- Season opening wins for Bristol, Richmond, Worcester & Wasps
- Tough start for Premiership newcomers Thurrock
The first weekend of the Women’s Premiership saw wins for Bristol, Worcester, Wasps and reigning champions Richmond, with all teams grabbing a bonus point.
In one of the biggest clashes of the weekend, title holders Richmond travelled to north London to take on Saracens, who finished second in the league last season.
Although the rivalry was fierce, Richmond clearly had lost none of their class over the summer months and stamped their authority on the game early on, running in three tries to nil in the first half.
A younger looking Saracens side hit back after the break but in the end Richmond ran away with the game running in another five tries, including one for England international Claire Allan who was returning to action after a lengthy injury lay-off. There were also tries for Alice Richardson, Abigail Chamberlain, Nicola Hoole and Gemma Rowland, making the final score 50-19.
Premiership newcomers Thurrock had a tough awakening to life in the top tier of women’s league rugby when they took on an experienced Wasps outfit at Twyford Road on Sunday and lost 49-5.
Thurrock battled hard throughout but Wasps showed their quality and intent for the season and an early try for Lynsey Douglas put the home side ahead.
Despite a strong Thurrock defence, Wasps continues to dominate the first half with Jane Leonard making an impact on her return from injury, showing quick reactions to pick up loose balls and make impressive breaks. Wasps went on to score some well worked tries by forwards Laura Quinn, Jess Bain and Charlie Veale making the score 22-0.
Thurrock started the second half with intensity and pressure on Wasps’ five-metre line but struggled to get the points on the board. Instead Wasps made the most of their opportunities with tries from Natasha Brennan and another for Douglas.
Thurrock came close though with new signing Rachel Burford making a run out-wide, only to be pushed into touch by fellow England star Michaela Staniford. The resulting play, however, brought them close to the try line and this time they came away with the points with Jo Convoy crashing over out-wide.
Wasps didn’t let Thurrock back into the game and scored further tries through Douglas, Leonard and Sarah McKenna.
Photo: Neil Kennedy
In the Midlands derby Worcester came out 34-22 winners against neighbours Lichfield and the early tempo of the game dictated the match with England Sevens star Joanne Watmore touching down within minutes.
Megan Goddard and Emily Scarratt exchanged penalties but some strong work in the contact area by Worcester led to scrum half Sarah Guest scoring followed by another try, this time by England prop Rochelle Clark, before the break.
Lichfield came out into the second half with renewed vigour, and the points duly came with tries for Vicky Jackson and Harriet Millar-Mills.
Only five points adrift and it looked like Lichfield would make a late comeback, but Worcester and England flanker Heather Fisher was in fine form and with a trademark powerful break through several defenders she scored under the posts. Worcester’s Karen Jones then rounded off the afternoon with a final try.
With a big crowd and a brand new playing venue, Bristol secured an impressive 33-7 win over Darlington Mowden Park Sharks – a side they lost twice to last season.
Kate Hancock opened the scoring for the home side, but DMP were back in the thick of it with England captain Katy McLean also touching down. McLean converted to level the scores after 30 minutes, but a converted try for Amber Reed handed Bristol the lead at the break.
Bristol upped the ante after the restart when Sasha Acheson, having a fantastic game at prop, stormed her way through the DMP defence. Reed then sent a kick straight up the middle of the field for winger Mary-Ann Gittings to score in the corner.
DMP replied with some well-worked phases and fortunately for Bristol, Claire Molloy turned the ball over on the line to stop them scoring.
Bristol continued to play with domination in the scrums and creating space for the backs to try some new set-plays. A well executed cross-field kick from Reed reached replacement Rhiannon Parker who was tackled on the touchline but managed to flick the ball inside for Hancock to score a bonus point try for Bristol. Bristol closed out the game with a fifth try thanks to Amy Wilson-Hardy.
Premiership action continues on Sunday, September 16 with Richmond hosting Wasps in a London derby, Saracens taking on Bristol, Thurrock playing their first Premiership game at home to Lichfield and DMP travelling to Worcester.