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Saracens get the better of Bristol Bears in Premier 15s battle of the unbeaten sides

·3-min read
NOVEMBER 28: Bristol Bears' Director of Rugby Dave Ward during the Women's Allianz Premier 15s match between Bristol Bears Women and Wasps Women at Shaftesbury Park on November 28, 2021 in Bristol, England - Saracens get the better of Bristol Bears in Premier 15s' battle of the unbeaten sides - GETTY IMAGES
NOVEMBER 28: Bristol Bears' Director of Rugby Dave Ward during the Women's Allianz Premier 15s match between Bristol Bears Women and Wasps Women at Shaftesbury Park on November 28, 2021 in Bristol, England - Saracens get the better of Bristol Bears in Premier 15s' battle of the unbeaten sides - GETTY IMAGES

Saracens 17 Bristol Bears 12

Dave Ward’s upstart Bristol Bears may well figure strongly come the pointy end of the Premier 15s season but for now it is the league’s most successful side who head the class. The visitors gave all that they had through an at-times tempestuous and ever-physical contest, but a game characterised by fierce breakdown battles was decided by a gnarly Saracens pack to end Bristol’s unbeaten start.

“We knew it was going to be a really physical top-of-the-table clash,” said Saracens captain Marlie Packer, a constant menace. “Bristol have been phenomenal, but it is never easy to come and beat us here. Saracens will never back down from a contest.”

Each side arrived with six wins from six games. Saracens began with better intensity but were guilty of thrice fumbling within sniffing distance of a score in the opening ten minutes. Where the hosts had been profligate, Bristol managed to strike with their first advance into enemy territory. After a hard charge up the centre from Sarah Bern created space out wide and was well exploited by the Bears’ backs. Jenny Hesketh slid over.

A frustrated Saracens were then further incensed after an off-ball fracas. Referee Harry Walbaum was content with just a chat with the captains, but was forced to his pocket a minute later when a maul was stalled illegally. Alisha Butchers sin binned; Saracens in front via the penalty try.

While it was Bristol who struggled for discipline throughout it was to be Saracens who would next have a player yellow-carded, after half-time. Courtney Keight broke rapidly from her own 22 and would have put a streaking Leanne Infante away but for the brush of Zoe Harrison’s fingertips, who had few complaints as she was asked to exit.

Yet Saracens soon struck. A mis-shapen Bristol backfield was spotted cunningly by Ella Wyrwas, who cannily chipped, chased, collected and scored. Stand-in kicker Holly Aitchison converted.

With Vicky Fleetwood and Packer particularly impressive in tandem, Saracens’ defence was staunch. It took until the final ten minutes for the Bears to finally break through, a trademark sprint into a hole and delectable pass from Butchers and Ella Lovibond jinking over despite a suspicion of a knock-on.

Amber Reed’s fine conversion from the touchline narrowed the Saracens lead to two, yet another penalty against the visitors at the ruck allowed Harrison the chance to stroke through three points to seal victory.

Match details

Scoring sequence 0-5 Hesketh try, 7-5 penalty try, 12-5 Wyrwas try, 14-5 Aitchison conversion, 14-10 Lovibond try, 14-12 Reed conversion, 17-12 Harrison penalty.

Saracens: C Miell; R Laqeretabua (C Grant 70), H Aitchison, H Casey, A Corrigan; Z Harrison, E Wyrwas; H Botterman, M Campbell (K Evans 67), K Clifford (D Rose 56); F McIntosh (S Green 67), P Cleall; G Evans (J Rettie 72), V Fleetwood, M Packer.
Unused replacements: R Clark, S Bebbington, J Rettie, C Waters.

Bristol Bears: E Lovibond; J Hesketh (M Webb 38), P Murray, A Reed, C Keight; E Snowsill, L Infante (K Bevan 50); S Pam (C Kill 70), H West, S Bern; N John (H Cunningham 63), A Ward; A Butchers, M Johnes, R Marston (S Lillicrap 50).
Unused substitutes: H Phillips, E Mulhearn, L Skuse.

Referee: Harry Walbaum.

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