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Worcester Warriors 7 Gloucester-Hartpury 15
Worcester’s inability to harness the energy generated by a 309-strong home crowd allowed Gloucester-Hartpury to consolidate their play-off credentials as the women’s domestic game welcomed back spectators.
Jo Yapp’s young side have endured a rusty string of results since pushing league champions Saracens all the way on the opening day of the season and they proved second-best in this contest, after finding themselves 10 points down in as many minutes.
Sioned Harries’s second-half try sparked hopes of a comeback for the hosts, who went in at the break trailing 15-0 to a Cherry and Whites side who exploited field position far better than their opponents through their kicking game.
That Sixways threw open its doors for a second time in as many days – with Worcester men having graced their home turf the day before – was confirmation that this is a club who value their amateur women’s team as much as their professional male side.
“People underestimate the value that a crowd can bring to a game, especially in the breakdown areas and referee decisions, so it was great to have them backing us,” said Harries.
Gloucester did not look like a side missing lock Zoe Aldcroft, prop Ellena Perry and wing Kelly Smith, all of whom were involved in England’s Six Nations campaign Grand Slam this year.
Their play was peppered with individual moments of brilliance – like Bethan Lewis’s superb rip and subsequent kick and chase – which signalled the difference between the two sides early on.
On the cusp of half-time the Wales flanker teed up Ellie Underwood who, despite having started rugby six years ago to prove her boyfriend wrong, is now one of the most feared wingers in the Premiership.
That Worcester did not concede after the break was enough for Yapp to believe they are close to notching their second win of the season, but Sean Lynn, the Gloucester head coach, was less upbeat. “Credit to Worcester, they came out after the break and made it into a bit of a dog-fight for us,” he said, “but I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t get that bonus point.”
With the pandemic continuing to hamper men’s professional sport, it is something of a miracle that over a third of fixtures in the Premier 15s - which has introduced Covid-friendly law variations resulting in fewer scrums - have been completed.
The Rugby Football Union is set to review the adaptations in a fortnight, but Lynn remained sceptical as to whether his side would be playing the “normal game like in the men’s” after Christmas.
“The main reason why we’re playing these adapted rules is because we’re not testing,” he said. “Until we can see any testing, I think we will play these adapted laws.”
Elsewhere, Harlequins extended their lead at the top of the table with a convincing 61-17 victory over Bristol Bears, while Wasps picked up their fifth win of the season with a 21-10 triumph over Loughborough. Saracens’ date with Exeter and DMP Sharks’ match against Sale Sharks were both postponed after the Covid curse struck.
Scoring sequence: 0-3 (Fahey, pen) 0-8 (K Jones try) 0-10 (Fahey con) 0-15 (Underwood try) 5-15 (Harries try) 7-15 (Nicholas, con).
Worcester Warriors: A Kershaw, P Farries, J Shekells, M Varley, V Laffin, S Nicholas, C Mattinson (Bradley 35); C Thomas, C Tremelling, F Long, S Harries, C Brincat, T Bricknell, A Callender, A Matthews.
Replacements: H Stephens, R Jermine, A Buckland Hurry, P Rawbone, J Brown, B Bradley, H Bluck, Z Heeley.
Gloucester-Hartpury: D Fahey, E Underwood (Buggy 50) H Jones, T Heard, M Wood, C Large, M Hunt (Blackburn 57), C Hope (Venner 50), K Jones, C Hale, S Pinnock (King 53), G Crabb, G Brock, B Lewis, S Powell-Hughes (Williams 53).
Replacements: L Swann, A Robson, K Buggy, B King, S Williams, B Blackburn, L George, M Venner.
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe.