Action from the Bristol V Worcester game
Then English women's Premiership returned at the weekend for the 2011/12 season with reigning champions Richmond getting their title defence off to a an emphatic start with a huge win over Old Albanian Saints. Elsewhere Wasps scored a late try to secure a win over Darlington Mowden Park Sharks and it was also tight when Bristol met Worcester. Saracens beat Lichfield in their game.
Bristol 17 Worcester 14
Bristol got their season off to a winning start with a tight win over their most local rivals Worcester. The Worcester pack provided tough opposition, but the Bristol back row gave another powerful performance to help the home team to a win with Izzy Noel-Smith, Marlie Packer, Nic Hoole and Sophie Pascal standing out for the hosts.
Amber Reed opened the scoring for Bristol with an early penalty before Worcester hit back with a try from Sarah Guest which Ceri Large converted.
Sally Tuson, on her debut at 12 for Bristol then gave a lovely off-load to Lauryn Therin who ran in to grab her first try for Bristol, which Reed converted to give the home team a 10-7 lead at the break.
Both packs battled it out in a tight second half but Tulson added a quick try after the turnaround to stretch Bristols lead with Reed converting and put a little more distance between the teams.
Bristol then had to cope with 14 players when Daniker Willmore was carded and Worcester wing Kat Merchant, always a danger in space, grabbed a try which Large converted to put just a score between the teams. Bristol hung on though for a morale boosting opening day win.
To see the teams and stats for this see here
Try Scorers Bristol: Lauryn Therin, Sally Tulson. Cons: Amber Reed X2. Pens, Reed X1
Try Scorers Worcester: Sarah Guest, Kat Merchant. Cons: Ceri Large X 2
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks 20 Wasps 25
Sharks welcomed Wasps to Mowden Park for the first game of the new season.
A strong start from the home side saw them take a lead after 16 mins courtesy of captain Katy Mclean who exposed a gap in the Wasps back line and used her pace and footwork to open the sharks account. The opposition hit back with some heavy forward runners around the breakdown and really began generating some momentum in attack. The Sharks defence held strong however, soaking up the pressure and also asking questions with a fantastic offload game.
Wasps did eventually manage to come away with three points through a penalty from Hannah Edwards, following a prolonged period of pressure in the Mowden 22. Though Sharks reacted positively Wasps strength up front saw them dominate the breakdown and the visitors grabbed two tries before the break coming from England prop Claire Purdy and Black Fern Steph Te Ohaera Fox.
At 5-15 down come the break, the Sharks really needed to take it to the London team in the second half but Wasps widened the gap to 5-20 when Michaela Staniford scored.
DMP Sharks though finally burst into life in the game and put massive pressure on the Wasps defence. With Wasps on the backfoot, the Mowden girls piled on the pressure through a charge-down by Claire Nicholas who managed to recover the ball and make pressure ground in the opposition 22. The ball was then recycled to the left wing giving vice captain Tamara Taylor just enough space to use her strength to squeeze over the line.
Mclean then added a penalty and then a fantastic effort from lock Sally Austen saw her rumble through the heart of the Wasps defence to score under the posts. Mclean converted to draw the scores level at 20-20.
A hugely close fought encounter ended with a Wasps try generated through some excellent support following a break in the Sharks line which Edwards got on the end of. The home side didnt give in till the final whistle but were unable to create another scoring opportunity and had to settle for a single bonus point as the match ended 20-25.
To see the teams and stats for this game see here
Try Scorers Wasps: Hannah Edwards, Claire Purdy, Steph Te Ohaera Fox, Michaela Staniford. Conversions: Edwards X1
Try Scorers Sharks: Katie McLean, Tamara Taylor, Sally Austen. Conversions: McLean X1. Penalties: McLean X 1
Richmond 96 Old Albanians 0
Richmonds first league game of the season went off with a bang as the team recorded a 16 try away win at Old Albanians.
With Saints facing a tough season, due to a number of players travelling and others deciding to move clubs, it could be a long year for the team who played in the Premiership for the first time last season.
For Richmond there were no such worries though. With a return to the number 10 shirt by Alice Richardson, and a start for new faces to the team such as Sian Kersee in the 2nd row, Libby Povey at 7 and England U20s Alex Matthews at 8, the team set out their clear intent with Rachael Burford opening the scoring in the second minute thanks to strong direct backline running and good linking between the front and second line attack. The pace continued, with winger Abbi Chamberlain scoring a further two tries thanks to accurate crossfield kicking from Richardson, both caught on the run and finished well.
New wing Spanish winger Elli Garcia, joined this season at Richmond in the front row by fellow country woman and prop Maria Garcia, also made a big impact, scoring four tries on her debut. Captain Amy Turner made a successful return to play, again having had an injury riddled post WC season, and showed what lies ahead in the hooker berth by rampaging and providing good go forward in close channels whilst showing her ability to link as she released ball out wide.
Old Albanians, bravely battled to not only deal with reorganisation having recently lost their last season's stand off and hooker, but also to try and get their defence set to combat the continued pace and linking which resulted in a further four tries before the 40 minute mark. The second half saw Richmond fullback Jackie Shiels move to backrow due to openside flanker laura jenkins sustaining a knee injury, with Claire Allen then making her return to Premiership rugby since the WC 2010 and scoring two tries..
To see the teams and stats for this game see here
Try Scorers: Abbi Chamberlain x 4, Rachael Burford x 1, Elli Garcia x 4, Claire Allen x 2, Libby Povey x 2, Sophie Nicolls x 1, Amy Turner x 1, Lynne Cantwell x 1. Conversions: Abbi Chamberlain x 7
Lichfield 13 Saracens 21
Lichfield entertained Saracens at their Cooke Fields home in a clash of the two teams who finished 3rd and 2nd respectively last season.
The game began at a frenetic pace with Saracens dominating possession early on and their hard work was rewarded when a large overlap was exposed by scorching winger Ama Ofkar who was excellent throughout.
From the restart Lichfield saw more of the ball in attack and after large amounts of pressure on the defence, from this Sarries gave a kickable penalty away which Emily Scarratt slotted between the post before shortly added another minutes later.
The game was going Lichfields way when Scarratt was once again was on the scoresheet, this time with a well-timed interception forty metres out which she finished under the posts where she added the extras.
Lichfield had a chance towards the end of the half when a great run from Saskia Brazier-Kobus saw her brought down just before the line and unfortunately knocking the ball on in the process. In a game that incorporated a combative breakdown, Lichfield then began to lose their discipline costing them a penalty, which centre Sarah Alma took quickly and with an electric break, caught the Lichfield defence sleeping and broke 40m to pass to the supporting Ofkar again, who dotted down for her 2nd of the half which April Brown converted.
The second half was controlled in the set piece by Lichfield, however they failed to utilise the evident weather conditions in the first half and ascertain any sort of controllable lead.
Saracens were on the scoreheet with an early penalty and drew the score level.Lichfield dominated both the lineout on attack and defence with both Lucy Kirk and Stacey Maguire stealing good ball, and Gemma Sharples coming off the bench to take some good attacking ball at the tail. Lichfield also dominated at scrum time with hooker Vicky Fleetwood hooking the ball against the head on a number of occasions. Crucially though this dominance of the set piece did not lead to points on the scoreboard.
Saracens played the conditions more wisely and camped themselves in the Lichfield top 1/4, three times getting over the line to be held up at the final stage by resolute Lichfield defence and sound scrummaging. The tactical kicking of Scarrat was a pleasure to watch and she ensured Lichfield could escape their line.
Two more penalties from Brown secured the win as Saracens in the loose, with a commanding presence in the backrow of Maggie Alphonsi, Hannah Gallagher and Captain Sonia Green, caused havoc for the Lichfield midfield and maintained Saracens possession for the final 15minutes. Saracens laid siege to the Lichfield line and Lichfield were forced to play catch up rugby from their own goal area, a hugely challenging task against a vicious wind.
Both sides competed admirably in what was a very physical game, however it was evident both teams needed to knock the rust off from a long
Try Scorers Lichfield: Emily Scarratt. Cons: Scarratt X 1. Pens: Scarratt X 1
Try Scorers Saracens: Alma Okafar X 2. Cons: April Brown X 1. Pens: Brown X 3