Saracens Women made it two from two in the Tyrrells Premier 15s as they picked up a bonus point win in their first home match of the new season at Allianz Park. First half tries from captain Lotte Clapp, Sonia Green and Bryony Cleall put Sarries in the driving seat, and scores from Garnet Mackinder, Rowan White and a second for Cleall were enough to secure the win and make it a clean sweep for Sarries across the club.
Clapp got Sarries first points on the board after only ninety seconds when centre Nina Vistisen opened up the Loughborough defence and the ball was put through the hands for the captain to finish in the corner.
The visitors began to grow into the game and a strong carry from the lively no.8 Olivia Jones gave them decent field position to launch an attack. A penalty against scrumhalf Georgie Gulliver for offside at the scrum was taken quickly and prop Ofure Ugiagbe hammered her way over after a couple of tight phases to level the scores.
Sarries second try came courtesy of some solid forward work with Player of the Match Rosanna Moynihan demonstrating some fine aerial skills at lineout time, as they executed a well worked maul from a penalty for Green to crash over.
The home side found themselves a player short when Charlotte Barras was shown yellow for not rolling away, and with prop Sam Martinez Gion down injured but play continuing, were forced to defend with only 13. Despite the numerical advantage, Loughborough were unable to find a way through the Sarries defence and the woman in black held out. Martinez Gion made way for prop Hannah Botterman who made another critical impact on her introduction to the field following her Player of the Match performance against Firwood Waterloo last week. The eighteen year old showing skill beyond her years as she consistently broke the line to give Sarries front foot ball and move through the gears. A line break from the young prop saw her link with her front row teammate Loz Salisbury who was stopped just short of the line. Cleall sniffed an opportunity as she burrowed over on 36 minutes. Zoe Harrison converted to give Saracens a 17-5 lead at the break.
Saracens picked up where they left off in the first half and piled on early pressure on Loughborough’s defence. Cleall went close to scoring her second as she picked from the base of the scrum to crash over but a dogged defensive effort held her up on the line. The no.8 found herself in the thick of the action again minutes later as she hit Barras on a sublime line but the pass drifted forward and another opportunity was squandered. Sarries didn’t have to wait too long for their forth score however as Garnet Mackinder was given an opportunity to stretch her legs as she burst down the wing and secure the bonus point on 50 minutes.
A messy restart allowed Loughborough to get their hands on the ball and take a rare venture into the Sarries 22. The visitors took their chance and a well worked move off the scrum left Sarries short on the right hand side for flyhalf Natasha Jones to cross in the corner.
With both teams eager to move the ball about, the tries started to come in thick and fast with three scored in a period of just six minutes. Cleall got her well deserved second score of the afternoon as she latched onto the back of another powerful Sarries maul. The impressive Loughborough prop Ugiagbe notched up her second after another error from Sarries on the restart gifted the opposition valuable field position to strike.
In a game where the front row could have easily been as comfortable playing in the back three, Botterman looked to be in for a try of her own as she bounced off several white defenders on a bulldozing break from halfway but couldn’t quite make the final metres needed. It didn’t matter though as Sarries quickly recycled for replacement winger Rowan White to dot down. Harrison added the extras to extend Sarries lead to 34-15.
The league newcomers went down fighting as scrumhalf Lucy Nye scored with a couple of minutes remaining to earn a point from a well fought contest.
Speaking after the match, head coach Rob Cain said: “I thought we much improved from last week. That was the aim and the players exceeded that today so I was really pleased for them.
“Our attacking intent and execution was much better and we attacked the ball a lot harder which gave us great go forward and we played really well into the right space.
“Our set piece platform gave us some solid ball to play off and the character of the girls showed through again, both scoring a try when we had a sin bin and defending their line with 13 with an injured player and sin bin off.
“We still have lots to work on and the Loughborough scores were all a little disappointing as they were scenarios we created ourselves. Full credit to Loughborough for taking those opportunities and always responding when they’d conceded. We have another week to keep looking at a few areas and then focus on another big game away to Worcester.”
Photo credit – Phil Hutchinson