MATCH REPORT | Harlequins 19-10 Saracens Women
It isn’t how you start; it’s how you finish. In the end, it wasn’t to be at The Stoop, as Harlequins Women secured bragging rights against Saracens Women.
It all started so brightly for Alex Austerberry’s side, as they pressurised Harlequins in attack and peppered them with the kicking game. The returning Lotte Clapp picked a sumptuous line to put Harlequins under pressure, but her side were unable to capitalise as the quartered defensive wall stood firm.
The final pass wasn’t quite clicking though for Saracens, with Isla Alejandro tracking back superbly to stop the onrushing Emily Scott.
Stoppages were dictating what was becoming a bitty match, but with nearly twenty minutes on the clock, the game sprung into life, as Alejandro carved through the Harlequins defence to feed Cara Wardle.
The centre raced away and looked to find captain Clapp, who was stopped just short of the line. The ball was recycled quickly though, with Alex Ellis on hand to power over for a brilliant team try.
Things were looking rosy at this point for Saracens, as May Campbell continued to be a menace at the breakdown, securing multiple turnovers for her side.
It wasn’t long though until she was back doing what she has done so often this season, as she crossed from the back of a driving maul for her fifth score in the league.
Despite the ten-point lead, Saracens were still struggling to maintain a foothold in the match, as Harlequins roared back into the contest with their own power game from the pack.
With half an hour on the clock, they had their first of the afternoon, as the referee awarded a penalty try and sent Campbell for a ten-minute breather.
It was two in as many minutes for Quins moments later, as fly half McKenzie burst through the Saracens defence to skate over and put her side into the lead for the first time in the afternoon.
With the pressure mounting, Flo Williams was unable to convert a penalty for her side, but the returning Sydney Gregson powering up to the 22. Her side though, were unable to take advantage, in what was becoming a slightly familiar tale.
As the second half kicked off, Saracens hunted a quick response, and they had a perfect opportunity with a 5m lineout.
There was to be more frustration though, as the hosts wrestled back possession of the ball and cleared their lines.
Injuries were mounting now, with both Jodie Turl and Georgia Evans helped from the field, as Harlequins continued their assault on the Saracens line.
The defensive line repeatedly held firm but eventually, the dam burst, as Tove Viksten muscled over from close range, with McKenzie adding the conversion to take her side nine points ahead.
There was still time for Saracens, with Williams trying a delicate crossfield kick, but the handling again let the side down when it mattered.
Chances were still there for Saracens, with Gregson, Clapp and Hannah Casey all punching holes in the Harlequins defence. However, time and time again the hosts held firm and forced Saracens into a mistake.
It was beginning to feel like one of those days for Alex Austerberry’s side, as they couldn’t quite make the pressure count.
One final opportunity arose after a clever break from Ella Wyrwas but from the driving maul, Harlequins held firm.
Harlequins cleared long and with the crowd thinking that time was up, there was still an opportunity from the lineout, as the hosts lost the ball.
In the end though, it just wasn’t to be, as the Harlequins defence held out one final time.
Whilst there will be understandable disappointment within the Saracens ranks, there is still plenty of time to go this season.
With internationals still to come back into the fold, there will be plenty to improve upon from this performance for Alex Austerberry’s side.
Attention now turns to next week’s clash with Gloucester-Hartpury, where Saracens will be hoping that home comforts pay dividends.