 15s is proud to call itself the best league in world rugby. It is attracting more and more starry players from beyond its borders. But it comes at a huge cost. Unless those players all intend to return to their native heath at some point to pass on the skills and knowledge they have acquired, their nations’ standing will not improve.
The more players from the Irish, Scottish and Welsh leagues choose to move to England to improve their lot, the more those who stay behind will feel themselves also-rans. Sadly the same goes for coaches. And that view came from the horse’s mouth.