A high-scoring match with lots of positives to take, there are a few similarities with the opening fixture away at Sale Sharks. Namely, the attacking movement was functioning irresistibly well at times, the line-outs were often executed well and when the side’s rush defence came off it put on immense pressure and frequently lead to turnover ball.
However, there just wasn’t enough of these positive moments to win the match and a lack of consistency at times meant Tigers struggled to keep the scoreboard ticking over in their favour. Another competitive outing at the top-level but still room to build throughout the side.
Captain Natasha Jones kicks us off with a nice high kick and Tigers put the pressure on early, forcing the opposition back to their 22 but Warriors can clear well to the halfway line, the ball bouncing into touch.
Although the line-out is won well, with a great throw deep by Alana Bainbridge, Warriors manage to rip the ball away and it’s pure attrition from there for the visitor’s opening score as, for the next 15 minutes, Warriors do not relinquish the ball, only great defensive covering from Zoë Evans delaying the try.
Warriors first score is hard-won, bludgeoning carries continually making metres until eventually, from barely a metre out, prop Akina Gondwe drives over.
From kick-off Warriors go right back to it and, once again, there’s a straight foot race to the line out wide, Evans the difference by again demonstrating defensive excellence, reacting sharply and haring it back to spear her opposite number into touch. Although Tigers clear well through the boot of Caz Collie, Warriors are more than happy to run it right back and win a penalty thanks to an infringement at the ruck.
From there, it’s a similar story, to the first score, here Cara Brincat driving over from the short range, the No.8 doubling the Warriors lead.
However, having barely touched the ball in the opening flurry, Tigers finally establish themselves in the game. The home side’s rapid defence wins a penalty straight from the kick-off and Jones hits a pin point nudge to just two metres from the Warriors line. The line-out is won well but the visitors maul defence is exceptional and again the ball is ripped away, this time into touch. However, in a twist of fate, Tigers then steal the Worcester line-out and the attack is on.
There’s jinking, determined carries from Roisin McBrien, Morgan Richardson, Kat Turner and Georgie Grimes (who came on in the first minute after an unfortunate injury to Ofure Ugiagbe) to within an inch of the line but in the melee a pass is astray and the ball is lost (there are calls for it coming off a Tigers head but the referee adjudicates a knock on).
But from the scrum, again the rush defence pays dividends and the ball’s turned over again: here a great line by Childs on the crash ball gains an inch, as does the same by Turner before déjà vu as Childs and Turner run it up again Finally, the ball goes wide for Tigers opening score as Evans finishes smartly in the corner.
In a sequence that could surmise the whole game, Warriors bite back. Caz Collie thunders a driving clearance long upfield but it’s covered well. In an equal response, the cruelty of the bounce bites us and Warriors are suddenly breaking four on three down the right, the Tigers defence scattered. Simple hands outside, then in, Warriors lead restored immediately.
From here, it gets scrappy as we enter the final 10 minutes of the half. At risk of sounding like a broken record (typewriter?), Warriors’ phaseplay allows them to eat up gradual metres and sap defensive energy until they’re able to go over in the corner.
It looks like Warriors will bag another but there’s great maul defence to stop the rumbling drive in its track. The visitors attempt to go wide right but Amy Relf is up really well to stop the wing and allow Tigers to fly through the ruck and turn it over to end the half.
First-half score: Leicester Tigers 05 – 24 Warriors Women
Tigers start the second half off well. Lucy Nye, Zoe Warrington Amy Orrow and Sydney Mead, on for her Tigers debut, have come on at half-time and there’s a real impetus around the field from kick-off.
Inside five minutes there’s three well-worked sets of line-outs in succession.
The first allows for a rolling maul that delivers us an inch from the line but, once Tigers attempt to drive over, it’s defended really well, with huge double-up shots in midfield, until a Warriors infringement allows a kick to touch.
The second allows for some sharp lines right off the top and Tigers turn the screw, forcing a yellow card and a second penalty in the process.
The third lineout finally brings the breakthrough. Right off the line, Tigers feint a maul but go out the back, Katie Childs running a thunderous unders line from midfield to collect the ball from an Amy Orrow tip and get the first score of the second half.
Warriors look to threaten immediately but a penalty won on halfway is fielded deep by Collie who ripostes with an exceptional clearance that causes all sorts of havoc in the visitors back field.
But Tigers can’t capitalise and lose the ball back and from there, Warriors take their opportunity. They kick to the corner well and from there execute a series of hard-nosed carries, working the space until a swift dummy in midfield allows them to run through.
Not allowing their heads to go down, the side roar back, ensuring the one player advantage is felt. The phases are played excellently, Nye controlling the tempo from scrum-half and slowly inching the side forward before spotting Evans in space out wide. The ball is sent through hands until the wing receives in space and dives over for her second try of the game.
Much like the Sale game last weekend, momentum has been consistently inconsistent and, again, we can’t build on the score. The visitors win a penalty in midfield that’s kicked well to touch and Warriors run a slick move with an inside ball that allows them to score under the posts.
Just a couple of minutes later, they’re over again; this time they play the blindside and right winger Evelyn Clark has darted across to force an overlap, the wing showing composure to dance through and score.
Credit must go to Tigers as, just like last week they do not let their heads go down. In the huddle, the call is made to reset and go after the next job which is hunting for that try bonus point.
After five minutes of battling for possession, the score comes right after Tigers win it back. After a stylishly executed passing move through four sets of hands in as many seconds, Roisin McBrien, again shining in that edge forward role bursts down the right touchline to make 15 metres.
Tigers play it sensibly, hitting a big couple of carries to keep the Warriors defence tight before shifting it through hands all the way to the left where substitute Charlotte Daley can finish strongly to secure the side’s first point in the Allianz Cup.
With 10 minutes to go, the game has truly opened up now and Warriors would have had another score had it not been for an excellent piece of last-ditch defending from Nye.
Both teams trade possession relentlessly in this spell as both seek to put a bow on the performance as the game ticks into the final minute. It’s the home side that earn the final word, successive penalties allowing them to take the line-out five metres out. Appropriately, the rolling maul finishes proceedings, the line-out delivered well by substitute hooker Tanya Bird, who then joins at the tail and helps the team drive over for their fifth try of the match.
With 80 more valuable minutes now banked against Premiership opposition, the team will look to continue to build on these strengths and iron out the mistakes ready for that first Allianz PWR game at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on November 19.