PWR – Round Two
Will Sale’s win over visiting Quins turn out to be the result of the season – or the first of a series of disappointments for fhe Londoners?
This was just the sort of show the Cheshire side needed; for once the so-called north-south divide was overturned. Not so long ago they thought they were out of the league!
The two newcomers returned similar results: both Tigers and Trailfinders were good enough to mount a couple of tries and cause moments of concern, but neither could maintain the pace and accuracy of their opponents, Sarries and Gloucester-Hartpury.
Trailfinders Women v Saracens
A decent crowd stayed on in Ealing for the second dose of a double-header, and the home team had vociferous support from youngsters in the stand. But Sarries are not a team to stand on ceremony; their style is fast and unforgiving; they have strength for and aft. A back row of De Goede-Cleall-Packer would grace any national side, and the backs, finely served by Ella Wyrwas, needed a strong wall to keep them out.
They were nearly over in the first minute, but Isla Alejandro couldn’t hold a final pass.
It isn’t to England’s benefit that Wyrwas and Leanne Infante are fighting for the No 9 shirt. Today Wyrwas was the choice, and she made her mark early, breaking from a maul to open the scoring.
But TF were in the game; despite retreating at a scrum they kept possession, then stole a line-out. Now they could make use of Ellie Green’s kicking-skills to score a first penalty. Before she converted her second from further out, Sarries had their response. It was yet another example of a KooD (a kick out of defence) that allows an immediate counter. May Campbell was in charge as the pack completed the job. (6-14)
From here the game went the visitors’ way till the break. Yet another KooD developed into a try for Zoe Harrison. Sarries’ accuracy at pace was the difference: any possession was turned into threatening attack by speed of thought and action. Sophie Bridger is already an important cog in the back-line; she exploited a lovely pass from Wyrwas.
Entertainment at the break included a Crossbar Challenge and a dozen dancing cheerleaders, but winter’s cold was having its effect.
It was not till well into the second half that Abby Dow, operating again at full-back, was able to make a decisive mark, twice crossing thrillingly to renew home hopes. But Sarries had been finding too many holes in that wall.
At least TF kept positive till the end. But after Dow had shown why she was nominated as a World Player of the Year, Jess Breach offered her answer. Dow kicked ahead under pressure, Breach gathered the ball off the bounce and ran three-quarters of the pitch to score untouched by human hand.
And while Dow had to fight to turn a Green cross-kick into points, when Sydney Gregson caught a Sarries’ version of the ploy, she had open country in front of her.
You could sense a degree of anxiety towards the end: when Infante was at last let off the leash, she made a tremendous break, but, hunting for the killer pass, sent the ball ballooning towards touch.
It made little difference: Sarries play an 80-minute game. Tries from Marlie Packer and Sophie De Goede summed up their attitude.
Result: Trailfinders 18 Saracens 52
15 DOW 14 LAFLIN 13 COOKSEY 12 SCHELL 11 MUSGROVE 10 GREEN 9 AMORY 1 CRAKE 2 BLANCO 3 SEYE 4 BEUKEBOOM (captain) 5 BUCKLAND-HURRY 6 BURNFIELD 7 META 8 ZACKARY
16 RIFFONNEAU 17 TAMAI 18 BRODIE 19 BARWICK 20 BURTON 21 PINNOCK 22 MOLTON 23 COX
15 BREACH 14 ALEJANDRO 13 GREGSON 12 BRIDGER 11 FARRIES 10 HARRISON 9 WYRWAS 1 GONDWE 2 CAMPBELL 3 K. CLIFFORD 4 EVANS 5 GALLIGAN 6 DE GOEDE 7 PACKER (captain) 8 CLEALL
16 FIELD 17 FLANAGAN 18 ROSE 19 E. TAYLOR 20 MOORE 21 INFANTE 22 MACDOUGALL 23 WARDLE
Referee Dan Jones
ARs Calum Howard and Peter Brunt
Gloucester-Hartpury v Leicester Tigers
G-H had put this game to bed by half-time, running in six tries. Having to watch the rest of the league starting last week can’t have been easy, but they dispelled any doubts about their ability to repeat last season’s triumphs with a half-century of points.
It was good to see the names of Kelly Taylor (née Smith) and El Perry back among the early try- scorers, and Emma Sing was as accurate off the tee as Zoe Harrison had been with her five conversions.
Another parallel with Vallis Way: England star Meg Jones was responsible for a try and two penalties, to match Dow’s two tries for TF. But neither could swing the game for their team.
One delightful touch: the sides were playing for the newly created Slater Cup, and Ed Slater was there with his family to mark the event.
Sale Sharks v Harlequins
What are we to make of Quins? Every stage of pre-season must have been aimed at avoiding a repetition of last season’s bumpy ride, but their failure to see Sharks off at the CorPacq is a sizeable worry. Faces at the post-match huddle looked grim.
Astonishingly Sharks clung to their four-point lead for the last 22 minutes. Let’s hope the game marks a sea-change for them. It was high time that a major club from the south was sent back the way they’d come with their tail between their legs.
Sharks had two especial stars today: the effervescent Beatrice Rigoni (you might suspect she’s enjoying her new experience up north) and Morwenna Talling, now installed at No 8 and able to cause all sorts of bother for the opposition, Konkel or no Konkel.
Saturday 25 November
Loughborough Lightning bye
Trailfinders Women 18 Saracens 52
Gloucester-Hartpury 52 Leicester Tigers 14
Sale Sharks 35 Harlequins 31
Sunday 26 November
Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears
Not a woman in sight among the twelve onfield officials.
Lightning have revealed their away strip: it’s Northampton Saints’ in all but detail! So that is how the two clubs are coalescing.
Who need contracted Red Roses in their starting XV? Sarries (Infante) and Glos-Pury (Aldcroft) can manage perfectly well without. Quins are so well furnished that Emily Scott finds herself posted to the wing.
Quins did the league no favours by stating: ‘Up to Sale Saturday night under the lights, then a HUGE clash back at The Stoop.’
That put the Sharks firmly in their place, and helped exaggerate the supposed gaps between the haves and the have-nots of the community. The clash up north may well prove to have been more decisive.