MATCH REPORT | Bristol Bears 5-36 Saracens Women (AP15s – Rd9)
Saracens Women turned on the style, as they overwhelmed Bristol Bears at Shaftesbury Park.
This was a clinical performance from Alex Austerberry’s side, as they scored five tries in all on a hugely impressive afternoon in the Westcountry.
There was little sign of what was to come in the first ten minutes, as Bristol peppered the Saracens defensive wall with several hard carries. The defence stood firm for large parts of the opening period, as Bristol sent the heavy artillery into contact.
Eventually though, the pressure told, as Rownita Marston crashed over from close range, with Poppy Cleall seeing yellow for an infringement at the breakdown prior to the score.
Saracens had been starved off possession in the opening fifteen minutes but when a chance came their way, they made no mistake, as Jess Breach crossed for a stunning score.
Playing off the inside of Player of the Match Zoe Harrison, the fullback burst through a gap and accelerated away for a sumptuous score.
Shortly after, Saracens were in for a second, with Lotte Clapp showing some serious power to cross out wide.
This was another sweeping backs move, as Harrison and Breach combined to release the USA Eagle into space. With the covering defence tracking her down, Clapp showed some impressive physicality to muscle her way over.
Despite the Bears holding the lions share of possession, it was Saracens who continued to look the most threatening, with Marlie Packer taking on half of the Bristol defence with a typically industrious carry through the heart of the blue wall.
Saracens had been at their clinical best in the first half, taking their two chances in the attacking third, but they still had to be on their guard in defence, as Bristol continued to threaten out wide through Grace White.
It came to nothing though, as Sarah McKenna showed all of her experience to stunt the attack and force a knock-on.
As the second half got underway, Bristol continued to apply the pressure in the Saracens 22, but again, the defence stood firm.
With the half progressing, Saracens’ power up front was starting to come to the fore, as they deprived Bristol of their main attacking weapon.
The pendulum was swinging in Saracens’ favour now, as the driving game of the pack began to shunt the Bears backwards at a rate of knots.
It was from there that the third try of the afternoon game, as the side mauled their way up to the line, allowing Packer to burrow over from close range.
Whereas it had been Bristol who had probed in the first half; Saracens were now the side setting the agenda on the afternoon.
With a penalty advantage coming, Harrison looked for Clapp with a pinpoint crossfield kick, only for it to be patted out of the air by the Bristol defender.
That mattered little though, as Saracens went back to the power game to secure the bonus point. Again, it came from a series of bludgeoning carries from the pack, with Cleall the one to eventually pounce from close range.
Into the final quarter, and Saracens continued to apply the pressure, with Georgia Evans showing her prowess at lineout time to steal Bristol ball. With Kelsey Clifford then pouncing to secure a turnover, Ella Wyrwas kicked into the backfield, forcing Bristol into a goal line dropout.
From Elinor Snowsill’s restart, Sarah McKenna wasted no time in showcasing a touch of pure class.
Collecting the ball on the 10m line, the centre looked up and aimed for the sticks. After flying through the air, the ball bounced off the crossbar and over, for a quite incredible drop goal that left all in attendance applauding.
Knowing that the game was beyond them, the Bears looked to up the ante in the Saracens 22, only for yet another turnover from the Saracens backrow to halt their charge.
With the maul drawing repeated penalties, Saracens again applied the pressure, with Sharifa Kasolo pouncing from close range to extend her side’s advantage.
Harrison again added the extras, as Saracens moved beyond the thirty point mark.
The game was now in its final thralls, wit Saracens aptly finishing the match camped on the Bristol line. In the end, they weren’t able to convert the final opportunity, as the ball was held up, but that mattered little on a mightily impressive afternoon in the Westcountry.