The first weekend of the season opened with some interesting results including wins for Aylesford Bulls, Saracens and Richmond and a draw between Worcester and Lichfield.
Wasps kicked off the season on Saturday against Saracens and took an early lead with a try from Becca Rowe, converted by Hannah Edwards. Saracens hit back with an unconverted try from their new American winger Emilie Bydwell before Maggie Alphonsi gave them a 10-7 lead.
Wasps hit back with a second try for Rowe to give them a 12-10 lead at halftime.
The second half saw a continuation of the fast, dynamic rugby from both sides. Saracens made it over the try line twice, with scores from Lauren Cattell and another from Alphonsi to stretch their lead to 12-22. Wasps scored in the final minutes with Michaela Staniford scoring out wide and Edwards converting however Saracens held on for the win. Final score 19-22.
The action then switched to Sixways where Worcester took on Lichfield after the men’s Championship match. A crowd of around 1,000 people stayed to watch a tense affair which ended 24-24, each side scoring 3 converted tries and a penalty.
Worcester opened the scoring with a penalty from Megan Goddard before Lichfield centre Vicky Jackson gave them the lead with Tash Jones converting. Steph Johnson then gave Worcester the lead with her try, converted by Ceri Large before Lichfield got their 2nd try with an interesting decision to award a penalty try. Lichfield then drew level with a penalty from Sarah Nicolas to take the score to 17-17 at half time.
Each side scored one more try in the 2nd half with Sam Bree giving Worcester the lead, again converted by Large but Lichfield had the final say with 2nd row Emily Braund driving over the line and Nicolas converting for the 24-24 draw.
Sunday saw DMP Sharks travel to Aylesford Bulls for an early kick off. Aylesford won their previous muddy encounter last season and were looking to start their season strongly.
The Sharks took the lead after 7 minutes with a try from centre Laura Levi before their winger grabbed a 2nd to give them a 12-0 lead in the first quarter of the match.
The Bulls fought back with several close calls on the Shark’s line but it was a penalty from Florence Williams that got them on the scoreboard, 3-12 at halftime.
The 2nd half saw the Bulls fight back. A more urgent defensive line speed combined with prop Caz Olwa powerfully clearing out rucks and flanker Liz Philp a strong contender at the breakdown led to more possession and ground gained for the Bulls. Sarah Riordan the Bulls got the ball to full back Debs Harwood, who sailed over the try line for the team’s first try of the season, with Williams converting to get within 2 points, 10-12. Riordan scored their next try, with Williams converting, to take them 17-12 ahead before Williams kicked another penalty for a 20-12 lead.
The Sharks scored their final try on 75 minutes but the Bulls were able to hold out for the win. Final score 20-17.
The final match of the weekend saw Bristol travel to Richmond, who got their title defence off to a perfect start with a 7-try win. Richmond opened the scoring after 2 minutes with winger Oli Davies scoring in the corner. Alice Richardson got the 2nd a few minutes later and Jo Watmore added a third on the half hour mark, converted by Richardson to give Richmond a 17-0 lead.
Bristol hit back on halftime with Ireland’s Claire Molloy bursting through tackles to score. Rebecca Hughes converted. 17-7.
The 2nd half proved to be a one-sided affair with Richmond running in 4 tries; 2 more from Watmore, one for Hannah Field and one for Rowena Burnfield. With Richardson expertly controlling the game from 10, Richmond were always on the front foot. Bristol’s Siobhan Longdon Hughes was a constant threat in the centre and made several breaks but was too often let down by her support. Final score 41-7.
Photo courtesy of AJB Photographic www.ajbphotographic.co.uk