Apr 24, 2017
Saracens Women end Premiership campaign in fourth spot
Saracens Women had to settle for a fourth place finish to their Premiership 2016/17 campaign as they fell to a 41-14 defeat to Lichfield Ladies at Sixways Stadium on Sunday.
Two first half tries from Emily Braund and an Emily Scarrett penalty for Lichfield, plus a score from Sarries Lotte Clapp, gave the Midlands outfit an eight point lead into the break but four second half scores was enough to see them secure third spot on the final league weekend.
There was little to separate the sides in the opening quarter as both enjoyed decent spells of possession, but resolute defence from both teams forced the errors and denied any genuine scoring opportunities. It was Lichfield who got on the board first through lock Emily Braund as she burrowed over from close range. Scarrett added a penalty to their tally five minutes later after to extend the lead.
Saracens found a spark of their own as Lotte Clapp darted through the Lichfield defence to cover 30 metres and the fullback was rewarded for her efforts as she touched down for first points - a well worked move straight off the training field saw Lauren Cattell spot the gap to offload to Clapp who was on hand to dart over. Zoe Harrison added the conversion to narrow Lichfield’s lead to a point. Sarries pressure continued to build with Bryony Cleall, Emma Uren and retiring prop Kerrie-Ann Craddock in her final Premiership match, making good yards as the Lichfield penalty count began to creep up leading to a yellow card for fullback Charlotte Pearce. The London side were unable to convert the extra player into points as execution at crucial times frustratingly escaped them.
Lichfield exerted some pressure of their own late on in the half as their primary ball carriers of Harriet Millar Mills and Amy Cokayne carried hard over the gain line. Millar Mills looked to be through but a crucial tackle from Clapp was enough to force the knock on. A solid Sarries scrum kept them at bay for Harrison to clear but there was still time for the lineout which Lichfield secured and recycled for Braund to cross for her second, giving them a 13-7 lead going into half time.
There was a sense of déjà vu for Rob Cain’s side as his side leaked a try straight after the break with Sarah Bonar crossing, followed two minutes later with another from Carys Williams extending the Midlands side’s lead to 27-7. A familiar tale to their outing against Bristol Ladies in the semi final in allowing the opposition to strike in quick succession either side of the break.
Sarries rang the changes in the halves on 45 minutes as Anna Goddard and Zoe Harrison were replaced by the experienced Georgie Gulliver and April Brown in an attempt to get a foothold back in the game. With the tempo up Sarries were able to string together some good phases but couldn’t penetrate a solid Lichfield defence. Hooker Kat Evans and captain Sonia Green were superb in the loose, proving a constant threat in attack and leading the defence with wolfpack intensity.
Despite Sarries appearing to be building towards a score it was Lichfield’s Natasha Jones who turned the screw, dotting down against the run of play to give last years finalists a mountain to climb with ten minutes remaining. Lichfield added to Sarries agony minutes later as the impressive Cokayne bundled over to get on the scoresheet and extend their lead to 41-7.
With the bench empty, Sarries continued to fight until the final whistle as Cleall bulldozed over and Cattell slotted an impressive long range conversion to reduce the deficit but the game was well beyond reach, consigning Saracens to a fourth place finish.
Speaking after the match, head coach Rob Cain said: “The play offs has showed where we are as a team and the semi final and final losses reflect our naivety at crucial times of games which unfortunately only comes through experience and steep learning curves. The first half we dominated large parts of the game but couldn’t get our execution right to turn that pressure into points. The second half we were our own worst enemies and as well as Lichfield putting pressure on us we were guilty of putting ourselves under enormous pressure as well. We showed when we are at our best we can be dangerous and our very well taken tries show that. After having such a battle getting into the playoffs we knew what challenges lay ahead, and our challenge is to make sure these steep learning curves, as painful as they are, help us to evolve from a semi finals team to a finals team.”
Lichfield Ladies 41 – 14 Saracens Women
Tries: Clapp (28); Cleall (78)
Cons: Harrison 1/1; Cattell 1/1
Replacements used: Newman for Roby (40); Gulliver for Goddard (45); Brown for Harrison (45); White for Uren (60); Hobson for Gattlin (70); Barber for Craddock (72); Bloomfield for Clapp (72)
Tries: Braund (18,40); Bonar (41); Williams (43); Jones (71); Cokayne (76)
Cons: Scarrett 4/7
Pen: Scarrett x 1
Yellow cards: Pearce (34)