A record scoreline.
All of this, for a side who was being urged on through every minute for more by a coaching staff obsessed with being ‘relentless’ and from a side, it feels, still have more to give.
In Vicky Macqueen’s interview on the Rolling Maul podcast this week, she mentioned how their defence was always their main focus, that opposition ‘0’ shining even brighter than the home side’s ‘66’ in last week’s clash with Novocastrians at Mattioli Woods Welford Road. The overarching objective has been to keep the points conceded total in this first season to less than 100.
To score over a century of points in a single game, away from home, is a remarkable achievement in and of itself, the first time a Leicester Tigers side have hit 100 points in a single match since 1992 (vs. St Helen’s). To do so in a season in which they’re on course to not even concede that total over the whole season, would be near-unbelievable. These are the ambitions of a team who’s progress shows no signs of slowing down.
Despite Natasha Jones kicking us off, Tigers took control almost immediately, a big double tackle allowing the away side to pounce. Similar dominance is demonstrated in the game’s first scrum, as Tigers drive the home side back, disrupting clean ball from the 9 and forcing a knock on. An attacking scrum now and Harrogate do well to stifle the width, taking down Harriet Roberts on the outside. Tigers thunder in again, only an unfortunate knock-on stemming the tide. This is clearly about to be a long afternoon. Harrogate do a good job of building some phases and look to get a foothold in the match, but Jade Jones, starting at prop for the first time this season, following on from her double last weekend at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, pulls out an lovely turnover to stop the home sides momentum before it can really begin. It’s scrappy play with a few errors close to the line and the early start seems to be disrupting proceedings. But if you need to find that all important breakthrough, look no further than Molly Draycott. Tigers win a penalty around 20 metres out and Amy Relf (back at scrum-half after a stint at 10 last week) reacts quickest to tap quickly, accelerate through and execute a 2 on 1 to none other than the record breaker herself.
Now the floodgates are open and just two minutes later the lead is doubled. From the restart Tigers show brutal carrying intent and as they close in on the line, Warrington drives over powerfully.
Tigers want more. Harrogate do well to briefly calm things down but from a scrum on half-way Natasha Jones pulls out a lovely, looping cross-field nudge to put Louisa Burgham into acres of space. She collects well and drives forward, stepping the onrushing full-back before offloading to, naturally, Molly Draycott for her 17th try of the season.
Back-to-back tries now as a result of soft hands, first a full-width maneuver from right to left, going through what must be most of the 15 players on the field before ending up with onrushing full-back Harriet Roberts to touch down. Next we have ‘just lovely lovely lovely lovely hands’ (official analysis from the Tigers bench) as the two telepathic Centres hit a textbook 2 on 1 before Childs converts her own try with a great kick.
The following two tries were all about brutality. The first saw Molly Draycott (ctrl + v) hit a lovely line to collect an offload from Jade Jones, who had shot through a gap following a monstrous hand-off to her opposite number. Again, Tigers fly up from the restart and this time it’s Louisa Burgham who finishes the wave after wave of hard carries to find space out wide.
Now it’s brutality shown in the scrum, as the sides pack down right in front of the posts and sure enough, as the scrum wheels left, blindside flanker Tanya Bird picks and go’s to drive over.
Finally, we end the half with a first. Amy Relf has shown exceptional versatility this season, starring at both fly-half (in last week’s win over Novocastrians) and today at scrum-half. She deservedly scores her first try of the season here, reacting quickest of everyone to an awarded penalty to intelligently tap and go and dart through to open her account for Leicester Tigers.
Half-time: Harrogate Ladies 0 - 57 Leicester Tigers
As we kick-off for the second 40 minutes, it’s clear the tempo hasn’t dropped. Rebecca Church has been on for 2 minutes and has already hit a shin-breaker of a tackle as Harrogate tried to take a quick tap penalty, setting Tigers on their way to win the ball back a couple of phases (and crunching tackles) later. As was the case in the first-half, they swiftly make it count, spotting a disorganised defence and showing lovely hands to find Tanya Bird out wide.
From the restart, Tigers whip it wide-left instantly and an offload see’s Draycott through for a potential fourth. Harrogate can scramble well, however, and she's stopped just short but Tigers stay patient, building again and swift hands, a hard-line and another big hand-off allows Jade Jones to go over.
Tigers reply instantly once again, this time it’s Louisa Burgham. Again from the kick-off, the away side collect, puts Tanya Bird through against the full-back and she and wing Burgham execute the two v. one clinically.
From here there’s no stopping as Molly Draycott does get that fourth try (number 20 for the season!). Tigers have Harrogate camped around 10 metres out from the line and force the scrum; from there, they hit a backs play straight out of the training ground and Draycott can score.
As we hit 81 on the scoreboard, the coaching side are hungry for more, urging the team to hit 100 points in a game for the first time this season, this ambition demonstrable with the entering the field of Lucrezia Iavarone. In just a couple of minutes, the speedster makes her presence felt, collecting a pass just over the half-way line and hitting top speed in record time, stepping the 15 on her way to a lightning score.Harriet Roberts doubles her tally immediately afterwards, again from the restart, as Tigers again execute well out left.
Finally, Tigers hit 100 points as flanker turned scrum-half Morgan Richardson goes over. Harrogate attempt to clear their lines but Iavarone collects well and produces a lovely low offload to allow Richardson to put Katie Childs through. The centre has only a last defender to beat and hits her a classic Samoan sidestep (aka a straight line into the opposition) but is held well. Richardson, however, cannily picks and go’s like a true 9 and drives through the tackles like a true 7 to score.
What’s been admirable to watch is the way Harrogate have kept fighting throughout and they finally get their reward. The home side manage to break the deadlock with just 10 minutes to go, opting to take the three points when presented with a penalty around 10 metres out. The home bench produces the biggest cheer of the afternoon.
However, Tigers have a final pair of tricks up their sleeve. First, Katie Childs goes the classic route down the left-hand side, the fulcrum as the team again go wide from the restart but this time, cleverly see it back inside for the Sweden international to touch down. Finally, who else but Molly Draycott to end proceedings, a score entirely of her own, catching on half-way, pinning her ears back and launching into a full sprint (even in the dying embers of the game) to put a lovely bow on what can only be described as pure dominance.
Full-time: Harrogate Ladies 03 - 114 Leicester Tigers