There were wins for Wasps, Richmond, Bristol and Worcester in round one of the English Women's Premiership with some exciting rugby on display. Defending champions Richmond recorded a big win over rivals Saracens, laying down a real marker for their season, while newcomers Thurrock found life tough in their opening game, conceding a raft of tries at Wasps. Photo of Bristol V DMP Sharks courtesy of John White Media.
Wasps 49 Thurrock Ladies 5
Newly promoted Thurrock opened their account in the Womens Premiership with a tough battle against a more experienced Wasps outfit at Twyford Avenue.
Wasps began the game at a high tempo and scored early when Tina Lee saw the space with a quick penalty to put Lynsey Douglas in the corner to score the first try of the game.
Despite a strong Thurrock defence, Wasps continued to dominate the first half with Jane Leonard making a big impact on her return from injury, showing quick reactions to pick up loose ball and making impressive breaks, also Danniker Willmore on her Wasps debut showed her ability to take the ball on in the loose well.
Wasps scored more well worked tries in the first half by forwards Laura Quinn, Jess Bain and Charlie Veale, with one conversion by Hannah Edwards and the half time score stood at 22-0.
Thurrock started the second half with intensity and pressure on Wasps 5m line, leading to a sin bin for Wasps but without any points for Thurrock from the period of pressure.
Wasps continued to find space out wide with scores for full back Tash Brennan and Douglas, both unconverted which brought the score to 32-0.Thurrock again came back at Wasps with Rachel Burford making a run out wide only just being pushed into touch by Michaela Staniford. Their resulting play brought them close to the try line and this time coming away with the points as Jo Convoy crashed over out wide for Thurrocks first Premiership try.
Wasps didnt let Thurrock back into the game and scored further tries with Douglas finishing off a hat trick and Leonard charged down a clearance kick to score, converted by Sarah McKenna.
Wasps put together a fantastic final passage of play from 10m outside their half, strong direct running and clever off-loads saw McKenna score in the corner having been involved throughout the phase of play, to bring the final score to 49-5.
Lichfield 22 Worcester 34
Local rivalry has historically produced closely contested games between these Premiership teams and this opening fixture of the season turned out to be much closer in the end than the score might suggest.
Both teams were without key players due to injuries and the expectant crowd were anxious to see how the unfamiliar line ups performed.
Worcester entered the fray with determination and it was twelve minutes before Lichfield passed their half way line.
The England 7s players from Worcester were rampant, with Jo Watmore and Sarah Guest being prominent in the centres and Kat Merchant always a threat from the wings. Lichfield had no answer to the pace and handling skills of the aforementioned and it came as no surprise when Watmore opened the scoring after just two minutes.
More pressure on the Lichfield defence saw Sarah Guest skilfully and forcefully increasing the score, but a lapse in concentration saw Lichfield reduce the deficit from an Emily Scarrett penalty. However this was a brief respite for Lichfield as Worcester pressed on with a Rochelle Clark try following a tapped penalty.
Megan Goddard, having a promising debut at full back, took over the kicking duties with aplomb to start adding extras.
Half time saw Worcester in the very comfortable position of a 19 point lead, which should have been the platform on which to build a high score. However never say die Lichfield started the second half in much the same manner as Worcester had started the first.
Half- time also saw changes for both sides, with Lichfield replacing both of their flankers after 40minutes of tireless work around the park; Carys Williams showing she has seamlessly transitioned from U18s rugby to be an impact player in senior rugby and Caley Parnell working as hard as ever in the breakdowns and making some typically sniping runs.
Lichfield seemed to come out of the break with renewed vigour and some challenging kicks from Scarratt, excellent chasing from Rose Jay and Rachel Jones on the wings and a couple of breakaway 30m runs from forward Becky Williams and Kaz Harris. They were eventually rewarded when Vicky Jackson and Harriet Mills both crossed the line and their tries were converted by Scarratt.
Only five points adrift it looked like Lichfield may make a late comeback, but their fortunes changed again when Worcesters tighthead Kelly Phasey took a knock to the head and was unable to continue, leaving them without experienced front row and rendering the scrums, which had been working well for Lichfield, uncontested.
With ten minutes to go most people in the crowd would have backed the home team to complete a remarkable recovery, but Worcester regained their early composure with tries from Heather Fisher, having her first full game for a year, and joint Captain Karen Jones, returning after an even longer absence. Jones was a constant force for Worcester and her leadership and calming influence did much to sustain the team throughout the game.
Bristol 33 DMP Sharks 7
With a big crowd and a brand new playing venue, Bristol secured a fine win in their opening league game.
As both teams relaxed into the game, the first ten minutes were fairly evenly matched until a lightning break from Bristol and Englands newly capped Sally Tuson down the wing, led to some fine play by the home team and Marlie Packer stormed the line, only to be held up.
Bristol continued to attack and a penalty then saw the ball fly out through the hands to Kate Hancock who went through the defensive line to score in the top corner. Amber Reed struck a fine kick to convert.
DMP looked good from the restart with slick offloading and star player, England captain Katy Maclean scored from just a few metres out. She converted her own try to level the score after 30 minutes.
It didnt take long for Bristol to reply with an excellent break from Tuson down the wing and then play quickly shifted inside for Reed to score right under the posts. The hosts lead 14-7 at the break.
Bristol started the second half with a bang and within minutes, Sacha Acheson, who had a fantastic game at prop, stormed her way through the DMP defence. Reed then sent a kick straight up the middle of the field for winger Mary-Ann Gittings to score in the corner.
DMP replied with some well-worked phases and fortunately for Bristol, Claire Molloy turned the ball over on the line to stop them from grabbing what looked like a certain score.
Molly then made a storming break and finally the fourth try came when a perfect cross-field kick from Reed reached replacement Rhiannon Parker who was tackled on the touch line but managed to flick the ball inside for Hancock to score a bonus point try.
Bristol closed out the game with a fifth and excellent try. Some well-worked offloads and carries by captain Izzy Noel-Smith and El Snoswhill created a big overlap and Wilson-Hardy was able to score an easy try, converted by Reed to seal the game at 33-7 to the home side.
Saracens 19 50 Richmond
Defending champions Richmond started their campaign with a superb win over rivals Saracens.
The reigning league title holders grabbed an early lead through England 7s star Alice Richardson and next up Nic Hoole ran through a number of tackles to see Richmond race away to a 14-0 lead.
Saracens once again bounced back following the try and pushed Richmond hard, but handling errors let them down and they were unable to challenge the line. A sustained period of play in the Richmond 22 saw a penalty awarded to Saracens. They pressed hard, but again found themselves turned over in a ruck.
As temperatures approached 30 degrees a short water break allowed the supporters and players a like a moment of respite but there was no lead up in the Richmond attacking.
Abi Chamberlain was next to score in the corner and at halftime Richmond led 19-0.
Saracens got off to a better start to the second half and some hard attacking saw them score the opening two tries one a typically strong run from Canadian centre Mandy Marchak and another from Kat Evans.
Richmond regrouped quickly and hit back with a try from the returning Claire Allan, showing great pace on her return from injury.
Saracens were quickly on the attack again with lightening wing Zira Handley demonstrating her speed.
The game restarted from a short water break with a scrum for Saracens, which led to a try for Sonia Green making the score 19-24. This time Richmond took the initiative from the restart and a strong run from Ireland's Jackie Shiels put Richardson in for her second try.
Richardson then made a superb break from which Gemma Rowland scored and then Richmond came into their own with a number of excellent scores.
Chamberlain ran in a great solo run next and then Rowland her second try to make it a handsome win for the champions.