With Richmond's game with Bristol called off due to poor weather, Saracens seized the initiative with a bonus point win over Worcester to shoot them seven points clear at the top of the table.
Saracens 29 Worcester 5
Saracens left it late to get the bonus point win against Worcester, when winger Sally Tuson scored in the final play of the game to take the final score to 29-5.
Saracens started very impressively with big runs from their centres Hannah Cassey and Hannah Gallagher. Eventually following successive drives, Maggie Alphonsi dotted down with Sarah McKenna hitting the post the with the conversion. Worcester got back in to the game and became very competitive in the tackle area. As the conditions worsened, the errors mounted for both teams, however, it was Worcester who kept the pressure on the home side and really showed a workman like spirit in their defence. Further useful defensive work from Lydia Thompson made way for a grateful Karen Jones, the lively Worcester 8, to pick up a loose ball and finish very well in the far right corner to equal the score a five a piece.
The game continued end to end with both fly halves, Sarah McKenna and Ceri Large opting for territory with kicks in pretty dreadful weather. A loose lineout ball in the Worcester 22m fell to Mckenna, who ducked and dived and finished impressively to take her side to a 10-5 advantage at the half time.
Worcester came out into the second half that little bit more lively and continued to battle the breakdown area. However, against the run of play and after some fine work from Alphonsi, Leith and Craddock driving Saracens forward, Hannah Gallagher stormed on to a short ball and battled over the line with an impressive finish. McKenna converted and Saracens edged ahead 17-5.
The game was fought much in the middle half of the pitch in a game where no momentum for either team seemed possible. Worcester's full back Steph Johnson looked sharp at times with some mazy runs, however nothing seemed to ignite this middle half of the game. Saracens again worked their way down field and this time hooker Geri Thomas, who carried well throughout the game, barged over from close range. McKenna again good with the extra two points.
Saracens were keen to chase the much needed bonus point, however Worcester had different ideas. Led by the ever present Ceri Large and Lisa Campbell, they marched downfield. The excellent Gallagher won the turnover penalty and knowing they had no time left they opted to run. A wonderful team try from their own goal line saw the ball interchanged between the hands of the back row trio of Cleall, Gallagher and Alphonsi, who made the final pass to Tuson, who shrugged the last ditch tackle to score in the corner and take the game to 29-5 with no time left to play. In a competitive match played in hard conditions both teams will take a lot of positives from this fixture.
Wasps 17 Darlington Mowden Park Sharks 19
Despite no score until the 38 minute mark, the first half of this close game was full of drama from two evenly matched sides. Darlington looked threatening early on, but solid Wasps defence kept them from capitalising on their advantage with the ball. The home side side attacked well as the half wore on, getting the ball over the try line, but were held up by a well drilled Darlington defence. Darlington hit back in the final few minutes of the half with full back Sophie Lee taking the ball into Wasps half of the pitch, where they retained possession and battled Wasps in consecutive scrums.
The ball came out wide from the second scrum, and Darlington winger, Katy Green, charged over the line. Fly half, Katy Mclean, failed to convert.
A missed penalty kick at 50 minutes kept the score at 5-0 and the home side were unable to keep Darlington out of their half, and Mclean took advantage of this, diving over for a try, which she converted.
Minutes later, the visitors got the ball over the line again, however, Wasps managed to hold it up. A scrum to Wasps on their own 5m line was followed by a clearance kick, but, the ball was charged down and Ruth Nash dived on it to score – putting Darlington up by a further 5 points. Mclean converted the try and Darlington raced out to a 19-0 lead.
Some fancy footwork from Claire Purdy helped make yards up the pitch for Wasps, though minor errors turned the ball over, with Darlington winger, Green, hitting some strong lines out wide. Once the ball was in hand again for Wasps, they retained possession well. The forwards tore it up the pitch and at last this paid off, with Victoria Harris scoring Wasps’ first try.
A scrum on Wasps 22 after the kick off was capitalised on with number 8, Laura Quinn, making a sniping run from the back of the scrum, putting the home side deep in Darlington territory. Becca Rowe continued to impact on the game, scoring out wide after some great backs play by Wasps. Neither try was converted which left the score at 19-10.
With less than a minute on the clock, the intensity of the Wasps game stepped up again, and the home side worked their way into Darlington’s 22. A penalty on the 5m line led to Quinn hitting a gap and scoring for Wasps, which was converted by Edwards in the final play of the game.
Lichfield 62 Aylesford Bulls 0
There was a great festive atmosphere at Cooke Fields for this one with the crowd bolstered by Lichfield’s mini and junior section who had come to the club to see Santa!
The game started well for Lichfield and four minutes in their captain Vicky Jackson darted through the Aylesford defence from the 22 metre line. She skilfully stepped the Bulls’ full back, to score under the posts. Jackson went on to set-up the next try with a break, she then off-loaded to winger Carys Williams, who scored in the corner. After some good phase play and offloads from Lichfield’s forwards and backs, fly-half Nancy stone broke the line and scored between the sticks.
Progress then slowed, as even though Lichfield had more than their fair share of possession, unforced errors and penalties led to many chances going begging. Aylesford worked well in attack with their No.8 Kelly Davies and hooker Laura Levi leading the charge. This lasted for 20 mins, with the half time score being 19-0.
In the second half Lichfield found another gear with the forwards worked extremely hard to create very quick ball for the backs to play off, by off-loading and breaking through the defensive line. Stand-out performances were from Karen Harris (flanker), Emily Braund (second row) and Harriet Mills (number 8). Second half tries were scored by wingers Lauren Stallwood and Carys Williams, a player of the match performance from Jackson saw her score two further tries, giving her a hat trick for the game. The forwards then got involved with the try scoring, with Braund scoring one, then catching the restart, breaking through a number of tackles and sprinting half the length of the pitch to score her second. Mills also scored in the last two minutes of the game. Jackson converted four of the second half tries.