SARACENS WOMEN RETAIN TP15S TITLE IN 33 - 17 THRILLER AGAINST HARLEQUINS LADIES
Saracens Women produced a sensational display to retain their Tyrrells Premier 15s crown at Franklin’s Gardens, downing rivals Harlequins Ladies 33-17.
Alex Austerberry’s side saved their best for this final as they held a 27-0 half-time lead with player-of-the-match Poppy Cleall (2), Sydney Gregson and Zoe Harrison (2) all crossing.
Quins came out fighting in the second half as two scores threatened to set up a grandstand finale but the boot of Harrison ensured it was Sarries wouldn’t let go of their grasp on this trophy.
The defending champions drew first blood on three minutes as Sarries got their driving maul going to get within a metre and after a few phases it was Cleall who powered over.
Sarries were on the front foot again moments later when Gregson and Laura Newman both pierced holes in the Quins defence before the ball was held up over the line.
A strong 5m scrum from Sarries followed and after a few phases the ball was flung wide to Hannah Botterman, the prop then offloading to Gregson who went in unchallenged.
Quins eventually got a foothold in the game on 15 minutes as their ball carriers came into play to break into the Saracens 22 but an excellent turnover from Cleall – a menace at the breakdown all game - eased the pressure.
Gregson thought she had scored her second of the game on 17 minutes as she touched down out wide but the referee pulled play back as Quins and then Sarries had knocked on.
Keeping the pressure on though with possession inside Quins’ 22, Sarries capitalised on a scrappy line-out that fell kindly for Newman and after several phases the ball came to Harrison, who dummied a pass out wide and went in for 15-0.
It was another line-out on 25 minutes that led to Sarries’ fourth score – the driving maul doing the job once again before Cleall found her way to the line after a few pick and go’s.
A stunned Quins were on the back foot once more on 25 minutes as Rachael Burford gave away a penalty, allowing Harrison to kick the penalty to within five metres of their line.
And again after a strong driving maul it was Cleall who somehow wriggled her way over the ruck to reach out and score for 20-0.
Saracens were reduced to 14 as half-time approached as Jodie Rettie was shown a yellow card, the back-rower tackling Chloe Edwards as Quins took a quick penalty having not retreated 10 metres.
A strong defensive set from Sarries eventually saw Harrison clear upfield to relieve the pressure and it was to get even better before the break when the fly-half got her second.
An incredible carry from Botterman saw the prop make excellent ground in midfield, before the ball went wide and was recycled to Harrison to spot a gap and touch down.
Quins were on the board shortly after the break as Emily Scott kicked a penalty, while Harrison cancelled that out with three of her on just minutes later.
Vicki Cornborough gave Quins a lifeline on 55 minutes when the Sarries defence was finally breached, the prop grounding the ball after some heavy work from the forwards.
And when Burford grabbed her side’s second with 15 minutes remaining for 30-17 there was a slightly sniff of a comeback.
But another Harrison penalty with a few minutes remaining ensured Sarries would see this one through and go back to back in the Tyrrells Premier 15s.