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Alex White of Loughborough Lightning
Clive Wood Sports Photography
Alex White of Loughborough Lightning
Clive Wood Sports Photography
Women’s Rugby

Lightning’s internationals led from front in Harlequins win, says Alex White

Loughborough Lightning’s internationals were challenged to ‘lead from the front’ by head coach Nathan Smith ahead of their 38-19 victory over Harlequins Women.

The hosts at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens could boast more than 400 senior international appearances across their matchday squad, which was balanced out by the likes of Lia Green making her first Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby start and Freya Greensmith playing her first top-flight minutes from the bench.

Smith’s call was answered with 67-times capped Scotland lock Emma Wassell crossing for a try, her international colleague Helen Nelson producing two fine kicks that led to tries and Red Roses star Emily Scarratt bagging four conversions and a try in the Round 16 victory.

“Smithy challenged the internationals before the game to lead from the front and they certainly did that,” said Lightning attack coach Alex White. “But also he challenged the younger girls to follow their lead and put a performance in as well.

“It is the nature of the beast being a PWR club where university is part of your pathway that you will always have a lot of young players. Credit to Lia in getting her first start and putting in a really good performance in a semi-unusual position. She primarily is a ten, even though she has played England Under-20s at fullback.

“She came in and had a really good performance and Freya, that was a fairly brief introduction to Lightning rugby, she has got a real point of difference, she is unbelievably quick and if she keeps developing and working hard, that won’t be her last Lightning appearance.”

Among the young players who shone was four-try star Bo Westcombe-Evans, who was one of 10 players in the matchday squad who had played BUCS rugby for Loughborough University as recently as last month.

The 21-year-old winger struck early into the game and three more times after the break to move to 13 tries in 18 games this term.

White added: “We spent all week around wanting to move the ball and threaten the edges and we spoke about how important our wingers were going to be in our ability to do that, and ultimately how successful we were going to be with that was on their shoulders. 

“I thought Bo epitomised everything that we chased after in the week and we went out there and put a performance in.”

Alex White, Loughborough Lightning attack coach

For the second successive game, 19-year-old Carmela Morrall was partnered with Scarratt in midfield as the pair defended resolutely and attacked brilliantly to help deliver the victory that strengthens Lightning’s grip on fifth place with two rounds remaining.

“It has been a long time coming getting those two paired up in the midfield,” said White. “I think it is brilliant for Cam to be able to play inside someone with the experience and class of Scaz.

“If you look purely from a rugby perspective, they really complement each other. They are both really classy ball players, they can both carry ball and they are both really comfortable in open space as well. If you’re a 19-year-old rugby player, getting to play inside one of the best players in the world, it’s an amazing opportunity to get better.”

Lightning trailed at half-time and again in the final quarter and were forced to defend for large spells of an energy-sapping first half when Harlequins struggled to get rewarded for their domination of both possession and territory – as they were met by an African Violet wall of defence led by the likes of captain Rachel Malcolm and Sadia Kabeya.

“The first half was a bit frustrating,” admitted White. “We probably had two opportunities and scored twice which is great from an attack perspective. Just our discipline put us under a bit of pressure. It is credit to some of our resilience defensively that the pressure that was put on us only resulted in a couple of scores for Quins.

“At half-time we had some really important conversations and we regrouped and pretty much fixed a lot of the things we spoke about in that second half. We got a lot more possession, a lot more sets, a lot more territory and that told on the scoreboard.

“It is a reflection the work Alex Burton puts in with the girls from a conditioning point of view, we had 10 to 15 minutes left in our legs. I think we were peaking with about 10 minutes to go.”

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