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Nathan Smith of Loughborough Lightning
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Nathan Smith of Loughborough Lightning
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Women’s Rugby

Lightning’s bravery impresses Smith in Saracens finale

Loughborough Lightning’s bravery in attack impressed head coach Nathan Smith as his side signed off their season by running in four tries against Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby’s meanest defence.

The African Violets lost their final game of the campaign 33-24 to Saracens on Sunday afternoon at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, but took a point from the contest as Chloe Rollie crossed the line twice either side of efforts from Bo Westcombe-Evans and Bulou Mataitoga.

Lightning led with 30 minutes remaining but a three-try burst in an 11-minute spell swung the game the way of the Premiership semi-finalists, who meet Bristol Bears on Sunday for a place in this season’s final.

“I definitely felt we left the field a little disappointed and frustrated, but that’s more because of the fact we have created the opportunities to win the game,” said Smith. “All credit to Saracens, I thought they were brilliant at taking their opportunities. When they got into the right areas of the field, they converted whereas we didn’t.

“However I was really impressed with how expansive and how brave we were with the ball. We have certainly grown that area of our game within the last five weeks.”

It was a fruitful afternoon for Scottish fullback Rollie as she ended a testing season with three tries in as many games.

“Chloe has been a bit unlucky this year with injuries from the half-way point and also picked up a suspension post Six Nations. She was brilliant against Saracens, long may that continue.”

Nathan Smith

The match was also played out before a four-figure crowd at the Gardens, many of whom stayed long behind the final whistle to share a moment with players on the sidelines. 

“It is great to see so many young lads and lasses  come and watch the game, it is brilliant,” said Smith. “The girls really appreciate it and long may that continue. The longer we’re here in Northampton, the longer we are playing like we did against Saracens, they keep growing.”

Lightning finished the season with nine more points than in the 2022/23 campaign having played two fewer games. They also finished three places higher in the table but 19 points adrift of the top four - a gap Smith is hoping to close next term.

He said: “You’ve seen how far we have come from the first game to this game now, the longer we are together, the better we are going to get. If we continue in that vain then the top four is something we should be aspiring to and challenging for

“I think it has been a bit of a rollercoaster,” Smith reflected. “We had a great initial spike in performance, then there was a dip and we had to find our way again. From that point on, the progression has been quite plain to see. It has definitely been harder than I expected it was going to be but the challenge has been rewarding so far and hopefully that will continue.”

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