Source: Loughborough Lightning

PWR – Round Six

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Two Saturday Matches

Fixtures

Saracens v Bristol Bears on Saturday 23 December, at 12.30pm
Loughborough Lightning v Exeter Chiefs 2pm

Saracens v Bristol Bears

The scoring sequence:

Sophie De Goede makes a magnificent break down the short side, swings a pass inside to Ella Wyrwas who just manages to tip up a pass to Jess Breach as she is thumped to the ground. Breach bundles over. 5-0

Lark Atkin-Davies comes close to breaking all known scoring records by registering Bears’ first. 5-5 Then Phoebe Murray takes the gloss off the home crowd’s Christmas by adding a second. It comes from an exquisite little grubber off Amber Reed’s left boot. 5-10
From there the game tightens up. Half-time 5-10.

History tells us that Sarries don’t lose from this position; especially when Marlie Packer is on duty – 10-10

We know the world is a funny place when we see Abbie Ward intercept a pass from Jess Breach to raise a gallop.

Once more Sarries profit from the presence of the player deemed unfit to represent the World team of the Year, SDG. Her try from an outside break restores the home team’s lead. 15-10

The inevitable response to an LA-D try comes in the form of May Campbell. The Sarries’ pack takes over and she finishes off the drive. 20-10, and at last a gap opens up.

With four minutes left on the clock Packer crosses for her second, and the vital bonus point is secured. 25-10

Only now does Austerberry see fit to take half his pack off the field; it’s been so tight a game. Just two of the replacements are internationals.

It’s almost inevitable that Sarries finish with an 80th minute try. Coreen Grant does the honours.

Result: Saracens 32 Bristol Bears 10
History proves my point.

Officials

Referee: Sara Cox
ARs: Calum Howard and Ryan Collier TMO: Nikki O’Donnell

Afterthoughts

One subtle difference in the two line-ups: Bristol had two mid-field play-makers in Aitchison and Reed; Sarries had one, the 18-year-old MacDougall. No Harrison in sight. The Murray try was orchestrated by Bears’ No 12.

The abiding inequalities of the league (old and new) are shown by Bears’ failure to beat Sarries a single time since 2017. Somebody has got to finish top each year, but it’s distinctly rare for Sarries to be cut short.

Sarries were on a winning run of 16 matches (thanks OPTA), which does deflate the drama.

Still, Alex Austerberry can pretend to be critical of his charges as they romp to yet another victory, so that’s all right.

For Bears it’s a worrying set-back. They have so much talent in their ranks, but have now suffered three losses in six matches. Play-offs are still perfectly possible, but victories do help.

Loughborough Lightning v Exeter Chiefs

The scoring sequence:

Chiefs take the game by the scruff of the neck. First try to Maisey Allen on the end of a rolling maul. 0-5 Then Alex Tessier, who proves her worth with every game, inserts a grubber over the line and is there to gather it. 0-12

Just before the break Lightning at last get a toe-hold in the game; Emma Wassall goes over for a try converted by Helena Rowland. 7-12. That’s half-time.

Chiefs widen the gap to ten points as Eilidh Sinclair squeezes over on the right, 7-17.

Now Kathryn Treder, a valued Alaskan in PWR ranks, brings Lightning back into the game, as they start dominating possession. 12-17.

Daleaka Menin adds what looks like a decisive score for the visitors. 12-22

But – hoho! – the Laws of the Game! – with five minutes to run, Mairi McDonald is sin-binned. Worse still, the referee awards a penalty try for the Violet and Pinks as a rolling maul is downed illegally. It’s 19-22, and 15 v 13 for the 9,001st time this season. Such are the joys of the game.

But, as is always likely to happen with the srongest outifts in the league, they have the last word. With the referee’s watch buzzing loudly, Sinclair is in for her second, helped by a sharp pass from captain, Poppy Leitch.

Result: Loughborough Lightning 19 Exeter Chiefs 27

Officials

Referee: Richard Gordon
ARs: Kasey Allen and James Cornell
with thanks to rugbyreferee.net

For the first time this season female officials are out in force. That is one of the ironies of the current game: the best women operators are more likely to be found taking important men’s matches than PWRs.

But this weekend Sara Cox returned at the StoneX Stadium; Nikki O’Donnell was the TMO. Holly Wood was the assistant referee at Trailfinders on Friday night, Kasey Allen also an AR at Franklin’s Gardens

Table ​​​

                                    P​     W​      L​      B    Pts

Saracens                  5       5       ​0        5    25
Exeter​​​                       5      4        1        6     22
Bears       ​​                 6       3      3         3     15
Glos-Pury         ​​      3        3      0        2      14
Trailfinders      ​​​      5         2     3          3     11
Lightning                5        2     3          2     10
Harlequins  ​​           4       1       3          2       6  ​
Sale         ​​                 4       1       3          2       6
Tigers​​​                      5       0       5          1       1

That’s a rum looking table! The usual suspects are at the top, but their main rivals, Glos-Pury, lie hidden in mid-table, 11 points behind the leaders – simply through lack of games.

Even more improbable, Trailfinders find themselves in fifth position, above such knock-out specialists as Lightning and Quins.

Who will Tigers manage to beat, once Amy Cokayne is restored to the strength?

Just one more match to savour in 2023: Quins host the trophy-holders at Twickenham Stadium on 30 December at 14.30. Quins’ fans will need to keep their fingers firmly crossed, however painful.

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