Lightning fizzles out as Saracens hold firm to start 2020 with another victory
PUBLISHED: 11:51 12 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:51 12 January 2020
Saracens had to survive a nervy second half to open up 2020 with a 39-31 victory over Loughborough Lightning in the Tyrrells Premier 15s.
The champions had dominated the first period and raced into a 24-7 advantage by the break.
But Loughborough are littered with internationals and their class showed after the resumption as they clawed their way back to within three points.
A late try though from Mackenzie Carson kept the 100 per cent league record of the Women in Black intact.
Loughborough arrived at Allianz Park with only three defeats to their name, the last of which coming in October when Harlequins got the better of them, and they started this contest with the confidence that record brings.
Helen Nelson made a break in the opening minutes before Sarries scrambled back to snuff out the danger and slowly their managed to turn the tide.
A penalty won by former Welwyn and Datchworth junior Hannah Botterman got them on the front foot and after a few phases in the opposition 22, a fantastic angled run from Hannah Casey took the hosts to within a few metres of the line where Alex Ellis bundled over for the first try.
Chantelle Miell, in at full-back for the injured Sarah McKenna, made good ground to set up try number two on 15 minutes, this one scored by May Campbell after some more strong carries from Poppy Cleall and Marlie Packer.
Loughborough had their moments in attack and a quick tap penalty from Katy Daley-McLean eventually saw Jo Brown touch down with the England star adding the conversion.
But Saracens finished the half strongly good hands from Lisa Martin and Rosie Galligan allowed another Welwyn old girl, Zoe Harrison, to spot and gap and force her way over.
The bonus-point score was secured before the break with a second for Campbell.
The visitors' response after half-time gave a clue as to how the second period would go.
England captain Sarah Hunter crashed over within minutes of the restart and only incredible home defence kept them from adding to that shortly after.
Packer got a welcome fifth Sarries try on 53 minutes, Botterman heavily involved, but Emily Scarratt, Dalenka Menin and Emily Tuttosi set up a grandstand finish as Lightning reduced the gap to a single score.
That three points lead was courtesy of a Martin penalty and the hosts made sure of the victory after a composed and steady drive got them close enough for Carson to drive over.