While the disappointment of a Derby defeat to Leicester Tigers was evident, Loughborough Lightning Head Coach Nathan Smith reflected upon the bigger picture of the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby product after the final whistle.
A record Lightning crowd of 1,703 at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens were served up a fiercely competitive game of rugby that was decided by Claire Gallagher’s late try for the visitors.
It secured Lightning’s East Midlands rivals a 22-17 victory to avenge their 24-12 home loss when the sides first met in December at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, with both games being close, engaging encounters.
“What do you want to see, another team put 50 points on somebody or a proper game of rugby? I think you probably got that today,” said Smith. “I think it was highly competitive in all areas of the field. No-one will go away disappointed with the product.
“The result won’t be the best for the Loughborough fans, however, we want close games, we want tight games, and we want games going into the last minute and we certainly got that.”Nathan Smith, Loughborough Lightning Head Coach
“We’ve got the rub of the green in terms of what happened at Quins, if you leave the game hanging in the balance then it is not always going to go your way.”
Lightning defeated Harlequins in Round 8 with a late, late try that was backed up with a victory over Trailfinders Women, setting up the prospect of three consecutive victories for the first time in two years.
That appeared to be on the cards when hooker Kathryn Treder completed her first-half hat-trick on a drizzly afternoon at the Gardens to open a 12-point lead minutes before half-time.
However, there was still time for Amelia Tutt to land Tigers’ second try of the encounter, after Gallagher struck her first between Treder’s first two scores, to cut the deficit to just five at the break.
The second-half proved to be a battle befitting the finest traditions of an East Midlands Derby with both teams stoutly defending their own 22 as if it were their goalline. But the decisive try came when Gallagher spotted space in the backfield to kick ahead before grubbering to score and tie proceedings.
Meg Jones converted and added a further penalty to secure Tigers victory just a day after they were deducted five league points for a failure to achieve a minimum average of 13 English Qualified Players (EQP) in their match day squad.
“I just thought Leicester Tigers were the better side, so they deserved to win over the course of the game,” added Smith. “We knew exactly what they were about, so their performance was no surprise, so it’s well deserved on their part.”
Lightning are next in action on Friday 23 February when they take on Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate (kick-off: 7.45pm) before returning to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens to face Sale Sharks on Sunday 3 March (kick-off: 3pm).
Tickets are available to purchase HERE priced just £6 adult / £3 junior, plus a £1.50 booking fee per ticket.