MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary's University

Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Saracens Women retain Premiership crown

Saracens Women retained their Tyrrells Premiership crown following an emphatic win in a repeat of last year’s final – defeating Harlequins Ladies 33-17 at Franklin’s Gardens.

The reigning champions dominated the early phases as the strength in their forward pack provided significant pressure onto the Quins’ defensive line and the first score of the game came with just five minutes on the clock as number eight Poppy Cleall heaved her way over the line.

Harlequins would have undoubtedly been disappointed with the start they made to the game – on a day which they had hoped to avenge their loss in the previous final – and having been the only team to beat Saracens throughout the entirety of this campaign.

Saracen’s dominance continued however as Sydney Gregson dotted down to put considerable distance between the two teams.

A further two tries from Zoe Harrison and a second of the day for Cleall resulted in the two sides going in at the break with the score-line 27-0.

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Harrison’s kicking was perhaps the only slight blemish to an otherwise terrific first-half performance from Sarries – and Harlequins were left to do some soul-searching in the dressing room during the interval.

The team-talk most definitely made an impact as Quins came out firing after the break. An Emily Scott penalty opened the scoring for Quins – however this was soon replied to by Harrison who sent a kick of her own from the tee between the posts.

Vickii Cornborough did manage to find form similar to her heroics in an England shirt during a fantastic Six Nations campaign just past the 45 minute mark as she capitalised on a loose ball from a scrum just inside the Sarries’ 22m line and she crossed over to narrow the gap between the sides.

Harlequins Captain Rachael Burford added a second try to put a much more respectable look upon the score-line – but the gap between the sides was ultimately too great at the half-time whistle and Saracens ran out worthy winners to retain their title for another year.

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Harrison spoke of her delight following the full-time whistle – stating that this year’s triumph felt even greater than the one twelve months prior.

She said: “We set out to get in their faces, push them backwards and hopefully put points on the board for us to help us win – then it was about not getting complacent, we still have another 45 minutes, we need to put it to them again.”

Harlequins co-head coach Gary Street also saw the opening encounters as where the game was won and lost.

Street said: “That last try was a real nail in the coffin and meant that it was just such a hard climb back and meant that we had to make poor decisions because we were chasing the game and if it had have been a bit closer we wouldn’t have had to chase it as hard as what we did. We were trying everything to come up with something.”

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As the curtain comes down on another season – it must also be seen as another step in the right direction for the sport of Women’s rugby. As record attendances were set during the Women’s Six Nations – 2,500 fans turned out for the Premiership final in Northampton.

Saracens’ Head Coach Alex Austerberry remains adamant however that the game must strive to grow greater upon each year.

“The game’s growing. Would it be right to have a full crowd there for the effort the players put in? For sure.” Austerberry explained: “We’ve got to go step by step and I think it will challenge the RFU and the clubs as well. How can we get people to come watch what is a fantastic spectacle.

“We’ve shown glimpses with the England game down in Exeter, we’ve seen over in France they get big numbers – if they’re doing it, how are they doing it? What can we learn? How can we do better?”