Warriors Women tasted defeat against Loughborough Lightning in the Allianz Premier 15s as they went down 20-8 at a rain swept Sixways Stadium.
Caity Mattinson’s try for Warriors nine minutes from time gave the hosts real hope of securing a losing bonus-point as Jo Yapp’s side threw everything at the visitors in the closing stages.
However, Loughborough kept their composure to see out the game unscathed, with tries from Abbie Brown, Rhona Lloyd and Emma Hardy ultimately cementing the visitors’ position in the top four of the Premier 15s with five rounds played.
The opening quarter of the game was frantic on the eye, with both sides unable to find their attacking rhythm as the West Midlands rain lashed down. Lightning looked dangerous whenever they had ball in hand, particularly out wide as wings Lloyd and Jones tested Warriors’ defensive resolve on a number of occasions.
With no score midway through the first half, it was left to Lightning’s Helen Nelson to notch up the first points of the afternoon with a penalty.
Five minutes later, Warriors opened up Loughborough’s defensive line when Sioned Harries’ crashed through a series of defenders to set-up an attacking platform. The ball was subsequently moved wide to Zoe Heeley on the overlap, but the wing was unable to clutch the ball to her chest as she knocked on with the try line in her sights.
Encouraging signs in attack despite the lack of field position, Warriors had to be strong in defence too and repelled another Lightning driving maul just after the half hour mark to keep the deficit at 3-0.
Loughborough did eventually breach Warriors’ defensive line on the stroke of half-time, Brown crossing for a try on the near side on the back of excellent interplay from Lloyd and Rachel Malcolm.
Lloyd turned from provider to scorer immediately after break, the wing sliding over in the far corner following a slick attacking move which left Warriors 13-0 down.
Vicky Foxwell cut the gap to 13-3 with a penalty on 43 minutes to give her side something to build on as Taz Bricknell soon entered the fray. Within just a minute of coming on, the versatile back-row was in the thick of the action as she threw herself into some robust tackles to set the tone for the final stages of the game.
Foxwell cannoned the post with her second penalty attempt of the day on 50 minutes, which would have got Warriors into bonus-point territory. Backs against the wall as Warriors’ Harries and Cara Brincat carried strongly, Loughborough went up the other end to double their try-scoring tally through Hardy three minutes later.
The centre broke through Warriors’ rearguard at will to dot down under the posts, with Nelson adding the extras to extend the visitors’ lead to 20-3.
From the restart Loughborough were penalised for offside following a knock-on, which gave Jo Yapp’s side some attacking momentum in the shape of a driving lineout. The heave was on after clean ball at the lineout, but despite trundling the ball towards the try line, Loughborough managed to halt Warriors in their progress and cleared the ball away from danger.
Not deterred by Loughborough’s steely defensive display, Warriors managed to conjure up a try thanks to summer signing Mattinson, who’s quick tap penalty gave her the opportunity to burrow through for her first score for the club.
Foxwell was unable to convert Mattinson’s score, with Warriors trailing 20-8 going into the dying embers of the match. Warriors continued to press forward in search of another try, but Lightning stood firm to the heavy pressure and almost broke downfield to secure the try bonus-point.
Warriors foiled any chance of a bonus-point for the visitors with their scrambling defence coming to their rescue. Warriors now turn their attention to their Round 6 fixture at Sale Sharks Women in a fortnight but can take heart from Saturday’s showing against a talented Lightning outfit.
Warriors Women | 15 Abi Kershaw, 14 Zoe Heeley, 13 Vicky Foxwell, 12 Robyn Wilkins, 11 Vicky Laflin, 10 Sarah Nicholas, 9 Caity Mattinson, 1 Roz Jermine, 2 Carys Phillips (c), 3 Flo Long, 4 Cara Brincat, 5 Elizabeth Shermer, 6 Jo Brown, 7 Alex Callender, 8 Sioned Harries
Replacements | 16 El Febrey, 17 Abby Smitheman, 18 Philippa Rawbone, 19 Charlotte Wright Haley, 20 Taz Bricknell, 21 Jade Shekells, 22 Paige Farries
23m | Nelson pen 0-3
33m | Brown try 0-8
36m | Lloyd try 0-13
43m | Foxwell 3-13
53m | Hardy try 3-20
60m | Mattinson try 8-20