Alex Austerberry: 2019 is a great platform for us to kick on and keep getting better
It’s been an absolutely fantastic year for Saracens Women, the results on the field speak for themselves.
For both teams to win their respective leagues and to go an entire year unbeaten is a real testament to the desire of all players and staff to get better, the quality that we have as a group and the potential to achieve even better things.
Winning the Tyrrells Premier 15s Final at Franklin’s Gardens is an obvious highlight but one of the standout moments of the year for me came at Loughborough away in March 2019. There were two significant moments in that day.
The Development side were playing against Loughborough Lightning ahead of the first team and we pretty much knew the Dev team needed to collect bonus points in each game to ensure winning the Development League.
We scored two early tries but then it became very much a physical affair and turned into a bit of stalemate. We scored with a few minutes to go to give us a bit of hope of the bonus point and then a cracking bit of rugby with the final play saw Izzy Carroll score in the corner. So, there was immense emotion from the group that we got that try.
And then to follow that up with the Prem Team’s first half performance against Loughborough which was probably the best rugby we’d played prior to the final.
We were 24 – 7 ahead, then we had a few quite significant injuries and we started to lose the momentum of the game to the point where we were trailing going into the final few minutes.
But to come back and go over in the final play of the game for the winning try through Hannah Botterman just emphasised the character that the group has and the calmness to execute even when the time pressure is against them.
That was a huge day and a day I look back on in 2019 and think “that was a real milestone for us as a side.”
And looking at the final in Northampton, we had a lot of great performances throughout that season, including that win over Loughborough.
But, if we take the context of the pressure of that environment, in front of a big crowd, against a team we’d had two very tight, ding-dong affairs with throughout the season and to have that level of execution and intensity from the off was a real positive.
As a coaching group we were thinking “Wow”. When we had the ball, we looked like scoring and defensively we were very much on top.
It was a very good first forty minutes and put us in a wonderful place at 27 – 0 up but ultimately, we had to remember as a group that Harlequins are a very good side. Half-time was a case of “nothing’s been won, we have to go out there and manage the game.”
However, that first half is something that we can hopefully aspire to be a benchmark level for us rather than just be something we hit now and again.
The challenge is that we played that well for forty minutes, can we build on that and play that well for 80 minutes, and that’s what we’re striving to do.
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