MATCH REPORT | SARACENS WOMEN 32-12 HARLEQUINS
A power cut just before kick-off couldn’t stop Saracens, as Alex Austerberry's side triumphed over London rivals Harlequins at StoneX Stadium.
After some physical opening exchanges, it was Saracens who opened their account first, with Jess Breach cutting a hard line through the Harlequins defence before dotting down in the corner. Whilst Breach's turn of pace was special, Kelsey Clifford's inside pass was also a sight to behold.
Saracens were getting into their groove now and it wasn’t long before the rampage began, as Poppy Cleall combined with Marlie Packer, unleashing the co-captain who became acquainted with the left hand corner herself.
Despite a competitive kicking battle between Zoe Harrison and Bella Mckenzie after the restart, Harlequins could not open up the field, as Saracens continued to suffocate their London rivals.
The tries were continuing to flow, as series of well-worked carries took the the side back within striking distance. With some flowing handling again from a backline in top form, Coreen Grant was next to do down in that familiar left-hand corner.
There seemed to be two fullbacks on the pitch at the restart, as Cleall leapt up to collect the ball before barrelling up the field. From there, Saracens continued to assert their dominance with unwavering control, leaving the visitors unable to respond.
There were ten minutes left of the half when the bonus point was secured, as Harrison took the honours following some relentless pack pressure.
Four minutes later, wave after wave of barrelling runs from Saracens eroded the Quins try line defence again, and there was something of an inevitability that Cleall came away with another five points for their efforts.
In the final minutes of the first half the leaders offered no respite and denied any attempt from Harlequins to gain ground, as the visitors moved back and forth looking for a way through to no avail.
The tide seemed to turn after break though, as Harlequins emerged with a zip in their step.
McKenzie and Abby Dow linked up well, but it was Lagi Tuima who got the side on the board as she latched onto a poor pass from Saracens, with McKenzie adding the extras.
The Australian was growing into the game and finally got her reward, after a fend allowed her over the whitewash, despite a valiant defensive effort from Ella Wyrwas.
There was a huge blow for Saracens on the hour mark, as Harrison had to be helped from the field. In her absence, Sarah McKenna took the reigns at fly-half.
Both sides gave away penalties in a nervy ten minutes following this key change and in truth, the match turned into something of a slugfest.
Harlequins seemed to open up more however, and started using the full width of the pitch in attack but Saracens kept the threat at bay. The hosts continued to win those crucial breakdown battles, despite their London rivals knocking ferociously on the door.
Alex Austerberry’s side looked like they might strike again in the final ten minutes, as they continued camping out in the Harlequins’ 22, only for the opposition to clear their lines.
There would be a final flourish though, with Grant showing her class on the wing, by making key breaks in the outside channel. At the death, Saracens would finally power over for their sixth try.
The power of the pack was overwhelming, leaving Quins unable to withstand the pressure. In the end, it was one of last weekend’s try scorers Jodie Rettie, who crashed over, as he side romped to victory in a physical duel.
After this battle, Sarries have further solidified their third place spot in the league, with a number of key fixtures still to come.
Written by Elise Hammersley