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White’s delight as Lightning end Cup campaign with win

Loughborough Lightning ‘found a way to win’ their final Allianz Cup match according to attack coach Alex White, after overcoming first-half struggles to ultimately secure a bonus-point victory over Trailfinders Women.

The Premiership Women’s Rugby newcomers bounced back from conceding a first-minute Abby Duguid try with Rowena Burnfield’s charge-down score limiting the hosts’ lead to a two points at the break.

Lighting overcame their set-piece struggles in the second period and ultimately comfortably outscored their Ealing-based opponents in the second 40 by four tries to one in to win 31-12 at Epinal Way.

“Ultimately after a difficult first half, we’re delighted,” said White. “It’s the last game of the Allianz Cup campaign and we spoke all week about finishing on a positive note, and for the girls to put their best foot forward for involvements in the Premiership moving forward.

“In the second half in particular, I think we did that. It gives them something tangible for their 12-13 weeks of hard work.

“We found a way to win. We came flying out of the blocks and scored a great try in the first minute, then it became a bit of a set-piece affair – where we definitely came second in that first 40.”

Alex White, Loughborough Lightning attack coach

“Half-time was massive for us, we regrouped. Smithy [Nathan Smith, head coach] worked his magic around how we were going to get parity or even dominance again in the set-piece and that came to fruition in the second half.”

Key to that approach after the interval was a willingness to tap penalties and it ultimately led to Trailfinders tiring as Loughborough’s electric backs created multiple opportunities.

“The most pleasing thing for us we got to show the style of rugby that we want to play,” added White. “We managed to drive the tempo, find space and that’s extra pleasing because I think Trailfinders would’ve had that as a perceived area of strength for them. 

“If there were knock-on advantages, we didn't want the setpiece, we wanted the advantage, and if there were penalties, we didn’t want to kick it off and have the lineout. We wanted to drive tempo.

“And that was still the case even when we were getting our lineout ball back, we wanted to drive that ball-in-play time.”

Replacement scrum-half Jess Weaver was key to the shift in tempo and she deservedly got her side’s final try after Ellen Scantlebury bagged a brace and Bo Westcombe-Evans also crossed on what was a good day for the home side’s wingers.

White said: “I am delighted, it has been a work in progress with them. All three of the wingers who got game time did really, really well.

“Bo is such a threat with ball in hand, Ellen is a real physical threat and she took her opportunities well. Then Lucia Linn when she came on, she worked hard off her wing and got some inside balls. 

“Half the battle is them going looking for work which the last couple of games they have gone and done – when their currency is tries, they’re getting some reward for it. I think a tip of the hat needs to go to the centres inside them because they are feeding them with enough ball to be as devastating as they are.”

Alex White, Loughborough Lightning attack coach

This victory over Trailfinders backed up Lightning’s win away at Harlequins a fortnight previously, as Smith’s side signed off the Cup campaign on a pleasing note after kicking it off with encouraging displays in narrow losses to Gloucester-Hartpury and Saracens.

Reflecting on the Cup period, when Loughborough have been without more than a dozen internationals, White could see many positives as attentions now turn to the PWR kick-off away at Saracens on 18 November.

“It’s been invaluable really,” he said. "It’s been an opportunity to get some really good coaching opportunity into a core group of players that are going to be really important for us this year and next year.

“It’s been a really good opportunity for Nathan to really understand the depth of the squad and start putting his print on it. And the girls have bought into that fully.

“You need time and you need fixtures for that buy-in to happen, and this Prem Cup period has been a really strong part in that being allowed to happen.”

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