Head coach Nathan Smith tipped his cap to his side’s performance on both sides of the ball on Sunday evening, as Loughborough Lightning battled to a 24-12 bonus-point win away at Leicester Tigers.
The visitors to Mattioli Woods Welford Road went 19-0 to the good in as many minutes, courtesy of an early Bo Westcombe-Evans try and two scores from hooker Maja Meuller.
Tigers came back into the contest however after the half-time interval, scoring twice in the third quarter of the match, before Westcombe-Evans sealed a first win of the new Premiership Women’s Rugby campaign (and a bonus point) with her second try nine minutes from time.
That effort settled any nerves for the final few minutes, and Lightning were able to celebrate victory in their first-ever Derby match against their East Midlands rivals in the league at the final whistle.
“I’m really happy with the win,” said Smith. “The conditions were not the best for rugby, but we found a way to win which is the main thing.
“I thought we were really good in the first half. In the second half, we let them back into the game – but what really impressed me was how we reacted to that, and found a way to get five points"Nathan Smith
“We started very well, but testament to Tigers as they didn’t give up, and really challenged us throughout, especially in the first part of the second half.”
While Loughborough were ruthlessly clinical in the red zone in the opening 20 minutes, before and after the break the match tightened up – and Smith was particularly impressed with Lightning’s grit in defence, restricting Leicester to only two tries from short range.
He added: “Our defence was probably the best it has been since I have been here. We kept our shape really well.
“We knew that Tigers had some powerful ball carriers, and they can also find the edge, but we coped with that pretty well.”
The five-point triumph saw Lightning move up to sixth in the Premiersip Women’s Rugby table, with a game in hand on several teams above them on the ladder.
This Saturday, the side in African Violet play their first home league match of the season at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens against Bristol Bears, who sit just one place above Lightning in fifth.
“We are really looking forward to it,” said Smith. “It feels like we haven’t played at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens for a while, so we are really excited for that, and it’s looking like it is going to be another tough game.”