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Match Report: Loughborough Lightning 31 – 12 Trailfinders Women

Ellen Scantlebury’s quickfire second-half brace of tries helped break Trailfinders’ resolve and secured Loughborough Lightning a second successive victory to end their Allianz Cup campaign.

After opening the 2023/24 campaign with narrow losses to Gloucester-Hartpury and Saracens, Nathan Smith’s side bounced back with a first-ever win away at Harlequins before backing that up with a five-try win at Epinal Way.

Abby Duguid’s try was countered by Rowena Burnfield’s effort for Trailfinders as Loughborough took a two-point lead in at half-time courtesy of Lia Green’s successful conversion.

Lightning landed four tries in the second period as Scantlebury struck twice, along with Jess Weaver and Bo Westcombe-Evans before Rosie Inman landed a consolation try in stoppage time.

FIRST HALF:

True to their name, it was a lightning-fast start from the hosts who flew out of the blocks to score the game’s opening points inside the first two minutes.

A strong kick return through the backs was followed by composed and powerful work from the forwards that culminated in Duguid forcing her way over to mark her second Loughborough debut with a try that Green converted.

The hosts’ hopes of building on that early score were hampered by a faltering setpiece as both lineout and scrums creaked allowing Trailfinders to relieve pressure.

Carmela Morrall excellently charged down a clearance kick to raise hopes of adding a second try only for Ealing to scramble well and force a handling error as a 30-minute scoreless period was largely played out without entries into either 22.

Ealing’s route back into the game and onto the scoreboard came as second row Burnfield charged down a kick before racing onto the loose ball to ground.

The missed conversion and some excellent breakdown work from Emma Hardy at the death of the first half saw Loughborough go into the changing rooms woth a two-point lead.

SECOND HALF:

Early into the second period both Lightning wingers had exciting moments with ball in hand as Westcombe-Evans brilliantly read a crossfield kick and made 50 metres down the left flank only for Ealing to diffuse the attack upon the recycle.

Then it was Scantlebury’s turn to race down the right wing and reach over to score, only for a raised flag for a foot in touch to cut short any celebrations.

When Loughborough were penalised on the Trailfinders goalline, it seemed the match-sealing score was going to elude them.

Approaching the hour mark, they get their reward. Megan Davey produced a superb diagonal kick that forced a Trailfinders knock on. From the resulting scrum inside the 22, the backs took control with Green feeding Scantlebury on a lovely wraparound move to cross over between the posts, presenting Green with a straightforward task to open a nine-point lead entering the final quarter.

The result was effectively sealed five minutes later and it was just rewards for Loughborough’s attacking endeavour as replacement scrum-half Weaver twice tapped penalties on her own 22 and on halfway to get her side on the front foot. Step forward Georgina Tasker, whose gliding run through a gap in the backline was followed by a perfect pass for Scantlebury to sprint down the right wing and power over for her second try of the afternoon.

Entering the closing passages of the game, Westcombe-Evans once more showed her electric pace down the left wing racing from halfway and deep into the 22 only for her one handed offload out of the tackle to bounce awkwardly for Grace Clifford in support and the attack ended with a knock on.

She wasn’t to be denied as another surging attack ended with the winger finishing cooly in the corner before Weaver followed her over the line shortly afterwards with an alert diagonal run in under the posts as Ealing’s defence tired.

To their immense credit, Trailfinders’ heads did not drop and the game’s last score was their’s as Inman finished well after a fine offload from Liz Clarke.

LIGHTNING: 15 Georgina Tasker (vc), 14 Ellen Scantlebury, 13 Emma Hardy, 12 Carmela Morrall, 11 Bo Westcombe-Evans, 10 Lia Green, 9 Megan Davey; 1 Katie Trevarthen, 2 Kendall Waudby, 3 Grace Clifford, 4 Becky Boyd, 5 Abby Duguid, 6 Ellie Roberts, 7 Sally Williams (c), 8 Maja Meuller.
Replacements:16 Phoebe Andrews, 17 Kath Baverstock, 18 Isla Curphey , 19 Issy Winter, 20 Lucy Finch, 21 Sarah Shrestha, 22 Jess Weaver, 23 Lucia Linn.

TRAILFINDERS: 15 Ella Amory, 14 Courtney Pursglove, 13 Ellie Lennon, 12 Lauren Knowler, 11 Rosie Inman, 10 Ellie Green, 9 Emma Swords; 1 Elizabeth Crake, 2 Amanda McQuade, 3 Andrea Stock,4 Shannon Ikahihifo, 5 Rowena Burnfield, 6 Fiona Cooper, 7 Megan Barwick,  8 Cara Brincat.

 

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