Mar 26, 2017
Saracens Women return to winning ways against DMP Sharks
Saracens Women rounded off the regular Premiership season with a 5-21 win against DMP Sharks at the Northern Echo Arena on Sunday.
A Vicky Fleetwood double plus eleven points from Zoe Harrison was enough to see the visitors home in a fast paced and physical encounter. Saracens had already secured their play off berth going into the game but were looking to get back on track following a disappointing exit in the Cup a fortnight ago. The two teams last met in the season opener back in September where Sarries put Sharks to the sword in a 57-0 victory. The home side were however much improved and quickly established a foothold in the match as energetic prop Heather Kerr converted Sharks pressure into points to drive over from close range after five minutes.
Fresh from her Grand Slam win with England, Fleetwood was quick to make her mark on her club return as Sarries stretched the Sharks defence for the hooker muscled over in the corner on the ten minute mark. Zoe Harrison added the extras.
Both teams had opportunities in the first half but failed to convert in an entertaining game which hung nicely in the balance. Sarries lock Ellie Gattlin was in the heart of the action with a series of rangey runs along with Player of the Match Rosie Galligan who posed a constant threat with every carry.
Harrison was close to crossing before the break as she spotted a gap but was dragged down inches short and efficient work by Sharks forced the turnover. The home side had opportunities of their own and made good ground through the strong carrying No8, Zoe Aldcroft. DMP broke from their own half and looked to be away however Fleetwood was on hand to track back, tackle and win a crucial turnover. With neither team able to break the deadlock, Sarries went into the break with a slender two point lead.
Saracens started the second forty brightly, with the new look front row including the experienced Fleetwood and Kerrie-Ann Craddock along with Premiership debutant Sarah Barber leading the charge to win a scrum penalty followed quickly by another as Sharks creaked with the mounting pressure. Sarries opted to kick into the corner but the lineout went awry allowing the home side to clear their lines.
Sarries scrum half Georgie Gulliver was excellent in raising the tempo and managing the game, leading to prolonged spells of possession for the visitors. Skipper Sonia Green seized an opportunity to break over 50 metres, however the offload to Gattlin metres from the line didn’t stick. Sarries had another chance minutes later following a string of Sharks infringements as a well worked catch and drive was dragged down but the subsequent quick tap went awry to let Sharks off the hook.
On the 65th minute Sharks looked likely to take the lead as they broke through the Sarries defence only to be stopped metres short. Quick thinking from Harrison at the breakdown saw her steal the ball and lead a rampage of her own, linking with winger Emma Uren and Fleetwood was on hand to finish; Sarries demonstrating how ruthless they can be in turning pressure on their own line into points at the other end of the field.
Harrison was involved again for Sarries third try of the afternoon as the young centre sliced through the Sharks defence in a superb solo effort to round off the match.
Speaking after the game, head coach Rob Cain said: “I am so happy for the players after a much improved performance. Their speed of thought, intent to play and ability to keep the ball allowed us to play some creative, positive rugby. Darlington came out of the blocks and the work rate of their ball carriers and continuous line speed forced us to problem solve and have patience to look for opportunities. We have a fun few weeks leading up to our semi final play off and we intend to enjoy them together.”
Saracens Women will travel to league leaders Bristol Ladies in the semi final on Sunday 9th April.
DMP Sharks 5 Saracens Women 21
Tries: Fleetwood (10, 65); Harrison (70)
Cons: Harrison 3/3
Replacements used: Roby for Green (52); K.Evans for Hamlyn Williams (58); Goddard for Gulliver (65); Stodter for Newman (68); Stephenson for Craddock (71); Blindell for Fleetwood (71); Bloomfield for White (72)
Player of the Match: Rosie Galligan