MATCH REPORT | Saracens Women 23-19 Loughborough Lightning
Well, it was definitely nerve-shredding. But in the end, Saracens Women held on, to secure a hugely important victory over Loughborough Lightning.
After a victory on the road last weekend, Saracens Women returned to home surroundings hunting a second victory of the cup campaign. Make no mistake, this was a physical, hard-fought victory and, on a blustery afternoon in Nort h London, a hugely significant show of character from Alex Austerberry’s side.
Early doors, it was Saracens who were controlling proceedings, with Abi Evans applying the pressure in defence.
With the pressure mounting on the away side, it was their former player Isla Alejandro who started to carve holes in the Lightning defensive wall.
Saracens were on the front foot now and went close after two huge carries from Taryn Schutzler and Sharifa Kasolo. Sadly though, an infringement at the breakdown from Saracens let the visitors off the hook.
It didn’t take too long though for Saracens to make the first inroads in the match, with Kelsey Clifford powering over from close range, after a series of dominant carries around the fringes.
Clifford was enjoying herself now, as she pounced in the middle of the park to secure a turnover for her side.
Lightning though, were continuing to look dangerous and they hit back minutes later, as Katie Trevarthen crashed over, after Emma Hardy had kicked her side into an attacking position.
After so much early Saracens momentum, Loughborough had come back into the match now and were beginning to dictate proceedings. They would hit the front on the twenty-minute mark, as Maja Meuller crashed over from a driving maul, leaving Saracens in need of a response.
The game was swinging back and forth now. But, whenever Saracens have needed a score so far this season, May Campbell has been there to provide it.
It was no different here either, as the hooker found a gap in the Loughborough defensive line, to muscle her way over and level proceedings.
Whilst things weren’t quite clicking with the passing game, the pack were beginning to flex their muscles, with a huge scrum against the head forcing Loughborough backwards.
Saracens were continuing to press, with co-captain Fi McIntosh combining well with second-row partner Sophie Tansley to put their side back on the front foot.
It would come to nothing though, as Loughborough held out in the shadow of their own posts.
Pressure was continuing to build on the Lightning defence in the second period, as McIntosh and Kasolo continued to pressurise the Lightning breakdown.
With the tension beginning to build, another huge surge from the pack secured a penalty, with Lisa Martin coolly slotting the penalty to edge her side ahead.
Saracens were continuing to apply the pressure and, despite some confusion around the breakdown, they were continuing to edge into Loughborough’s 22.
With fifteen minutes left, the dam would finally burst, as Loughborough gave up three consecutive penalties at the maul.
Despite Lightning infringing again from the following lineout, there was no denying Campbell another score, as she crossed for her sixth in just three games.
If anybody in the stands thought that the game was done, they were very much mistaken though, as Loughborough begin to build the phases in and around the Saracens line.
With the pressure reaching fever-pitch, Saracens thought they had done the hard-work, as they held the visitors up over the line.
However, it was only a temporary reprieve for the side, as Lightning spread the ball wide to Georgie Lingham to dart over. With Hardy’s conversion, the gap was down to just a solitary point, with a little over three minutes left of the contest.
Saracens though, were not going to let this one slip away, as they hassled and harried the Lightning defence. After knocking the ball on over the line, the pack went to work, forcing the Lightning scrum into retreat over their own line.
With the clock well into overtime, a breakdown penalty came Saracens’ way, as they looked to see out the game.
After checking with the officials that time was up, Martin slotted the kick from in front of the posts, to see out the match and secure a hugely important victory.
It may not have been the prettiest of performances, but in terms of building the character and resolve of the side, this could prove to be a hugely significant result.