Loughborough Lightning head coach Nathan Smith saw enough in his side’s opening round Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby loss to Saracens to give him hope for the future.
The side in African Violet shirts trailed by only ten points at the break, with Rachel Malcom’s try briefly giving Lightning a lead before Leanne Infante broke free to cross the line and Sophie De Goede reached over for her second try of the afternoon.
But after the break, Saracens scored five more tries to ensure Smith’s first league game in charge of Loughborough would end with a 48-7 defeat.
“I said to the players that Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said Smith. “I’ve seen enough in the match to give us hope for the future. I feel like we’ve played some good rugby and actually defended well, believe it or not, in comparison to the scoreline.
“But if you do not nail your setpiece, amd your kicking game doesn’t go to plan, then you’re going to find yourself in a tough position.”
The visitors’ cause was not helped by two second-half yellow cards as Saracens were able to turn to their bench, with England captain Marlie Packer entering proceedings along with fellow Red Roses star Zoe Harrison – both of whom got on the scoresheet.
“We were aware of the firepower they had to bring on, make no doubt about that, however we didn’t do ourselves any favours by having 13 people on the field when they did come on,” added Smith. “Then the game just got away from us.
“There’s definitely shoots of hope within the performance, although it doesn’t seem it at the moment.”Nathan Smith, Loughborough Lightning Head Coach
Following an encouraging Allianz Cup campaign that ended with wins over Harlequins and Trailfinders Women, Lightning welcomed back their England, Scotland, Welsh and Canadian players from the inaugural WXV tournaments last week, while their USA stars are yet to re-join the squad.
“We’ve only really been together a week as a full unit,” Smith added. “We’re certainly at the start of a journey. Am I worried? Not really. But, we’ve got a lot to work on.
“It works well for us having a week off this week, so we can we make sure that everyone is crystal clear on what we’re trying to do on the field moving forward.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but when you’re starting something new, this is one of the toughest places you can go in PWR.”Nathan Smith, Loughborough Lightning Head Coach
Despite the second-half scoring being a one-way affair, Lightning continually asked questions of the Saracens defence, showing characteristic adventure from deep and in the wide channels.
That ambition was praised by Smith, but he acknowledged it did come at a cost as his side threw caution to the wind in a bit to wrestle back some momentum in the contest.
“I am never going to question the character or effort of the players, they know themselves they’ve given all they could do until the final whistle,” Smith said. “We never stopped being ambitious with the ball, which is good, but when you’re chasing a game there’s always going to be errors which leads to more opportunities to get the ball turned over. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of that today.”