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Richmond surge ahead at the top

Richmond have surged eight points clear at the top of the English women's Premiership as they beat the second-placed team Worcester at the weekend in a strong 4-try victory. It was also a good day for fellow London sides Wasps and Sarcens who both recorded wins - over Old Albanian Saints and DMP while Lichfield also maintained their form with a win over Bristol. Image: Richmond centre Lynne Cantwell on the surge - pic thanks to Anita Mitchell.

Saracens 29 Old Albanian Saints 0

A bitterly cold, stop-start game, witnessed Saracens come through against a plucky OA's side. Saracens started strongly but resolute defence from the Saints prevented their North London rivals from forcing their way over the tryline.

Saracens eventually worked an overlap, and a fine pass from fly half April Brown gave Maggie Alphonsi the space, who powered her way in typical fashion to touchdown. Brown converted from infront of the posts.

The powerful Saracens pack kept working hard, with front row Amy Garnett, Claire Horgan and Leslie Cripps particularly prominent, and Garnett barged her way over from close range to extend the lead.

The arctic conditions played havoc with both sides handling, with many balls being uncharacteristically spilled. Saracens maintained momentum and a yellow card to the OA's lock, Angela Wadham, gave them a penalty from 5m out. Opting for a scrum, Saracens walked over the try with a powerful scrum, with lively number 8, Sonia Green, dotting down. Saracens went into the break 17-0 up.

OA's came out firing, playing a well marshalled narrow game, using powerful runners around the fringe of the rucks with substitute Leah Carey making a big impact off the bench.

Saracens against the wind, could not make the headway they managed in the first half and the game remained in their 22m area with OA's continually charging on through their rampant forwards and centre Kerena Page. Some fine surges from the Saracens backline with feisty winger Ama Okafor finding some space only to kept at bay twice by some excellent covering from the OA's fullback Caroline Collie. Eventually pressure told and the dynamic Mandy Marchak lept over to score from close range.

Saracens were hunting for the bonus point but just could not find the precision witnessed the previous week against Worcester, a testament to the physicality of the OA's team. Great lineout work from Saracens youngster Heather Stammers provided the final attacking platforms leading to a terrific run from Marchak into the OA's 22 yard area, who found the supporting Alphonsi who finished well from 10m out for that all important bonus point score. Brown hit the conversion to take the final scoreline to 29-0.

Scorers Saracens: Mandy Marchak (try), Maggie Alphonsi (2 tries), Amy Garnett (try), Sonia Green (try), April Brown (2 cons)

Richmond 26 Worcester 10

The top two in women's Premiership met on Sunday in a tight battle with an array of international players on show. Both sides had to contend with a few players missing from their respective teams due to injuries - centre Rachael Burford and winger Fran Matthews temporarily out for Richmond and and prop Rochelle Clarke and number 8 Karen Jones were missing from Worcester, but that didn't detract from the contest that ensued.

From the off, the home team came out firing, and a sustained period of pressure in the Worcester twenty two coming from effective clear out and quick ball from the breakdown resulted in a penalty being awarded to Richmond for offside infringement resulted in a penalt which stand off Abbi Chamberlain converted to give Richmond a three point lead.

The attacking intensity and effort from the home side continued, but Worcester's committed and determined defensive effort kept their tryline intact. Against the run of play and following a turnover tackle, the ball got passed out to wing Kat Merchant who produced an individual brilliant effort running a good 60 metres down the touchline, powering through several missed tackles, to score in the top corner for Worcester to go 5 - 3 ahead.

The match continued at high pace, and after a further ten minutes of fiercely contested play at the breakdown, Worcester managed to stretch the Richmond defence and capitalised on producing quick ball to the excellent Nollie Waterman who linked up with Merchant to see Jennifer Brightmore score.

Despite being 10 - 3 down, Richmond continued to stick to their game plan, and the packs go forward efforts, linking and keeping the ball alive, resulted in Richmond again securing good field position in the Worcester 22. Having secured good off the top lineout ball in the first 30 minutes, Richmond changed tack and from good field position caught and drove a lineout from 10 metres which was successfully completed with flanker Susie Brown crossing the tryline. This was followed off with a second try, again from good lineout drive from Brown in the other top corner giving Richmond a 13 - 10 narrow lead at half time.

Richmond started the second half with the same intensity and the substitution changes to the front and back rows made by head coach Karen Findlay again boosted Richmond's play. Winger Kay Wilson finished off several linking passages of play before displaying her out and out pace up the touchline to score whilst scrum half Fi Davidson continued her impactful play from the breakdown. Davidson sniped from the base to surge up through the broken mid field defence to score Richmond's 3rd try, taking the score line to 26 - 10 lead.

The home side looked to have secured their bonus point fifth try with 5 minutes to go but a forward pass decision from the referee meant the final score stayed at 26 Richmond 10 Worcester. Richmond are now clear at the top and it will take a momentous second half the season from the chasing pack to stop them charging to another title. The form of centres Jo O'Sullivan as well as a sterling backrow effort from Brown and Essex will please Richmond while for Worcester, Ceri Large and Charlotte Keane were stand-outs.

Scorers Richmond: Fiona Davidson (try), Kay Wilson (try) Susie Brown (2 tries), Abi Chamberlain (2 pens)
Scorers Worcester: Kat Merchant (try), Jennifer Brightmore (try)

Lichfield 55 Bristol 10

(See HERE for a great album of pictures from this game from Rugby Matters)

A very fast paced and entertaining game saw Lichfield continue their winning streak to beat a physical Bristol team.

Lichfield had a flying start to the match. Two minutes in and Vicky Jackson took a high ball with ease and gained valuable ground down the middle of the pitch. Quick ball from the breakdown out to Tash Jones then followed, who, with some excellent footwork managed to find a gap in the Bristol defensive line to score under the posts.

It was a strong restart by Bristol who soon found themselves in the Lichfield 22, right in front of the posts. Despite this, Lichfield dug deep and managed to turn over the ball, allowing Emily Scarratt to clear the line. This was followed by more attcking play by Bristol, with some quick ball outwide from a breakdown in the middle of the pitch gave the opportunity for Lucy Pascal to score in the corner.

With a try a piece, this was still anyones game but the home team pressed hard. Attaching play allowed them to gain a penalty just outside the Bristol 22 which was successfully kicked by Emily Scarratt.

Possession with Lichfield, Vicki Masserella saw the opportunity to kick deep. This was picked up by the Bristol's Sally Tuson, whose return kick did not reach touch. Lichfield reacted quickly to this and quick ball to Vicky Jackson allowed her to score outwide.

The pressure was now on Bristol to get some points. The Bristol forwards took ownership of the next try with a strong catch and drive from a line-out outside of the Lichfield 22, which gave Kate Newton the chance to score.

In the next ten minutes that followed, both teams created some strong phases of attacking play however, good defensive lines from both teams meant that the efforts were thwarted.

With the ball back in the hands of the Lichfield forwards, Emily Braund managed to break away from the Bristol defence and with a 40 metre sprint to the line and dived to score under the posts. Although Karen Harris made an excellent break, sprinting 30 metres towards the try line, she was stopped short which ended the first half.

The second half saw yet another strong restart from the home team. Good phase play and some excellent offloads allowed captain Roz Crowley to find space and sprint 40 metres down the middle of the pitch and score under the posts.

This followed by some strong phase play from the Bristol forwards who came close to the Lichfield line but it was turned over by Lichfield. Lichfield were quick with their counteract and some good breaks and offloads between the Lichfield forwards and backs allowed Lichfield to continuously gain ground beyond the half-way line. A assertive run from Emily Scarret allowed her to brush off her opponents tackles and run in the try, which she then converted.

Lichield kept the pressure on the away team and some interplay between the Lichfield backs allowed another try to be run by Vicki Masserella for her first try of the game. This, however, was not converted. Tries followed by both Becky Williams and Sarah Hunter to finish the game.

Both Vicky Jackson and Karen Harris found their form for Lichfield, while both Izzy Noel-Smith and Amber Reed were highlighted as being excellent in defence for Bristol.

Scorers Lichfield: Vicky Jackson (2 tries), Vicki Maserella (try), Tash Jones (try), Roz Crowley (try), Emily Braund (try), Sarah Hunter, Emily Scarratt (1 try, 6 cons, 1 pen)
Scorers Bristol: Lucy Pascall (try). Kate Newton (try)


Wasps 36 v 5 Darlington Sharks

Both sides expected this to be a tough match after close games last season, however the Wasps forwards showed their dominance again this week, with another convincing win moving Wasps up to 2nd in the league.

Starting as they finished last week, the Wasps forwards dominated in the scrum and direct running in the loose causing problems for the Darlington defence, just a few minutes into the game World Cup winning prop Steph Te Ohaera Fox charged over the line to score the first of her hat trick.

Darlington got into the match after the first try and kept the ball well, recycling forwards runners with breaks from their back row and Lindsay Wheeler. Darlingtons defence was determined with some try-saving cover tackles form the back 3 cover defence after Micheala Staniford almost running the length of the pitch early on.

Wasps half backs Emma Jensen and Shelley Rae kicked well, using the wind and an organised chase to pin Darlington in their own 22 for much of the first half. Wasps converted their pressure and territory, with another few tries before half time - Liz Riley sneaking over in the corner, Steph getting her second and Erin Kerr running a great support line through the midfield to touch down just before half time.

Wasps picked up their game again early in the second half with Micheala Staniford picking an offload to score under the posts, her first try of the season, Shelley Rae converted.

Darlington came back strongly, applying a lot of pressure to Wasps in their 22, again showing strong attacks form forward runners. With Wasps giving away a few penalties in their 22 Darlington deservedly scored with a switch to the blind and Juliet Short showing pace to score in the corner. Wasps prop Steph Te Ohaera Fox rounded off an outstanding performance to score the third of her hattrick.