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Match Report: Loughborough Lightning 24 – 33 Saracens Women

Loughborough Lightning signed off their 2023/24 season by taking a point off title-chasing Saracens at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

It was a sign of the progress the African Violets have made this season under head coach Nathan Smith that they left the sun-kissed field with a tinge of disappointment for missing out on the opportunity of defeating a top-four opponent for the first time this term. 

Chloe Rollie and Bo Westcombe-Evans both scored first-half tries with one converted by Emily Scarratt, but it was Saracens who went in at the break with a two-point lead courtesy of Sharifa Kasolo and Leanne Infante scores that were both converted by Zoe Harrison.

Bulou Mataitoga’s try early into the second period was countered by Bryony Field and a Tory Sellors brace as Saracens pulled clear. The last scoring action went the way of Lightning as Rollie went over for her second to secure a try scoring bonus point for their considerable efforts. 

FIRST HALF

Having scored four tries in her most recent outing at the Gardens, Bo Westcombe-Evans appeared to have added another to her tally only for a brilliant Paige Farries tackle to deny her in the left corner.

But there was no stopping her teammate Rollie on the 15-minute mark as Scarratt timed a lovely pass for the Scottish fullback to round her opposite number and go over under the posts. 

Saracens, who had already qualified for the end-of-season play-offs ahead of the fixture, struck back through tries from Kasolo and a sniping effort from scrum-half Infante.

Westcombe-Evans wasn't to be denied with her next opportunity as she pinned her ears back down the left wing after excellent work from Scarratt and Helen Nelson to bring Lightning to within two points at the break.

SECOND HALF

The 1,125 supporters who arrived at the Gardens were roaring with appreciation ten minutes after the restart with Mataitoga collected a huge Scarratt pass to finish clinically in the right corner. The tricky conversion was missed and Lightning were ahead by three points.

Momentum swung back the way of the visitors, however, as hooker Field rumbled over from a maul before replacement scrum-half Tori Sellors profited from a Sophie de Goede break and Sarah McKenna’s pass to go over. A few minutes later,  Saracens burst down the short side and Sellors had a second to pull Saracens 16 points clear. 

The win the African Violets craved was now out of reach but they still went in search of a bonus-point sealing fourth score and they got it when the ball was worked wide for Rollie to finish to the right of the posts. 

The conversion was missed, thus denying a grandstand finish, but Lightning fired shots to the end and gave hope that they can close the gap on the division’s top four entering the 2024/25 campaign. 

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