Source: PWR

Tigers snarl

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PWR – Round 11


Saturday 10 February

Loughborough Lightning 17 Leicester Tigers 22
Saracens 29 Quins 24

Loughborough Lightning v Leicester Tigers

Tigers took the weekend’s honours by beating near neighbours Lightning away from home, their second win of the season. This was a timely riposte to the news of that 5-point penalty they’d just incurred, owing, they say, to an administrative oversight.

It’s one of those little oddities that make life so appealing. Lightning appeared against Tigers wearing not African violet and pink but the colours of Northampton Saints, whose ground they have chosen to use for home matches – their ‘away colours’.

Tigers at last have their tails up. They had claimed their first victory against Sharks and had given the holders, Gloucester-hartpury a fright, putting 26 points on them.

Attendance: 1,703, a ground record


15 Georgina Tasker, 14 Bo Westcombe-Evans, 13 Bulou Mataitoga, 12 Helen Nelson, 11 Carys Williams-Morris, 10 Helena Rowland, 9 Meg Davey, 1 Katie Trevarthen, 2 Kathryn Treder, 3 Christine Belisle, 4 Lilli Ives Campion, 5 Catherine O’Donnell, 6 Rachel Malcolm (captain), 7 Sadia Kabeya, 8 Daisy Hibbert-Jones

16 Maja Meuller, 17 Amelia Williams, 18 Catherine Wells, 19 Abby Duguid, 20 Emma Wassell, 21 Hallie Taufoou, 22 Jess Weaver, 23 Emma Hardy

15 Tess Feury, 14 Amelia Tutt, 13 Meg Jones, 12 Claire Gallagher, 11 Francesca McGhie, 10 Natasha Jones (captain), 9 Amy Relf, 1 Leah Bartlett, 2 Elis Martin, 3 Lisa Cockburn, 4 Julia Omokhuale, 5 Catha Jacobs, 6 Keia Mae Sagapolu Sanele, 7 Roisin McBrien, 8 Tahlia Brody

16 Alana Bainbridge, 17 Churchy Knight, 18 Ofure Ugiagbe, 19 Charlotte Fray, 20 Becky Noon, 21 Morgan Richardson, 22 Lucy Nye, 23 Sarah Nicholas

Saracens v Quins

Two facts: Quins were well on top through the first half; Sarries won the game by five points. At the steel-edged end of elite competition, only the second fact matters.

Quins broke the early deadlock with a try by Shaunagh Brown from close in. 0-7

Beth Wilcock had made a big break to set up the chance. How close is Brown to regaining a place in the England line-up?

Quins were causing real problems, but Sarries started their come-back just before half-time, forward power created a penalty try. 7-7

These days referees are duty-bound to find a culprit so Abbie Fleming was shown our first card of the day. Would it be the last? Her absence cost Quins dear. By half-time they were five points down.

We’re very used to seeing Sarries have the last word. They did so here too; but Amy Layzell caused worries with a try in the 77th minute. It needed Zoe Harrison to calm them with a last- minute penalty.

She had been waiting her turn on the bench as Sarries tried out Beth Blacklock at 10.

Attendance: 3701, a new ground record


1. McKinley Hunt, 2. May Campbell, 3. Kelsey Clifford, 4. Louise McMillan, 5. Georgia Evans, 6. Sharifa Kasolo, 7. Marlie Packer (co-captain), 8. Poppy Cleall, 9. Leanne Infante, 10. Beth Blacklock, 11. Lotte Clapp (co-captain), 12. Sarah McKenna, 13. Sydney Gregson, 14. Paige Farries, 15. Jess Breach

16. Bryony Field, 17. Akina Gondwe, 18. Donna Rose, 19. Emma Taylor, 20. Grace Moore, 21. Tori Sellors, 22. Zoe Harrison, 23. Sophie Bridger

1. Silvia Turani, 2. Connie Powell, 3. Babalwa Latsha, 4. Danelle Lochner, 5. Sarah Bonar, 6. Abbie Fleming, 7. Emily Robinson, 8. Shaunagh Brown, 9. Lucy Packer, 10. Emily Scott (captain), 11. Beth Wilcock, 12. Lagi Tuima, 13. Izzy Mayhew, 14. Freya Aucken, 15. Ellie Kildunne

16. Carys Phillips, 17. Sheree Cooper, 18. Hannah Duffy, 19. Kaitlan Leaney, 20. Nicole Wythe, 21. Flo Robinson, 22. Ella Cromack, 23. Amy Layzell

Sunday 11 February


Exeter Chiefs 64 Sale Sharks 5
Gloucester-Hartpury 24 Bristol Bears 19

Chiefs gained their expected victory over opponents whose feelings are hard to imagine. They had just been docked points for failing to adhere to rules of eligibility that the board saw fit to apply only now.

They are the sole flag-wavers for rugby in the whole of northern England, yet the world seems to be against them. Perhaps that is the ultimate meaning of life.

I’m glad Chiefs enjoyed the fun.

Gloucester-Hartpury v Bristol Bears

It was a different story at Kingsholm. The one team to be carrying all before them found themselves 7-14 down at half-time.

The game had started so well for them. Sarah Beckett made her presence felt in attack and defence, and Mo Hunt waltzed over to get the first score. 7-0

But the Bears’ team is packed with stars too. Hollie Aitchison got them back on terms with a try converted by Amber Reed, now restored to health. 7-7. Worse still for the hosts, Lana Skeldon was on the end of a long period of pressure to send her team into the lead. 7-14.

Things grew worse for the leaders after the break; Skeldon repeated her dose of iced water. 7-19

As Sean Lynn replaced Sisilia Tuipulotu with Maud Muir, we saw the riches he has at his disposal. How come the side was 12 points down?

They start their comeback with a try by Millie Hyett (ex-Worcester). 12-19. Tensions rise yet further.
G-H’s huge playing resources tell in the second half as they pile on the pressure – pressure born of concern about a first possible loss, and to the local rivals at that.

Neve Jones completes a strong drive to the line, and Emma Sing’s assurance with the boot brings the teams back on level terms. 19-19

Like all the great teams, they save the best till last. The final hooter is a distant memory when Nel Metcalfe manages to get the ball down over the line. The unbeaten record stands! Bristol face yet another downturn.

Table ​​​

                                    P​     W​      L​      Pts

Saracens                  10      9      ​1        45
Glos-Pury         ​​       9       9      0        44
Exeter​​​                     10      7       3        38
Bears       ​​                10      6      4        30
Lightning                 9      4       5        22
Harlequins  ​​           10      3       7        20  ​
Trailfinders      ​​​       9       2       7         13
Tigers​​​                      10       2      8          8
Sale         ​​                  9       1        8          3


At a rough calculation the eight clubs in action had 57 Non-England Qualified Players out of 135 on the field as starters. That comes to 37%.

How would the women’s game worldwide be affected if all of them were performing in their own national leagues? Would it hold their unions’ standards back or advance them?

When I keep on asking why Bears don’t win every game comfortably – just look at the player strength they enjoy – a glance at their weekly opponents explains why. So many of the nine clubs can boast nearly a full team of capped players to represent them.

Sarries really splashed out to entertain their fans. From a coaching session at 9.30 to a Centre of Excellence match starting at 3.30 there was much to enjoy. Players ran the risk of having their wrists exhausted after a signing session in the morning.

This all makes a striking dfference with the sad, bad news of a points penalty for the two teams at the other end of the table.
Lightning’s shock loss to Tigers opens up the gap between the top four and the rest. Claims of ever-tightening competiton in the PWR remain hard to prove.

Women referees

Hollie Davidson’s appointment as AR for the England-Wales match at Twickenham was a signal honour, but points up the difficulty of ensuring women officiate women’s games. Aimee Barrett- Theron had reacted calmly to some bad behaviour in the equivalent U20 match, and that left just two female officials out of twelve to take care of PWR matches, Sara Cox MBE and Nikki O’Donnell, both at the StoneX (because TNT cameras were present?) Supplies seem to have dried up this season.