- Worcester, Richmond and Wasps start season with wins
- Tough first outing for newcomers Aylesford
Photo: RFU Archive
The first round of the Women’s Premiership kicked off at the weekend with last year’s title contenders – Worcester and Richmond – recording heavy wins.
Reigning Premiership champions Worcester opened their season account with an impressive 77-12 win over newly promoted Aylesford Bulls. The league newcomers will no doubt have learned a lot from this encounter and will be looking to make more of an impact against Saracens next weekend.
Richmond, who finished second in the league last season, denied Darlington Mowden Park Sharks a first league win at their new home – The Northern Echo Arena – with a dominant 5-33 victory.
Richmond stated their intent early on, England lock Becky Essex powering over twice in the early stages for 12-0 lead. A third try came courtesy of Holly Myers, who finished off a slick move just right of the posts. Jackie Shiels converted, making the score 0-19 at the break.
The Sharks began the second-half with some excellent runs from their backs. Only a try saving tackle from Richmond fullback Oli Davies stopped England fly-half Katy Mclean from going over.
The home side continued to push hard, but Richmond’s defensive line remained solid and it was the Londoners, through Becky Ball, who were next to score against the run of play. Abi Chamberlain added the extras, making the score 0-26.
Richmond then rounded off a good afternoon’s work with a try from hooker Emma Croker. However, it was the Sharks who had the final word with new recruit Fiona Davidson nipping through to score from the back of a ruck making the final score 5-33.
At Twyford Avenue, Wasps edged a thriller against Midlanders Lichfield taking a 15-14 victory. A young Lichfield side, missing a handful of players through injury and illness, drew first blood with an early score from outside centre Vicki Jackson which was converted.
Wasps, soon settled into their stride, though, and after some impressive runs, wing Michaela Staniford closed the gap before the break with her first try of the season.
England’s Staniford then added her second soon after the restart putting the home side 12-7 up with Hannah Edwards this time adding the conversion.
A break from Lichfield however put the visitors close to Wasps’ try line. Under pressure Wasps then conceded a penalty and Staniford was yellow carded. Lichfield duly capitalised on this with a try from lock Emily Braund. Scrum-half Natasha Hunt added the extras to hand Lichfield a 14-12 lead.
Wasps then turned the tables as Edwards converted a penalty going into the last quarter of the game. As the rain lashed down in the final minutes, Lichfield too had a chance at goal but they could not capitalise and Wasps clung on to the victory.
Elsewhere, Saracens welcomed Bristol to their new home ground, Allianz Park. As kick off approached, the dark skies gathered and the storms came in. For almost the entire 80 minutes, the game was played in torrential rain and sleet, which had an impact on the flow of the game.
Bristol's Sasha Acheson looked dangerous in the opening exchanges and made some storming runs. The game was played in the middle half of the pitch as error counts on both side mounted up in the terrible conditions.
Photo: RFU Archive
Eventually, Acheson got on the end of some strong link-play between the forwards and a great run by Welsh centre, Rebecca De Fillipo, saw her barge over to score. England and Bristol centre Amber Reed was short with the conversion.
Saracens continued to press to the corners with some great kicking from fly half Sarah McKenna and eventually space was created for new signing Sally Tuson to power her way over against her former club on the stoke of half-time to make it 5-5.
After the restart, the game continued on a knife edge as both sides attempted to inject tempo and make some headway.
Bristol's back row of Claire Molloy and Isabelle Noel-Smith were lively at the breakdown but Saracens met every challenge, helped by some trademark hits from Margaret Alphonsi. Saracens began to get the upper hand in the set piece and that made way for a drop goal opportunity in the final play but it was charged down and the score remained 5-5 on the final whistle.