In the final instalment of our ‘Spotlight on’ series, we take a look at Leicester Tigers Round 8 opponents in Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby.
The Northerners represented our first ever competitive match at the top level in Allianz Cup but our final match of the first half of Allianz PWR season.
A side befitting of the moniker ‘Northern powerhouse’, Sharks play an abrasive, bludgeoning style of rugby with a strong base of hard-lines complimented by an ability to play wide when necessary.
Despite Tigers taking the lead early on in the matchup, Sharks experience at this level eventually broke through.
A summer signing from the Sharks, Tigers back-row Amy Orrow was asked how she would describe Sharks’ game plan. Her assessment was clear.
“Hunting shark mentality. They have an abundance of speed and several options in attack. Their speed to transition was a vital part of their training sessions, to enable the best chance at either retaining ball and creating scoring opportunities or winning the ball back early”.
A team that has gathered momentum each year of operation, the side have been stalwarts in the top division of women’s rugby joining the Premier 15s, now Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby, in 2020 and have been making clear progress.
Last year saw them record their highest ever finish, ending the season in 7th place, with seven wins in 18 outings and the team will be looking to continue their progress and aim for a top half finish, even reaching the Premiership play-offs for the first time.
Director of Rugby Darren Lamon will be keen for the side to continue showing ambition, while co-captains Georgie Perris-Redding, a USA international who’s been with Sale for the entirety of her career, and Irish international Lauren Delaney, who joined Sharks in 2020, will be key to their continued success.
Orrow backs up this assertion wholeheartedly, specifically naming Perris-Redding as a threat.
“She’s determined, relentless, fast and a role model of a player and captain. The heartbeat of the team, win or lose”.
In terms of matchups, there are a few hard-hitting prospects to look forward to across the park.
Sharks’ Morwenna Talling, a summer signing from Loughborough Lightning, is set to start for the Red Roses at flanker this weekend and is a real dynamic presence around the park despite being just 21 years old.
From a Tigers perspective, Talling coming up against Charlotte Fray, herself a second-row, back-row hybrid who’s capable of exceptional power in the carry and hard work round the field, will be must-see.
Offering a similar carrying threat, Tahlia Brody has been shining for the USA in WXV competition. Tigers fans are well aware of the forwards blistering turn of pace and strength in the loose, after she scored two tries in the Championship play-off final for Cheltenham Tigers. She will compete strongly with fellow American Alycia Washington, another bludgeoning ball carrier.
The USA Eagles are another parallel between the two clubs, with a clear head-to-head featuring back Katana Howard and prop Katie Benson will go head-to-head with national and positional counterparts Tess Feury and Keia Mae Sagapolu.
Finally, Tigers will be looking to the Sharks to emulate the development of their women’s programme over the next several years.
When asked about how Sharks programme had developed in her time there, Orrow said “We were using the same facility as the men’s team, the owners were backing the team 100% to fight to remain in the top flight league.
“Also, the centre of excellence flourished very quickly, with players attending training sessions and then some graduates then feeding into the women’s senior team.”
The developments draw easy comparisons to the investment the management team have brought in at Tigers, with the club expanding the training facilities to use both the men's Oval Park training ground and the rennovated Oaks Park, while, on the pathway side, partner clubs have been established at Lichfield and a performance partnership with Kenilworth rugby, while a Girls Pathway Programme has been forged in partnership with Brooksby College.