Head coach Nathan Smith believes Loughborough Lightning are showing signs of developing a ‘fast, furious and energetic brand of rugby’ following a narrow home loss to Saracens.
The hosts scored four tries through Megan Davey, Carmela Morrall, Daisy Hibbert-Jones and debutant Sarah Shrestha – but it was the visitors to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens who secured a 33-25 Allianz Cup victory on Saturday evening.
“There were loads of positive moments in the game,” said Smith. “There was probably a little bit of inexperience in how to manage a game that probably let Saracens back in.
“For big chunks of the game we were the better side. It’s disappointing that we couldn't keep the tempo in the game. I felt that they were trying to slow it down quite a lot and we want to play a quick brand of rugby. Again, that’s an experience thing that we need to manage.”
Lightning were without more than 20 players away on international duty with England, Wales, Scotland, USA and Canada but produced a performance that gave a clear indication that the talent runs deep in the squad assembled for the 2023/24 campaign.
“We’ve got a really competitive group at the moment in terms of the girls that are maybe not in the starting 15 last year,” Smith added. “They stepped up in training and they deserved their opportunities.
“People will get opportunities during this Cup period, I think it’s really important not just to develop a 15, we have to develop a squad as well.”Nathan Smith, Loughborough Lightning head coach
While Saracens did manage to score five tries on their visit to the Gardens, Lightning’s defence was heroic at times to keep the game on a knife edge right up until the final whistle.
Smith said: “There were two or three moments defensively where we shut them out, we chased back 50 metres to prevent two tries, we’ve held them over the line three or four times. The commitment levels you cannot fault, we just need to get a little bit smarter around the field, that’s all.
“At the end of the day, what is the Cup about? The Cup is about developing players and developing the team. It’s not about picking and going from your own halfway line or slowing the ball down. It’s about developing a team to play a fast, furious, energetic brand of rugby, which we are showing in moments of the game. But it’s an 80-minute performance that we need.”