MATCH REPORT | Saracens Women 17-36 Harlequins Women
The Duel lived up to its name. An intense grudge match between two bitter rivals, unfortunately resulting in Saracens’ first league loss of the season to London rivals Harlequins 17-36.
Saracens came into the game full of momentum after victory over the former league leaders Bristol last weekend.
Both teams started at breakneck speed, typifying the type of game it would turn out to be. Harlequins threatened the home side with their pacey attack, platformed by the neat handling and distribution of Emily Scott. The backfield duo of Ellie Kildunne and Heather Cowell caused problems for the Women in Black, the latter making a break down the wing into the Sarries 22, only to be excellently stopped by Zoe Harrison and knock the ball on.
Sarries stayed firm soaked up Quins’ attacks, however, and took control of the game with the opening try through May Campbell.
The hooker held the ball at the back of a rampaging Sarries maul, crashing over to put five points on the board. Zoe Harrison duly added the two points bringing the score to 7-0 with just under 20 minutes played.
Harlequins hit back not long after with a maul try of their own. It was Jade Konkel who touched down for the visitors, holding the ball at the back of the maul and crashing over. A yellow card for Poppy Cleall added salt in the wounds for Sarries.
Three points from Harrison gave the home side some breathing space, before Quins hit back with a second maul try, making the most of Cleall’s absence. This time it was Fi Fletcher who dotted over. Lagi Tuima made the conversion and Quins had the lead at the StoneX 12-10.
Much to the frustration of the home crowd, Quins’ refused to dial down the pressure. Their third try was an individual effort from fly-half Emily Scott, who dummied the pass and broke through the Sarries line and sprinted towards the try line. The conversion was once again good, and Quins went into halftime with a 19-10 lead.
Despite some promising moments, Saracens failed to get a foothold in the first half. Issues at the set-piece worked in Harlequins’ favour and the StoneX looked set for a blockbuster second half.
Harlequins brought their first-half ferocity into the second. The lineout once again proved to be their bread and butter, and ten minutes in they had already secured their bonus point when No 8 Sarah Beckett scored off a well-executed lineout peel.
Saracens struggled to get into the game, and a fifth try almost came for the visitors when Rachel Burford broke through the middle of the pitch, the ball was delivered out to Scott who looked set for her second score if not for some excellent scramble defence from the home side.
Like numerous times this season with their backs against the wall, Saracens refused to die down. The forwards kept going, and Harrison kicked the team into Quin’s 22 from a penalty. They kept possession in the Quins 22, and Botterman scored from Cleall’s pass from the tap and go. Harrison converted the score, and with 15 minutes to go, Saracens looked up for a comeback.
Unlike against Gloucester-Hartpury, the wonder comeback was not to be. If the win wasn’t already confirmed for Harlequins, it certainly was when Konkel scored her second of the day and Quins’ fifth.
It marked the end of a frustrating game for Saracens, who failed to really get a foothold in an intense game. Full credit goes to Harlequins, who kept a strong Saracens team at bay and captured a hard-fought win.
Sarries will look to bounce back next week against Sale Sharks at Heywood Road.
Written by Rhys Jones.