Source: Harlequins

Intense Drama, Intense Quality

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Allianz Premier 15s – Round 8

Saracens v Harlequins

No wonder the BBC picked this fixture for viewing. The only difference from past seasons is that the two permanent leaders of the pack met at the StoneX seven points apart. Quins had leeway to make up.

Before kick-off both sides stood in memory of Siobhan Cattigan who died so tragically last month. The Scottish players on the pitch were visibly moved.

Quins aren’t quite the same force they were with Abbie Ward and Leanne Infante in their ranks. They were still without Jess Breach, but Rachael Burford was back in harness at last to guide her troops. Could they repeat their triumph of last May in the Gloucester final?

Few test matches will equal the standards on show here. Heather Cowell started with a long threatening run, but Quins were undone by two holding-on calls.

It took a quarter of an hour for the deadlock to be broken. Quins paid the penalty for losing their own line-out and Sarries exploited ruthlessly. Fi McIntosh claimed a clean line-out catch and May Campbell finished off the resulting drive. (7-0)

Quins tried their own catch-and-drive but were repulsed. Sarah Beckett sustained a worrying injury, but fortunately recovered. A repeat effort worked much better; try to Jade Konkel. (7-5)

That was the start of a monumental performance from her. With Emily Robinson and Beckett the Quins back row was back to its form of two years ago, a formidable answer to Sarries’ proudest unit.

Poppy Cleall was shown yellow, and Quins should have had the upper hand. But their scrum collapsed, and Zoe Harrison kicked a penalty. (10-5)

Neither side could yet establish total command. A Quins kick to the right corner saw Fi Fletcher finish a well controlled line-out drive. (10-12)

Lucy Packer, recently capped by England and given a rare chance to start for the visitors, now started a harum-scarum passage of play; she made a long break, but as links failed we had the pleasure of Hannah Botterman and Beckett displaying their kicking talents – no extra charge!

Cowell was almost over, but a foot in touch denied her.

Just before the break came a moment that was to prove decisive: Sarries lost a defensive line-out and Emily Scott embarked on a magical run to the line to remind us of her outstanding abilities. Lagi Tuima converted again.

Half-time 10-19

For all Sarries’ great victories many have come after a setback like this. But once again they were on the back foot. Quins linked and danced to cause consternation. They won another penalty to the right corner and Beckett finished off an unstoppable move. (10-26) That was the vital bonus point.

Ella Wyrwas and Harrison were having to make far more clearance kicks than usual, and Sarries’ chances didn’t improve despite Robinson having to leave the field with a leg injury.

When the hosts offended in front of their posts, Tuima was called up to extend the lead. (10-29)

As a sign of the pressure Sarries were feeling, Harrison actually miscued a couple of kicks.
They got back on track after Cowell was pinged for a high tackle. Poppy Cleall is a formidable presence at a 5-metre penalty, but brilliantly and unselfishly she swung the ball away to Botterman who had just enough space to crash over the line. (17-29)

Nineteen minutes left; could they possibly get this one back?

No! Quins mounted another series of raids, trying extra hard to keep possession. Konkel and Burford both went close.

They did make errors of judgement: Rosie Galligan should have fed her backs as she galloped towards the line. Then Burford’s grubber into the 22 gave the ball back to the defenders.

But when Sarries suddenly lost possession it was Scott who once more reacted fastest. She made another scorching run for Beckett to complete the job. (17-36)

So Sarries had to relinquish their proud unbeaten home record that had stood since 2018; Quins repeated their rarest of triumphs.

Every team has now been beaten; the competition intensifies. One more round before the Christmas break.


Saracens 17 Harlequins 36

Player of the Match: Jade Konkel

Saracens: Miell; Laqeretabua, Casey, Aitchison, Corrigan; Harrison, Wyrwas; Botterman, Campbell, Clifford, Cleall, McIntosh, Evans, Fleetwood. Packer M. (captain)

Harlequins: Kildunne, Cowell, Tuima, Burford (captain), Mayhew; Scott, Packer L., Cornborough, Cokayne, Brown, Galligan, Fletcher, Konkel, Robinson, Beckett


Referee: Aurélie Groizeleau (FFR)
ARs: Katherine Ritchie and Mel Sutton
with thanks to

Table ​​​                P​      W​     L​      Pts

Bristol​​​                8       ​7     ​1         ​35

Saracens​​            8      7​      0​        33

Harlequins  ​​      8       6     2        ​29

Wasps​​​                 8​      5        3       26

Exeter​​​                 8       5       3       24

Gloucester-H     8      3       ​ 5       19

Loughborough  ​​​ 8      3​        5​       17

Worcester​​           7      ​2        5       12

Sale                  ​​    8      1         7        6

DMPDS​​               7     0​         7        0