In the semi-final 2nd versus 3rd playoff of the RFU Women’s Premiership, Lichfield travelled to Allianz Stadium, by virtue of Saracens higher finishing league position. Both teams put on a fantastic game of rugby, befitting of the occasion.
Both sides started strongly, with Lichfield able to repel the early Saracens attacks. As the game developed Lichfield took control, particularly in the scrum and the lineout. This gave Lichfield extensive possession of the ball in Saracens territory, but Lichfield were unable to break through the extremely well organised Saracens defence. As Lichfield increased the pressure, Saracens were forced to give away an increasing number of penalties and Sarah Nicholas was unlucky to hit the post with Lichfield first penalty kick attempt.
It was Saracens who scored first, against the run of play, when after a break on the wing and quick recycling, Hannah Gallagher scored under the posts after 25 minutes, the conversion made it 7-0. Lichfield immediately upped the intensity and within 3 minutes were level after a Roz Jermine try converted by Sarah Nicholas. Lichfield continued on the offensive, with Saracens forced into defence, but failed to break through until the 37th minute when Harriet Mills stole the ball 35 metres out and finished superbly in the corner to give Lichfield a 12-7 half time lead.
In the second half, Saracens came out and immediately increased the pace of their game. Despite continuing to struggle in the scrum, they started to gain more of the ball and clinically finished two opportunities in the 52nd and 65th minutes through Lauren Cattell and Poppy Cleall, with one conversion giving them a 19-12 lead.
Refusing to be beaten, Lichfield continued to threaten Saracens and in the last minute of the game Lichfield were only stopped from levelling the game by last ditch defence after a superb Holly Aitchison break. But Saracens held on and secured their place in next week’s final with a 19-12 win.
Commenting on the match, Lichfield’s Head Coach Rich Bennett said “Despite the result, I am immensely proud of the whole team, they put in an outstanding performance and were only just beaten by a very experienced Saracens side, who were champions last season.
We are still a very young team and with a bit more composure when opportunities are created, we will turn games like this into wins. Saracens deserve great credit, they were outstanding in defence when we had them under huge pressure in the first half.
The effort and commitment from the Lichfield team was exceptional and this was a fantastic learning experience which will only strengthen the team for the future”
|10/01/2016||3:30 pm||Premiership Semi-Finals||2015-16|