Loughborough Lightning’s Director of Rugby, Rhys Edwards, believes his players showed what they are all about in coming from behind to defeat Harlequins 22-17 at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens last Saturday.
Hailey Taufoou’s try with four minutes remaining ensured Loughborough made it two wins from two matches at the home of Northampton Saints, while also ending their Allianz Premier 15s campaign on a high.
There have been plenty of ups and downs during the first year of Lightning’s partnership with Saints, with a seventh-place finish not doing full justice to some of their performances since December.
Nonetheless, taking the scalp of the defending champions on the final day gave a reminder of what they are capable of, while also providing a confidence boost that should last the summer.
Edwards said: “The key yesterday was to show that we’re still as good as we normally are.
“We had a bit of a tough start to the season, but we’re capable of beating anyone on our day.”Rhys Edwards, Loughborough Lightning Director of Rugby
“We often score tries late in a game, so we don’t necessarily worry too much about that.
“But you’ve still got to do it and I’m pretty pleased with how composed we were for most of the game, and even more so in the last ten minutes when we scored a pretty good team try to sign off the game.”
Edwards reserved special praise for fly-half Helena Rowland, who had earlier lit up the Gardens with a superb individual score during the first half, which consolidated her reputation as one of the best running tens in women’s rugby.
It was a season in which the 22-year-old came of age, as she was pressed into becoming Loughborough’s primary playmaker in the absence of Emily Scarratt.
Scarratt, for so long one of the star names in the England national team, missed over five months of the season with a broken leg, but Rowland thrived with the extra responsibility.
Edwards said: “She’s a special player. Emily Scarratt is probably one of the best to ever play the game and I think Helena Rowland is going to be up there towards the end of her career.
“She’s an incredible talent, with a turn of pace, and her ability to get through holes is incredible.
“Giving her the licence to thrive in those spaces is key and she’s backed it up with another performance.
“What she’s achieved this year, and on an England level now, is pretty impressive.”
Edwards is enthusiastic as to how far Lightning can go as their partnership with Saints continues to develop – not least with the extra exposure that matches at the Gardens bring.
On how big a difference the last eight months have made, he said: “We’re still in the early stages of it. I think what’s really good about the partnership is we’re both aligned in terms of the future of the game and, more so, what we want to achieve.
“It’s a good partnership across the elite side, which we saw with the game on Saturday, but also the community side as well, and how we can raise participation and grow the game.
“We’ve had some really good events this year to start it off, but we’re still in the early stages of seeing where we can go.
“We’ve got another season to go before the new Allianz Premier 15s franchise cycle kicks in, so we’ve got some good time now to start thinking a bit longer term.”