Jan 21, 2017
Saracens Women slip but secure Premiership play off slot
Saracens Women fell 27-43 to Premiership leaders Bristol Ladies on a chilly afternoon at Allianz Park on Sunday. Despite the loss the home side clocked five tries, including a hat-trick from Garnet Mackinder, to earn a bonus point and secure their top four play off place with two games remaining.
Four first half tries for the Westcountry side courtesy of England internationals Marlie Packer and Amy Wilson Hardy and two after the break for Poppy Cleall and Izzy Noel Smith was enough to give them the win. Garnet Mackinder bagged two of her own in the first forty and one in the second, along with Emma Uren and Bryony Cleall in a late fightback from Sarries.
Bristol Ladies opened their account after just three minutes as Marlie Packer muscled her way over from close range to give the visitors an early lead. A series of uncharacteristic handling errors from Saracens stifled their ability to get a foothold in the game and they were punished when Amy Wilson Hardy sliced through for Bristol’s second. Saracens top try scorer Garnet Mackinder was on hand to get the homes side on the board on the 27 minute mark, sneaking her way over with an impressive finish in the corner.
A communication error in the Sarries backline cost them on the half hour mark as Bristol pounced on a loose ball to score through Amy Wilson Hardy. The visitors struck again five minutes later, Marlie Packer capitalising on another Sarries error. Saracens responded before the break as the ball was shipped quickly wide with Mackinder on the end to score. The final act of the first half was not positive for Sarries as flanker Becky Roby was shown yellow for an infringement at the breakdown reducing the home side to 14.
Despite being a player down, Saracens started the second half brightly applying pressure and forcing multiple penalties as they stretched the Bristol defence with winger Emma Uren crossing the whitewash. The visitors responded as Poppy Cleall scored against her former club, followed a few minutes later by England team mate Izzy Noel Smith on the end of a driving maul.
Sensing the game slipping away from them, Saracens made a number of changes which seemed to inject some much needed energy to the mix. Nineteen year old Anna Goddard upped the tempo coming on at scrumhalf and Seraphine Okemba dealt some bonecrunching tackles to give Sarries momentum. The pressure soon converted into points as a Cleall got on the scoresheet for the second time of the afternoon, this one for Sarries number 8, Bryony Cleall.
Mackinder notched up her hat trick in the final minutes to secure the all important bonus point and guarantee Saracens their play off place. The side now switch their focus to the National Cup during the Six Nations period, with the final league match scheduled for the end of March.
Speaking after the match coach Rob Cain said "Today capped off a huge turn around from the players by getting the bonus point we needed to qualify for the playoffs which back in October looked beyond us. We weren't at our best today, leaked too many easy tries and made too many unforced errors but full credit to Bristol, they dominated large parts of the game and showed again why they are topping the league table. Today was all about getting over the finish line and making top four and now we get to build on even more during the cup campaign and preparing for our semi final play off game."
Final Score: Saracens Women 27 – 43 Bristol Ladies
Tries: Mackinder (27, 38, 79); Uren (44); B Cleall (75)
Cons: Harrison 1/5
Yellow Card: Roby (39)
Tries: Packer (3, 35); Wilson-Hardy (22, 31); P Cleall (47); Noel-Smith (51)
Cons: Jones 3/3; Atwood 2/3