Source: Loughborough Lightning

How to win with 14 – PWR – Round 9

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Gloucester-Hartpury v Saracens

The two powerhouses enjoyed a true top-of-the-table clash. In front of a raucous crowd it lived up to its billing.

It was nip and tuck up to half-time (10-5), then for the last quarter the hosts were reduced to 14 as Kelsey Jones was shown a red card for a head-on-head contact on Jess Breach. By a twist of fate she had already scored a hat-trick. So all card-addicts had their money’s worth (one red, two yellows), but the game didn’t progress as history tells us it should have.

Showing tremendous resilience the Cherry-and-Whites won the second half 14-10, a really astonishing performance against the most successful team in the league’s history.

But just before the break a yellow for Poppy Cleall eased G-H’s struggle a shade. In the remaining seconds they manufactured Jones’ second try, this one from a line-out drive; it was a repeat of her opening score inside five minutes.

But then, G-H had had to weather the storm minus Sisilia Tuipulotu for ten minutes earlier.

It was fascinating to see Sarries opt for tap-and-goes rather than the now traditional kick to the corner.

This is where the quality of G-H’s defences really shone through; they won a series oif verdicts on or over their own line.

When Amelia Macdougall did kick for the corner, Sarries’ catch and drive was held; they delivered to the backs, but G-H regained possession and won a relieving penalty.

All the same, Sarries’ pressure led to a series of penalties against the hosts. Another tap-and-go led to Tuipulotu’s dismissal in deep defence. Sarries won their reward with an opening try to May Campbell out wide. 5-5

This is where home support proved important. The Kingsholm rafters echoed to the roars of the crowd, a few of whom repeated ‘off-side!’ ad nauseam. And G-H ate up the minutes of Tuipulotu’s absence, as scrums had to be reset and reset.

H-T 10-5

While Cleall was still in the bin, G-H added twelve points. Jones completed her hat-trick after Sarah Beckett cleared Paige Farries out of her path. 17-5.

G-H were playing with their usual pace, but against this opposition they couldn’t be as tidy as usual. Even so, Alex Austerberry showed his concern by making a number of changes as early as the 50-minute mark.

On 62 minutes came the red card. The crowd booed. Sarries profited at once from a try by Bryony Field, a fifth in succession for a hooker.

Emma Sing may well call her fourth try of the season her best. With G-H’s typical fllexibilty Mo Hunt threw a long pass out to the first receiver, who happened to be Tuipulotu!. Her off-load to Sing was the start of a great run to the line as Sarries’ midfield was rent asunder. G-H’s speed of recycling had led to a real mis-match. 24-10, and a vital bonus point.

As the clock ticked down, Sarries needed three more scores; they took risks, but that made them more vulnerable. When Sing won a penalty, Mo Hunt let the referee know she didn’t want to play on with advantage. In extremis Sarries got a team warning; G-H were still ambitious.

The only remaining consolation for the Londoners was a last-minute try by Coreen Grant. It showed their never-say-die spirit, but the game had long since slipped from their grasp. And a missed conversion by Beth Blacklock denied them even a losing bonus-point.

The game showed the new PWR at its most dramatic. The pace was unrelenting, but errors proved costly. Lleucu George helped her side’s cause immensely by the power and accuracy of her boot. Last year I assumed the Welsh selectors would make her their No 1 choice at fly-half. I was wrong. If they don’t pick her this time round, I’ll stop offering free advice.

Result: 24-15

The Sunday game must come next. You’ll see why.

Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers (switched to Chester RFC, Heywood Road frozen)

As luck would have it, the day after the top two clubs met it was the turn of the bottom two.

Rachel Taylor and Vicky Macqueen each added a new player to the strength, both from the New World: Erica Jarrell, the USA lock, and Claire Gallagher, the young Canadian out-half (but playing 12 today) respectively.

Was this Tigers’ chance of a first win? They started well with a penalty tap and scoot over the line by Gallagher, helped by a swift tip-on by Meg Jones. Sharks struck back with a driving maul. 7-7

Iona Antwis was kind enough to give us card-addicts our first yellow. A dose a day keeps the doctor at bay.

Another quickly taken penalty gave the hosts a narrow lead. Aptly the scorer was Hollie Bawden on her 50th club appearance.

Half-time 12-7

Tigers started their come-back at once, try to Tess Feury.

Sharks responded strongly to retake the lead, and the tension rose again. In the closing stages first Meg Jones crossed the line, then with three minutes on the clock Leah Bartlett barged her way over to nudge Tigers into the lead. And there it stayed, to give them their very first victory in the big time.

Result: 19-22

Teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Vicky A Irwin, 14 Nikita Prothero, 13 Eti Haungatau, 12 Beatrice Rigoni, 11 Hollie Bawden, 10 Mino Yamamoto, 9 Sian Jones; 1 Anne Young, 2 Molly Kelly, 3 Nick James, 4 Erica Jarrell, 5 Iona Antwis, 6 Jo Brown, 7 Georgie Perris-Redding (c), 8 Sara Tounesi

Bench: 16 Niamh Swailes, 17 Catie Benson, 18 Detysha Harper, 19 Polly Bowman, 20 Kay Searcy, 21 Mhairi Grieve, 22 Katana Howard, 23 Laura Perrin

Leicester Tigers: 15 Amanda Swartz, 14 Tess Feury, 13 Meg Jones, 12 Claire Gallagher,
11 Francesca McGhie, 10 Natasha Jones (c), 9 Amy Relf; 1 Leah Bartlett, 2 Elis Martin, 3 Lisa Cockburn, 4 Eva Donaldson, 5 Becky Noon, 6 Keia Mae Sagapolu Sanele, 7 Morgan Richardson, 8 Tahlia Brody

Bench: 16 Alana Bainbridge, 17 Churchy Knight, 18 Catha Jacobs, 19 Charlotte Fray, 20 Julia Omokhuale, 21 Roisin McBrien, 22 Lucy Nye, 23 Sarah Nicholas

Bristol Bears v Harlequins

Another sizeable defeat for Quins. They managed a solitary try through Hannah Sims, an ex-Bear. Quins went off-side at once, as if the lessons of discipline had still not been learnt. The backs’ solitary contribution was a Lagi Tuima conversion.

Deborah Wills put Bears in front with a try in the corner. Amber Reed converted. 7-0 Then she completed a second herself. 12-0

On 27 minutes Amber Reed pulled a penalty kick left; a let-off for Quins.

Tries to Delany Burns and Hannah Botterman saw Bears home to a comfortable win 26-7. The Quins’ management have some serious thinking to do.

Loughborough Lightning v Trailfinders

This was the game Lightning needed to confirm their advance. They dominated play enough to get close to a half-century. It was a case of wind and later rain; and the tries rained in.

For Trailfinders the game told a familiar story: they scored attractive tries, but leaked points too easily. This loss now leaves only Sharks and Tigers below them.

Should Trailfinders Women consider a change of name? It’s hard to shout ‘Come on, TF!’ in full; and they’re only club to insist on ‘Women’ in their everyday title. The locals still shout ‘Ealing!’

Results

Saturday

Bristol Bears 26 Harlequins 7
Gloucester-Hartpury 24 Saracens 15
Loughborough Lightning 45 Trailfinders 21 (played at Loughborough; Northampton frozen)
Exeter Chiefs bye

Sunday

Sale Sharks 19 Leicester Tigers 22

Table ​​​

                                    P​     W​      L​      B    Pts

Saracens                  8      7      ​1        7     35
Glos-Pury         ​​       7      7      0        6     34
Exeter​​​                       7     6        2        8    28
Lightning                8      4       4         5     21
Bears       ​​                 7       4      3         4     20
Harlequins  ​​           8      2       6          5      13  ​
Trailfinders      ​​​      8       2      6          5     13
Sale         ​​                 6       1       5          4      8
Tigers​​​                      8       1       7          3       7

Even allowing for the one extra game played, Sarries lead G-H on points difference by a massive 145.
Quins now lead Trailfinders by one point (points difference, -80 and -81)

Next week: just one match:
Sunday 28 January: Sharks v Chiefs, CorpAcq Stadium, KO 13.00

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