A mercurial display to blow open 2023 and start the new year how Tigers finished the last, recording a 54-5 win over Worcester Women at Lichfield Rugby Club.
A match with something for everyone, those at Lichfield looked on at lightning speed, line-breaks galore and lots of brutality.
Despite the eventual score line, it was Worcester that looked to strike first, with a well won line-out and looking to kick for territory deep in Tigers’ half.
Their defence is up very quickly to meet the home side and, buoyed by a raucous bench, they looked to cause Tigers early problems and dominate the contact zone. Essential gain-line metres were made by Ofure Ugiagbe and Ella-Mae Ferraday, the whole scrum fronting-up showing the necessary grunt to match a powerful Worcester pack in physicality.
It was vice-captain Katie Childs who helped swing momentum in Tigers’ favour, a lovely line-break and link up with flanker Roisin McBrien, allowed Morgan Richardson the space to open the scoring. Once the game had swung their way, the home side were utterly relentless.
Zoe Evans then doubled the lead, after a fantastic turnover on half-way, delightful hands and then a crisp step on her opposing winger. Then, the piece de resistance of the whole match, as flanker Roisin McBrien bursts through a gap only to break the full-back’s ankles with an outrageous step before feeding the great support line of Molly Draycott for the third of the afternoon.
The two flyers Evans and Draycott traded scores once again to further the lead, Draycott grabbing her second following another brutal carry from Childs. A five minute respite for the fans at Lichfield was then shattered by Evans who sprinted home from half-way, stepping a pair of defenders in quick succession to touch down.
Worcester, like the entirety of the spectators today, struggled to have any time to breathe, Tigers utterly relentless pressure proving impossible to deal with as the Leicester contingent imposed themselves in every area.
The visitors, to their credit, showed a clinical touch, their first venture into the Tigers 22 (since the first five minutes) yielding results. Having opted for touch following a penalty, a lovely nudge put them in the corner. With a maul formed, Worcester drive and drive strongly to breach Tigers for the first time.
It looked like the away side had settled into the match and could dig their feet in but Tigers had one final punch to throw for the half.
Winger Charlotte Daley causing chaos in the opposing defence with a line-break out of nowhere and with the home side battering on the door with successive carries, second-row Ella-Mae Fereday powered over to further an already conclusive lead and head into the changing rooms 32-5 ahead.
Following a half-time regroup, the visitor’s come out stronger and more organised, determined to not let this game get away from them. Worcester break early and incisively, only a brilliant pair of cover tackles from, first, Amy Relf and then Charlotte Daley preventing them from going all the way. Now the battle begins, in what serves as the polar opposite to the basketball match of first-half.
The war of attrition is here, as Tigers are camped first in their own half, then their 22, then desperately holding out at the 5-metre, as Worcester advance. The forwards are getting through an admirable amount of work as Katie Childs leads by example with some monstrous hits but it all looks to be too much, with Worcester inches away. The league leaders, however, are not ones to just roll over and dogged defence wrestles momentum back their way.
As Tigers scramble to reclaim possession, it's Childs who makes a brilliant break, holding off a succession of would-be tacklers before being wrestled to the ground.
Back to the centre, the battle rages on.
As night falls, this intensifies, neither side wanting to give an inch, the only respite from contact coming from an unfortunate few injuries on both sides. Suddenly, Tigers spring an excellent set piece move and Zoe Evans is denied a hat trick from a deliberate, desperate knock on by Worcester before the wing could receive the pass.
However, as legs began to tire, the floodgates opened again as Tigers ran in four excellent tries in quick succession to finish the match off.
First, Molly Draycott broke the second-half deadlock, grabbing her hat-trick following a set-piece manoeuvre straight off the training ground, following a scrum. Second-row Ali Gale then turned the screw further.
Draycott again broke the line but desperate defence wrestled her to the ground, a few metres out; the wily Gale spotting the disorganised defence, opting to pick and go and powered over under the posts.
Finally, two blistering tries to finish the match, first Morgan Richardson spots a gap and, from just past the half-way line, outpaces the full-back to score, whilst Zoe Evans puts the icing on the cake with a classic wingers finish in the corner, completing both her hat-trick and the job for Leicester Tigers.
Final score: Leicester Tigers 54-05 Worcester Women