Dogged Ayles­ford fight back to book fi­nal place

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NICK VERDIER

THE Women’s Premier­ship will have a new win­ner next Sun­day af­ter Bris­tol and Ayles­ford Bulls reached the fi­nal for the first time in their history. Bris­tol de­feated Saracens 43-10 at Cleve RFC last Sun­day thanks to two tries apiece for Poppy Cleall and Claire Mol­loy, while Ayles­ford stunned Lich­field 22-15 on the road.

The fi­nal will take place at Sixways Sta­dium with Lich­field tak­ing on Saracens in the third place play-off as a cur­tain raiser be­fore the fi­nal at 3pm.

Roy Davies’ Bris­tol, who ended the reg­u­lar sea­son at the top of the ta­ble, scored three more tries through Clara Niel­son, Kayleigh Arm­strong and Chantelle Miell, while Am­ber Reed kicked 13 points as they led 43-0 go­ing into the last ten min­utes.

Saracens fi­nally got them­selves off the mark af­ter 73 min­utes when Lotte Clapp crossed out wide, and Bry­ony Cleall made sure both sis­ters got on the score sheet when she pow­ered over from close range three min­utes from time.

“I’m re­ally pleased with the whole squad per­for­mance,” said Davies.

“What was re­ally en­cour­ag­ing was there were points in the game where we were un­der pres­sure and had to work our way through, and the team did this ex­cep­tion­ally well.

“We had a strong bench and each player who came on had an im­pact and played an im­por­tant part in the vic­tory.”

In the other semi-fi­nal at Cooke Fields, Ayles­ford came from be­hind to beat Lich­field, with tries from Vickii Corn­bor­ough, Jess Wooden and Manuela Furlan.

Lich­field scored two tries of their own through Jen­nifer Maxwell and a penalty try.

Ayles­ford Bulls head coach Karen Find­lay said: “Our backs were against the wall at points dur­ing that match, and all we asked of the squad was to empty their tanks and they did ex­actly that.

“I am ex­tremely proud of what the squad achieved.”

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