Warriors Women conjured up a dramatic comeback victory over Sale Sharks Women at Sixways to keep their top six hopes alive in the Allianz Premier 15s.
Jo Yapp’s side scored three unanswered second half tries to secure a memorable 31-21 bonus point triumph and move to within a point of Bristol Bears, who sit seventh.
Sale were 21-12 up at the break thanks to tries from Alicia Calton, Scarlett Fielding and Jessica Elbeck, however, Warriors were a different proposition in the second period as they made full use of the bench to turn the game on its head.
It was first blood to Sharks as early as the fifth minute, Calton ghosting past a flurry of Warriors defenders to touch down with the vastly experienced Katy Daley-McLean duly converting for a 7-0 lead.
Warriors responded in positive fashion, and after a strong carry from Flo Long had forced Sale to concede a penalty at the breakdown, the ball was booted into the corner from which Carys Phillips burrowed over on the back of a driving lineout. Nicholas pulled the conversion wide, with Sharks holding a 7-5 lead.
On 25 minutes, Shekells scored the first of her two tries when she showed the Sale backline a clean pair of heels with a blistering run on the far side to cross the whitewash in style. Nicholas made no mistake with the conversion to edge Warriors 12-7 in front.
Looking to see out the remainder of the half with the lead intact, Sale had other ideas, and hooker Fielding sniped over following multiple phases as the Mancunian pack flexed their muscles. Daley-McLean’s simple two points put Sale 14-12 in front.
Canada wing Paige Farries threatened a breakaway try shortly after, but Sale scrambled to thwart her, before registering their third try of the afternoon to make it 21-12 following the conversion.
Warriors freshened things up at half-time, bringing on Brooke Bradley, Abi Kershaw, Caryl Thomas and Alex Callender as the hosts eyed more tempo to their play.
The next score would be crucial, and Warriors made sure they got it thanks to Taz Bricknell, who bulldozed her way over from point blank range. Bricknell had led the second half charge with back-to-back hit ups to get her side on the front foot and her score was converted by Nicholas to reduce the deficit to 21-17.
Four minutes later, Warriors were ahead courtesy of Shekells’ second try of the match – the centre’s explosive pace causing Sale no-end of trouble as she dashed in at the corner for a 24-21 lead.
Game-management would prove decisive as the game ventured into the last ten minutes – Matthews was strong in the tackle to set the tone for a monumental defensive effort. Equally, Sale were abrasive in the tackle as Wales capped Callender found out when she was cleaned out with a ball and all hit, however to her credit she did not flinch and carried the fight to Sale as her side eyed a killer try.
In true Warriors spirit, they continued to play an expansive attacking game with the clock ticking down and it was Bradley who ensured victory for the Sixways outfit. The former England Under-20 scrum-half took a quick tap penalty just inside Sale’s 22, before weaving her way to the try line. Nicholas’ expert conversion stretched Warriors’ advantage to 31-21.
Daley-McLean uncharacteristically sliced a penalty wide with the last kick of the game, which would have secured a losing bonus point for the visitors, but the day belonged to Warriors who underlined their spirit in the camp to pull-off a superb comeback win.
Warriors Women | 15 Carys Cox, 14 Paige Farries, 13 Jade Shekells, 12 Meg Varley, 11 Vicky Laflin, 10 Sarah Nicholas, 9 Caity Mattinson, 1 Carmen Tremelling, 2 Carys Phillips (c), 3 Flo Long, 4 Cara Brincat, 5 Amelia Buckland Hurry, 6 Alex Matthews, 7 Taz Bricknell, 8 Sioned Harries
Replacements | 16 Abby Smitheman, 17 Caryl Thomas, 18 Elizabeth Shermer, 19 Sara Moreira, 20 Alex Callender, 21 Brooke Bradley, 22 Izzy Carroll, 23 Abi Kershaw
5m | Calton try 0-5
6m | Daley-McLean 0-7
15m | Phillips try 5-7
25m | Shekells try 10-7
26m | Nicholas con 12-7
29m | Fielding try 12-12
29m | Daley-McLean con 12-14
35m | Elbeck try 12-19
35m | Daley-McLean con 12-21
45m | Bricknell try 17-21
45m | Nicholas con 19-21
54m | Shekells try 24-21
63m | Bradley try 29-21
63m | Nicholas con 31-21