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Saracens Women’s mixed season continues after Rob Cain’s side fell to a defeat at the hands of Aylesford Bulls in Round Six of the Women’s Premiership on Sunday. A late fight back from the home side wasn’t enough as a well drilled Bulls side took their chances to claim a bonus point win at Allianz Park.
Saracens started brightest, starving the visitors of any ball and earning multiple penalties in the early exchanges. The first points of the afternoon came courtesy of inside centre Zoe Harrison as Aylesford were penalised for a deliberate knock on at the base of the scrum. It took sevens minutes for Bulls to get their first touch on the ball as they looked to unleash their backline but were denied by the thunderous tackling of centre Seraphine Okemba. Sarries continued to threaten but were left frustrated, leaving the red zone empty handed after several outings. Despite a lack of possession it was the visitors who were first to cross the whitewash. A quick tap from a penalty and slick hands enough to see Deborah MacCormack over in the corner.
It was a physical affair from both sides as the turnovers came thick and fast, keeping both packs busy at scrum time. Flanker Lauren Newman, a linchpin of the Sarries defence, found herself a casualty of the bruising battle as she left the field injured to be replaced by Kathryn Robinson on the half hour mark.
Errors began to creep in for the home side allowing Bulls to build easy pressure and a loose kick through gifted the visitors possession and crucial territory. Sarries found themselves throwing in five metres from their own line and Bulls sensed an opportunity, forcing the knock on and then ramping it up at scrum time for Fiona Fletcher to drive over for their second.
Sarries had the opportunity to close the gap before half time as fly half Emily Scott expertly split the defence to link with skipper Sonia Green forcing Aylesford to give away the penalty. Harrison’s kick was denied by the woodwork giving the visitors chance to clear their lines and close off the first half with a nine point lead.
Aylesford struck again after the break as they patiently sniped around the fringes for prop Ellisha Dee to crash over in the corner. The introduction of Charlotte Barras in the midfield sparked some life into Sarries as she probed the Aylesford midfield with her direct running. Eager to keep the tempo high Sarries tapped quickly off a series of penalties but the new look Aylesford defence held out.
Sarries may have started to feel that this wasn’t to be their afternoon as a pass was intercepted by winger Michela Sillari who looked to have drifted offside but the referee played on allowing the Italian to cruise in under the posts. Things soon went from bad to worse for the home side as winger Jessica Wooden danced through the Sarries defence to score.
A handful of infringements at the breakdown eventually forced the referee to go to his pocket as Shaunagh Brown failed to roll away at the ruck. Saracens immediately capitalised following another breakdown penalty and Bryony Cleall ploughed over for her first try for the club. Growing in confidence and momentum Saracens began to unpick the Aylesford defence and Scott found the gap to score.
Sarries had an opportunity to pull back the losing bonus point with a penalty in front of the sticks but opted to go quick – Barras smashing through the line but the pass deemed forward. With time ticking away, the fight back proved too little too late as the final whistle blew leaving Sarries to fall to a 15-31 defeat.
Rob Cain’s side will need to regroup quickly this week as they face another big challenge in the form of league leader Bristol Ladies who are undefeated so far this season.
Speaking after the game, head coach Rob Cain said: “It’s disappointing not to get the result we wanted today. It’s frustrating that we keep showing real glimpses of what we are capable of and then forgetting it for large parts of the game. We keep on putting ourselves under needless pressure and giving the opposition too easy an opportunity to score points or have threatening field position. Charlotte Barras and Bryony Cleall didn’t forget and both made really big impacts off the bench and in the last 15 minutes Emily Scott showed why she is an international.
“Each week we are learning and we really believe in the players to be able to put a few key areas right. Today we learnt that the consequences of putting ourselves under pressure was points and too much of a hill to climb with 15 minutes to go.”
Tries: Cleall (66); Scott (75)
Cons: Harrison 0/1, Scott 1/1
Pens: Harrison (6)
Replacements used: Robinson for Newman (30); Cleall for Fleetwood (40); Barras for Harrison (55); Peedle for Vistisen (65);
Tries: McCormack (21); Fletcher (32); Dee (48); Sillari (52); Wooden (59)
Yellow card: Brown (73)
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Aylesford Bulls Preview
|23/10/2016||3:30 pm||Women's Premiership||2016-17|