The online home of Women's Rugby

Leaders struggle on both sides of Channel

A degree of synchronicity is apparent as the French Top 8 and the English Tyrrells Premiership fill the international break.

With international rugby breaking the rhythm of the club game, upsets are always possible this time of year as Lille discovered when the travelled south to third-placed Toulouse. The home team’s solid defence withstood everything thrown at them until the last minute (helped by Lille being repeatedly low on numbers due to yellow cards), by which time Toulouse were 6-0 ahead with penalties either side of halftime from Camille Boudaud. However, from the final play Scotland’s Chloe Rolle finally broke through to score, leaving the result to be decided on the final kick of the game… which was missed.

As a result, attention turned to the other end of the country, Brittany, where Rennes were entertaining Montpellier… and looking good with a 17-7 lead at the midpoint. But the second half totally belonged to the champions.  Three tries – giving them another attacking bonus point – plus the one-form kicking of Morgane Peyronnet – saw the visitors blank their hosts over the half and come away with a 31-17 win – and a one-point lead at the top of the league.

Rennes’ defeat allowed Blagnac a chance to lay a firmer claim to the final play-off spot, which they did, though not without a struggle, allowing visitors Bayonne to go home with a defensive bonus in a 21-15 win for the home team. As a result, Blagnac stay fourth and open a seven-point lead over Rennes.

Finally, Bobigny swapped places at the bottom of the league after a 30-10 loss at home to Romagnat. However, news that the Top 8 will become a Top 16 next year – with two eight-team pools, rather as the second tier Armelle Auclair is today – suggests that there will be no relegation this year.

It’s a change that the new FFR President backed as part of his election – a promise that followed his predecessor’s reform of women’s rugby which saw the old Top 10 shrink to eight. There may have been good arguments for that – and indeed the Top 8 now rarely features the one-sided massacres that often occur in many of the world’s other top leagues – but it was handled in such a tone-deaf way that its reversal by the new regime was almost inevitable. Whether there is sufficient talent in France to spread over 16 teams and maintain a league as competitive as the current one remains to be seen.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

AB

DP

Pts

Montpellier

10

9

0

1

330

128

5

1

42

Lille

11

9

0

2

260

144

3

2

41

Toulouse

10

7

1

2

191

108

3

2

35

Blagnac

10

6

0

4

204

180

2

2

28

Renne

11

4

0

7

217

217

2

3

21

Bayonne

11

2

0

9

153

298

1

3

12

Romagnat

11

2

1

8

126

302

1

1

12

Bobigny

10

2

0

8

157

261

1

2

11

In England leaders Saracens had similar struggles to Lille, but in their case held on to record a dramatic 29-29 draw with Gloucester-Hartpury allowing Harlequins to narrow the gap at the top to just three points. 

Ellie Underwood scored for a hat-trick as Gloucester-Hartpury in a game where the two teams shared ten tries. Saracens held a narrow 17-15 half-time lead and looked to have pulled away in the second half with tries from Sonia Green and Cara Wardle, but Gloucester came back to tie the game at the end.

Harlequins closed the gap in second place – and secured their play-off spot - with a crushing 80-7 defeat of Worcester thanks to hat-tricks from prop Aldora Itunu and number eight Sam McCarthy.

Four clubs remain in contention for the last two playoff sports, with Wasps best placed after running out 26-12 winners over Bristol after a scoreless first half. In the second half Rocky Clark, Abby Dow and Anna Glyn Davies combined to give the hosts a 19-0 to the hosts before a penalty try and Poppy Leitch score saw a Bristol fightback before a fine individual try from Danielle Waterman ended the game with a bonus point win for Wasps.

Loughborough narrowly hold the final spot by a single point from Gloucester thanks to a 21-15 win over Darlington Mowden Park. England’s Charlotte Pearce scored three second-half tries for the Lightning to see her team to a vital win after Katy Daley-Mclean had scored the only points of the first half with a penalty for Darlington.

Richmond and Waterloo are out of contention, but shared an exciting game, Richmond initially taking a two try lead before Waterloo hit back to go ahead 12-10. However, the flow of the game reversed again with Richmond scoring two more tries to record a 20-12 bonus-point win.