MATCH REPORT | Worcester Warriors 15-38 Saracens Women (AP15s Rd16)
There’s a lot to be said for winning when your backs are against the wall.
Down to fourteen players for the best part of an hour, Saracens showed a real steeliness, to secure what could prove to be a seismic bonus point win at Worcester.
It was somewhat of a sticky start for Sarries, despite an early score, and matters were made worse with Hannah Botterman’s red card.
With Exeter losing to West Country rivals Bristol in the early kick-off, this was a chance for Saracens to close the gap on the top two.
It was nearly a flying start too, as Sydney Gregson punctured a hole in the defence and burst through a gap, only for the Warriors to survive.
It would prove to be temporary respite though for Worcester, as Saracens opened their account with a huge opening salvo.
After Georgia Evans had burst through a gap, she found Poppy Cleall on her outside, to allow the second row to charge clear and bludgeon her way over the line.
Sarries were flying, but handling errors and a lapse of discipline allowed the Warriors to gain a foothold that they would not relinquish.
With a penalty advantage coming their way, the Warriors kept it tight, allowing Carys Phillips to burst free from the back of a maul, to dot down and level the scores.
Worcester were in the driving seat now, as they continued to pepper the Saracens 22 with waves of attack.
The crucial moment though, arrived on the twenty-minute mark, as Botterman was given a straight red for a comment made to the referee in the midst of a scrum, reducing Saracens to 14.
Vicky Foxwell edged her side ahead from the tee, with Saracens staring down the barrel of a huge test.
In truth, it took Saracens a while to warm to their task of playing a player down, but once they had figured out the game plan, they executed it superbly.
With Mackenzie Carson thrust into the action at loosehead, the scrum continued its dominance, drawing a penalty that allowed Holly Aitchison to drill the ball into the corner.
From there, there could only be one outcome for the visitors, as Marlie Packer plunged over to retake the lead.
Time was ticking away at the end of the first period, but there was still time for a significant score, as Worcester fell on the wrong side of the referee, allowing Aitchison to put her side back in the red zone.
Keeping it tight was the name of the game, and Saracens did just that with the clock in the red, as Georgia Evans eventually muscled her way over. Aitchison continued her fine afternoon of the tee, to give her side breathing space at the break.
Not long into the second half, Saracens had the bonus point, thanks to Jess Breach.
After Lotte Clapp cottoned on to a superb kick through from Aitchison, Saracens spun the ball wide, with Cleall feeding Breach to scamper away for a significant fourth try of the match.
Saracens looked to be in command, but the Warriors would hit back as Vicky Laflin found space on the outside, to cut the gap to 11.
Alex Austerberry’s side dug deep though, to hit back almost immediately.
With Gregson leaping through the sky to grab the ball at the restart, Sarries secured a penalty and looked for the corner.
Worcester did well to disrupt the initial maul, but the pressure eventually told, with Grace Moore the one to dart over.
Moore was in the thick of the action moments later, as she tracked down a long kick through from Packer to seal a penalty for her side, as Saracens continued to press the accelerator.
If there was any doubt about the result beforehand, Saracens made sure that it was eroded shortly after, with a sumptuous score.
With Aitchison picking off a superb intercept, May Campbell burst through the middle of the defence, releasing Packer for her second.
Sarries would have to see out wave after wave of Worcester pressure in the final ten minutes, with Clapp sent to the bin, but the visitors held out.
This was a championship performance from Sarries and one that will give them serious belief heading into the final two games of the season.
The race for a home semi-final, is really heating up.