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Match report: Loughborough Lightning 25 – 33 Saracens

Loughborough Lightning’s first home game of the season ended in a narrow defeat to Saracens at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Megan Davey’s try and a Lia Green penalty were cancelled out by Sophie Tansley’s effort and a penalty try as the visitors took a four-point lead into the break.

Carmela Morrall, Daisy Hibbert-Jones and Sarah Shrestha struck in the second half for Lightning but Saracens secured victory in the Allianz Cup second round with tries from Grace Moore, Sydney Gregson and Leanne Infante.

FIRST HALF:

The early exchanges belonged to the home side and with less than three minutes on the clock they were over the whitewash. Good interplay from Kendall Waudby and Becky Boyd off a lineout brought Lightning close and after a few phases of pressure on the Saracens line, Davey crashed over from close range.

The next ten minutes were dominated by the away side but good defence from Lighting kept their five-point lead intact after 15 minutes played. Sarries continued to pile pressure on but again Lightning held firm as they held up scrum-half Infante over the line.

The pressure did finally tell though as, from a five-metre scrum, Saracens turned the screw and the referee awarded a penalty try with Kath Baverstock sent to the sin bin.

Lightning recovered from going behind well; Saracens centre Gregson was yellow carded for a high tackle and Green knocked over the resulting penalty to reclaim the lead.

Saracens continued their first-half attacking dominance but again Lightning thwarted the attack and prevented the score with some excellent scramble defence. They weren’t to be stopped a second time though as from a few metres out, Tansley crashed over the line to take Saracens in at the break 12-8 ahead.

SECOND HALF:

Saracens were the quickest out the blocks as three minutes into the second period they bagged their third try of the evening. A perfectly-weighted chip from fly-half Amelia MacDougall over the Lightning defence bounced up into the hands of Gregson to score under the posts. Jemma Jo-Linkins added the extra two to open a 19-8 lead.

Lightning didn’t lie down and they replied with 25 minutes to play. A maul from five metres out was followed by replacement scrum-half Jess Weaver spotting space down the short side, feeding Morrall to score brilliantly in the corner. Green missed the conversion but the African Violets were back in the game.

Saracens winger Lotte Clapp cut through a hole in the Lightning defence and looked likely to score but only for an incredible tackle from Georgina Tasker and Green to bring her down inches from the line and turn the ball over.

Lightning then lost the ball from a scrum close to their own line and after multiple phases, Saracens scored their fourth with replacement Moore diving over the line. Linkins added the conversion and Saracens had a 13-point lead.

The rollercoaster nature of the game continued as Lightning replied almost instantly. Hibbert-Jones found a huge hole in the defence to canter under the posts from 20 metres out and when Green added the conversion, Lighting only trailed by six with 15 minutes to play.

Then two break away scores in  quick succession set up a grandstand finish. Saracens struck first as Red Roses star Infante broke through from just inside the Lightning half to finish despite replacement Pheobe Andrews’ spirited efforts. Almost immediately from the kick off, Lightning debutant Shrestha galloped over to bring her side to within eight points as the conversion was missed.

But that was as close as Loughborough got; Saracens were able to hold them out in the last few minutes of the match to secure victory.

LINE-UPS

Lightning: 15 Tasker (vc), 14 Scantlebury, 13 Hardy, 12 Morrall, 11 Westcombe-Evans, 10 Green, 9 Davey; 1 Baverstock, 2 Waudby, 3 Clifford, 4 Boyd, 5 Ives Campion, 6 Roberts, 7 Williams (c), 8 Hibbert-Jones

Replacements: 16 Andrews, 17 Trevarthen, 18 Curphey, 19 Meuller, 20 Shrestha, 21 Weaver, 22 Baker, 23 Linn

Saracens:  15 Linkins, 14 Alejandro, 13 Gregson, 12 Mckenna (cc), 11 Clapp, 10 Macdougall, 9 Infante (cc), 1 Flanagan, 2 Field, 3 Gooding, 4 Green, 5 Tansley, 6 Taylor, 7 Bennett, 8 Kasolo

Replacements: 16 Haynes, 17 Evans, 18 Loyola, 19 Schutzler, 20 Moore, 21 Broom, 22 Wardle, 23 Biggs

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