Austerberry's Assessment | Head Coach full of praise for resilient squad
Alex Austerberry heaped praise on his Saracens team after a tumultuous week ended with a 30-26 victory against Bristol Bears and a guaranteed playoff spot.
Due to the effects of Storm Eunice, the Women in Black were forced to train away from StoneX Stadium before travelling to second-placed Bristol.
Sunday’s game tested the squad further, as Georgia Evans suffered a fracture to her arm which led to an hour’s stoppage whilst she received treatment.
But Sarries regrouped and delivered a bonus-point victory, making them the first side to secure an end of season playoff place.
“Sometimes you celebrate fantastic free-flowing rugby but today we celebrated a team that came together after challenging circumstances all week,” said head coach Austerberry.
“Certainly the beginning of the game was not a nice way to start, so to perform like that over the course of the match against a very good side, I’m immensely pleased.
“It’s another stepping stone in our journey to where we want to be this year.”
Wales second-row Evans went down just eight minutes into the encounter at Shaftesbury Park, and an injury to centre Cara Wardle soon followed.
Austerberry and his staff await a full assessment of both players and emphasised that the pair have the well-wishes of the whole club.
After the restart Alev Kelter starred once more, scoring half of Saracens’ 30 points including the game’s opening try.
A stunning interception score from Alysha Corrigan then helped the visitors open up a 17-0 lead before Bristol struck just prior to the interval.
But second-half scores from May Campbell and Poppy Cleall were enough to confirm victory despite the hosts finishing with both a try and losing bonus-point.
Austerberry said: “We might look back on this week and see it as one that made us as a team.
“Ultimately today’s response was a massively positive one, so we’re a step closer to being the team we know we have the potential to be.
“We’re going in the right direction.”
Kelter was deservedly named Player of the Match, but Corrigan, who ran from her own 22 to finish under the posts, scored the pick of the afternoon’s scores.
Austerberry reflected on her score: “Bristol offer a lot of attacking threats particularly out wide and create different pictures, so we were looking at the opportunity as to where we could press, and where we might have to be a little bit softer.
“To make the read and score the try, I’m really pleased for Alysha. She almost had another at the beginning of the second half!”
“She’s unbelievably hard working, absorbs a lot of information and is a real good player.
“It’s great to see her having momentum shifting moments in big games.”
Victory in the West Country was Saracens’ sixth on the spin and has helped to open up a six-point lead with a game in hand at the top of the Premier 15s.
Austerberry’s table-toppers return to the StoneX on Sunday. They welcome a Sale Sharks team who provided an immensely stern test in January’s return fixture.
Sarries recovered from a 14-0 deficit to win 41-26, and Austerberry warned of the threat Sale will pose despite their league position.
“I feel like I say this every week but every team is a real tough battle,” he said.
“Sale gave us some lessons up at their place so we have to be on our mettle and performing to the highest of standards, otherwise the result won’t go the way that we want.
“It’s another opportunity to build momentum.”
Written by Ben Hart.