Saints Wheelchair Rugby saw their Premiership title destiny move out of their own hands heading into the final round of WR5s action in September, following a day of mixed results last Sunday.
Round Two of the WR5s Premiership took place over the weekend at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, with Saints facing Premiership rivals Leicester Tigers, West Country Hawks, Stoke Mandeville Maulers and Bournemouth Lions.
The day got off to a frustrating start as Jamie Higgins’ side were narrowly beaten 18-14 in a high-quality match with West Country Hawks, but two comprehensive wins over Bournemouth Lions (23-5) and Stoke Mandeville Maulers (25-11) meant that Saints still had the opportunity to make up ground on title-rivals Tigers heading into the final clash of the round.
However, Leicester were on unstoppable form to take a 28-10 win over Northampton, meaning Saints will have to hope to pick up four wins from four (and hope results elsewhere go their way) if they want to top the ladder after the final round of action on Sunday 3 September.
“We’re a little bit disappointed overall, but we got two wins on the board without necessarily playing our best,” said co-captain, Kascie Higgins.
“There was some really good gameplay going on throughout the day. The overall standard of Wheelchair Rugby being played was good.”Kascie Higgins, Saints Wheelchair Rugby co-captain
“It was frustrating to lose the first game of the day, and by so narrow a margin, but it was a good game of Wheelchair Rugby with both teams playing well so we enjoyed it despite the result.
“We bounced back well from there to win our next two, but the result against Tigers was disappointing – they were the better team out there on the court on the day.
“We’re still in the running in second place in the Premiership, but we know results will have to swing our way if that’s to change, so we’ll have to focus on consolidating the runner-up spot first and foremost.”
Northampton’s Wanderers side were also in action last weekend, taking to the court for the second round of WR5s League Two matches.
It was a frustrating morning session for Wanderers, as they were beaten by just two points by Taunton Gladiators and just one point by Norfolk Knights. They also were defeated by vastly more experienced Harlequins and Dragons sides, but showed plenty of fight in a final 15-10 win over Brighton Buccaneers to stay fifth in the standings.
Here's our Wanderers and Saints Teams for this weekends 2nd Round of @gbwrnews WR5s.— Saints Community (@SaintsComm) August 17, 2023
Wanderers are sitting 3rd in League 2 and Saints 2nd in the Premiership and both are looking for strong performances this weekend.@TravisPerkinsCo @redhatphoto @ArenaSportsKett pic.twitter.com/yKSDfc0agh
As well as playing for Saints’ first team, Higgins is also an assistant coach for Wanderers, and he was encouraged by the performances of some newer players as well as with the outcome of a tactical switch for the side.
He said: “Some of our players picked up injuries over the last couple of weeks, so weren’t able to play in the tournament last weekend. We had to rotate our team around a little bit, so we struggled in the morning and the first few games saw some newer players getting used to playing.
“But heading into the afternoon was encouraging as we picked up a victory in the final game of the day, and ran Norfolk (who we play some friendlies against) very close. They beat us by more earlier in the season so we’ve certainly seen some improvement there.
“We changed the way that we played in the afternoon on Saturday, and we’re going to start looking into that tactic a bit more. It was different to what we’ve played before, so we’ll start training in that way for Wanderers as it seems to work better with that group than how we play in the Saints side.”