Source: Ash Goodchild @AshSportsPhotos

Sarries reassert their Authority

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Allianz Premier 15s – Round 10

Not the best welcome to 2022; in the middle of a Covid-19 surge the availability call was patchy; the Saturday weather lousy. But three sides took advantage to stake their claim, Gloucester-Hartpury, Exeter and above all Saracens.

Head coaches nervously checked who had survived a week of surging infections; last-minute rejigs meant players had to adapt fast and pull together.

Bristol Bears v Gloucester-Hartpury

G-H upset the Bears’ plans to get over recent setbacks and stay firmly on top of the table. They scored two early tries to silence the home crowd and renew their self-belief.

It took Lleucu George three minutes to produce the latest rugby-badge earner, a fine 50-22 kick. After a series of drives Sisilia Tuipulotu added another try to her album.

Before the spectators could find their voice again, Mo Hunt charged down a box-kick and fed Zoe Aldcroft for a second try. (0-12)

It took the Bears nearly half-an-hour to score. They had already lost Hollie Cunningham to injury (Abbie Ward absent injured too), but a determined drive led to a penalty try. (7-12)

Zoe Aldcroft, wearing 6 but playing mainly at 8, saw yellow.

Bears took advantage, Keira Bevan sniping over before half-time to put them in the lead.

Half-time: 14-12

The second half was a distinct setback for Bristol’s long-term well-being. It showed the league in its most competitive light, the team positioned sixth putting the leaders firmly in their place.
After pounding the line, G-H swung the ball wide for Rachel Lund to trace an excellent path to score.

(14-19) A repeat performance later with the ball moving the opposite way; Emma Sing found her way over and converted. (14-26)

A bonus-point try was even more praiseworthy, Ellie Underwood displaying her finishing powers to the full. (14-31) To complete a bad day for the Bears Underwood repeated her efforts with another great try.

Bristol were denied the services of Ward, Jaz Joyce, Leanne Riley, Phoebe Murray and Simi Pam, but it shows how vital is strength in depth.

Result: 14-36

Player of the Match: Emma Sing

Sale Sharks v Exeter

The visitors pulled away after half-time to register a commanding win. It was due largely to the supremacy of the forwards who pummelled the hosts with their power and accuracy. A pity that only one member of that pack is English (Poppy Leitch).

Sharks nearly held them till half-time, thanks to a fine combined movement, the pack driving close, then the ball swinging right for Vicki Irwin (the full-back version of that name) to score. (7-7) But they allowed Rachel Johnson to add to Jennine Detiveaux’s early try to establish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

From there it was close to one-way traffic, tries to Laura Delgado, Linde van der Velden, Emily Tuttosi. In the closing minutes the backs got in on the act, Merryn Doidge and Brooke Bradley adding the finishing touches to a one-sided affair.

Sarries v DMPDS

Sarries find it hard putting out a B team. Even without Georgia Evans, Lotte Clapp (a welcome return to the bench), Poppy Cleall, Rocky Clark, Sarah McKenna and Vicky Fleetwood, they still started with six Red Roses plus sundry overseas internationals.

DMP didn’t; even their long-term servant, Tamara Taylor, had returned to north-west London from her short spell on loan, and the club has fewer players on their books than other clubs. The RFU will know why.

The game soon turned into the one-way procession we all knew was coming. There were eight tries before half-time.

On 57 minutes Poppy Cleall entered the fray. She scored at once, the thirteenth try of the day. There were ten in all in the second 40 minutes.

Holly Aitchison presented Simon Middleton with useful evidence of her credential’s as a top-class No 10.

The game was not a positive advertisement for the Prem 15s.

Result: 104-0

Player of the Match: Holly Aitchison


Bristol Bears 14 Gloucester-Hartpury 36
Wasps v Loughborough Lightning POSTPONED
Sale Sharks 7 Exeter 43
Quins v Worcester POSTPONED

Sunday Match

Saracens 104 DMP Durham Sharks 0

Inevitably the table is disjointed at present. Simplest to check the losses column to see how things really lie. But the Sunday game restored a truer picture; Sarries remain the hot favourites.

Table ​​​                 P​     W​     L​      Pts

Saracens​​            10     9     1      38
Bristol​​​                10      ​7     ​3     ​36
Exeter​​​               10     7     3       34
Harlequins  ​​     9      7      2       ​34
Gloucester-H   10     5      ​5       29
Wasps​​​                 9​      5     4       ​26
Loughborough​​​ 9      4      5​       21
Worcester​​          8      ​2      6       12
Sale                 ​​    9      1      8        6
DMPDS​​              9      ​0​      9        0


Bristol Bears v Gloucester-Hartpury
Referee: Nikki O’Donnell

Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs
Referee: Nathan Wood

Saracens v DMP Durham Sharks
Referee: Holly Wood

with thanks to


A Second Visit to Franklin’s Gardens

The most fascinating midweek news item concerned an event still to come, Lightning’s Round 14 fixture with Exeter. It will be played on 19 February at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, a first tangible sign of the link-up between the two clubs agreed in September.

Who will come to watch? A ticket for the double-header will cost £16. How many Loughborough students will make the trip down to the next county to pay to watch? Like Gloucester-Hartpury, Lightning have been sure of a crowd even in the darkest days, thanks to the presence of thousands of students on site. How many Saints regulars will stay on to watch the women’s match being played second?

The new arrangement requires establishing new supporter systems. Now if Lightning had linked with Leicester Tigers…

Media Coverage

It was reassuring to find the RFU’s production team able and willing to switch its live stream offering from West London to Cheshire, after the Wasps-Lightning game was called off. This flexibility is an important ingredient in publicising the league.

The BBC gave us a good airing of the Bristol game despite heavy rain. There was a relic of Fifties television with a break in transmission, only this time there was no windmill, no horses ploughing a field to cover the blank. Systems were quickly restored to cover the drama.

Saracens were kind to offer live stream of its match, but it came at a cost. The half-hour build-up was devoted largely to publicity for StoneX and City Index, ditto half-time, which was generous of them.

Did you know Tottenham FC’s home is the world’s leading sports stadium?

Georgia Evans was a fluent and friendly co-commentator for the excellent Nick Heath, but couldn’t fill us in on details about the visitors