IN THEIR FIRST HOME MATCH OF THE SEASON, SARACENS DELIGHTED THEIR RETURNING FANS WITH AN EMPHATIC 38-7 WIN OVER LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING AT A SUNNY STONEX STADIUM.
The victory was built on an array of sparkling backline moves and a solid defence, securing Saracens their third win of the season.
A player of the match performance from fly-half Zoe Harrison propelled Saracens – full of excellent distribution, pinpoint kicking, and two tries of her own.
The home side wasted no time in taking the game to Loughborough. Not long after kick-off, Centre Holly Aitchinson broke through the defence, passing to captain Lotte Clap who opened the scoring, marking her third try of the season.
Sarries kept the pressure on, and their effort soon paid dividends. Harrison received the ball just shy of the Loughborough 22m; taking advantage of the scrambled defence that lay before her, she showed quick thinking and even quicker footwork to jink her way through all the way to try line. She converted her own try to take the score to 14-0.
Loughborough soon started to gain their own momentum, however. Lightning Winger Amanda Swarts broke through down the right, and the ball was moved quickly to the left-hand side of the pitch for Fran Goldthorp to charge into the Sarries 22. But the home side’s defence stayed rigid, turning Loughborough’s momentum into their own and forcing a penalty, from which Harrison cleared convincingly.
Harrison consistently marshalled the team into the Loughborough 22 with her pinpoint kicking, and try number three came as a result of this. After winning a lineout in Lightning’s 22, some neat handling from the Sarries backs got the ball wide to Sarah McKenna, who spun out of the tackle and touched down for the third try. Harrison predictably converted and extended the lead to 21-0.
Saracens then had Poppy Cleall to thank for their fourth try, marking her 100th appearance in style. She picked up from the base of scrum and barrelled towards the Loughborough line before she was dragged down just short. A few phases later and she had her hands on the ball again, popping to Marlie Packer in the tackle who crashed over the line.
Not long after however, Cleall was yellow carded and sent to the sinbin for giving away a scrum penalty deep in her own 22, for which Lightning were awarded a penalty try, making the score 28-7.
The second half was a much quieter affair. Loughborough began to mix up their attack with a variety of kicks out of hand to take Saracens off guard. Although Sarries repelled their offensive waves, they couldn’t fully regain control of the match.
Saracens continued to show the attacking excellence they displayed in the first half, but a mix of handling and set piece errors meant they had little to show for it so far.
The home side came agonisingly close to their first score of the second half after scrum half Ella Wyrwas grubber kicked into the Lightning 22. With Cara Waddle chasing, Saracens looked set to score, but Loughborough regathered and shut down the attack.
They took their time, but Saracens all but cemented the win when they finally scored their fifth try of the match. McKenna made another electric run into the opposition 22, followed by some excellent work by the forwards resulting in Donna rose crashing over the line.
Harrison grabbed her second of the day shortly before full-time. Another dazzling piece of attacking rugby sent Saracens into Loughborough’s 22, from which the forwards carried well, allowing Harrison to touch down from a few metres to put the icing on the cake for Saracens.
REPORT FROM SARRIES’ WEBSITE _ BY OLI SHAPLEY