Sale Sharks Women go down bravely in the Midlands despite two excellent tries from Lauren Delany and Lisa Neumann, losing 26-12 to 4th placed Loughborough Lightning in the final round of Premier 15s.
On a frustratingly wet and miserable afternoon at Loughborough University it was former Lightning star, Katy Daley-Mclean who got us underway. The opening exchanges saw both sides trying to work each other out with a lot of boot to ball and defences standing strong. However, it was the hosts who sprung into action in the 6th minute of the game as Loughborough won the territory battle, trapping Sale on their 5M line resulting in a Sharks scrum. Unfortunately for the visitors, the power game of Lightning came to the fore as they knocked Sale off their own ball and scored with a push over try, Sarah Hunter the Red Roses captain dotting down and Emily Scarratt adding the extras.
It wasn’t long before the hosts added to their tally and extended their lead through a well worked training ground move. Lightning moved the ball from the edge into the centre of the field and from the resulting ruck, the ball was moved to Lightning’s fly half who straightened up and popped the ball inside to Scarratt who glided through the Sharks defence and go over just to the left of the posts untouched. Scarratt was unable to add the extras as the ball hit the near post, 12-0 to Lightning with 20 minutes left in the first half.
The young Sale Sharks side began to grew in the second half and matched the physicality that Lightning had on show. The tireless work of Field, Perris Redding and Winter kept Lightning at bay and some educated kicks behind from Daley-Mclean started put Sale on the front foot as they dominated the latter exchanges in the first half. Finally, Lightning’s defence finally folded as a fantastic team try was finished off superbly by the chip and chase queen, Lauren Delany. Sale worked their way into the Lightning 22 through an explosive run from Lisa Neumann. Mhairi Grieve expertly orchestrated the forwards to within 10 metres of the try line before Daley-Mclean pulled the trigger, moved it wide to Delany who did the rest and with that, 12-5 at the break.
Unfortunately for this young Sharks team who are learning with every week, Lightning came out the blocks and quickly extended their lead as they made their physical dominance pay again, this time through their dangerous driving maul game which saw Red Rose, Lark Davies cross over, Scarratt converted the try, 19-5. Sale dug deep and threw as much at Loughborough as they could but couldn’t quite punch enough holes in the defence and on the sixty third minute mark, Lightning kept the ball tight in the Sharks 22 and through the trusty pick and go game, finally made their way through the courageous Sharks defence to put the game to bed at 26-5.
Typically with this Sale Sharks side though, the game was far from done in their heads and they wanted to end on a high and they did so. A phenomenal break from Hollie Bawden saw her beat 5 defenders before finally being brought down on their 22m line, the ball was moved well by India Perris Redding who’d replaced Grieve, and had the forwards making yards as they made their way closer to the Lightning try line. Again, Daley-Mclean used her experience to pull the trigger at the right time and as the ball made it’s way to her, she fizzed a flat pass across the front of the Lightning defence to Lisa Neumann on the wing who went in at the corner untouched. Daley-Mclean knocked it over from out wide and with that, the game ended 26-12.
It’s been one hell of a first season for this Sharks side who have had to deal with a lot in the first year of their existence. They’ve shown that they can mix it with the top teams as they did today and could arguably have picked up more than the 4 wins they did. Lamon will be happy with how the first season in the Allianz Premier 15s has gone for his young side and now knows that the potential is there to really kick on next season.
Good luck to Saracens, Harlequins, Wasps and Loughborough who make up the Semi-Finals and thank you to everyone who has supported from home this season.
Bartlett, Davies, Menin, Wassell, O’Donnell, Duguid, Noon, Hunter; Maxwell, Goulden, Jones, Hardy, Tasker, Vistisen, Scarratt.
Field, Bourke, Harper, Meuller, Harper, Weaver, Davey, Swartz.
Sale Sharks Women
Prys, Fielding, Abu-Marzouq, Wyn Davies, Stafford, G Perris-Redding, Winter, Field; Grieve, Daley-Mclean, Neumann, Perrin, Calton, Delany, Wooden.
Kelly, Houghton, V.E. Irwin, Howat, Elbeck, I Perris-Redding, Bawden, Wallace.