Steep learning curve for Leicester in inaugural Premiership Women’s Rugby season

Steep learning curve for Leicester in inaugural Premiership Women’s Rugby season
Tahlia Brody of Leicester Tigers is tackled by Helen Nelson and Georgina Tasker of Loughborough Lightning - Getty Images/David Rogers

Leicester Tigers Women 12 Loughborough Lightning 24

Leicester’s women could not match the forward grunt and aggression of the men’s team in Leicestershire’s inaugural top-flight derby – in any sport or gender – as Loughborough Lightning held off a spirited second-half resurgence from one of the league’s new teams at Welford Road.

Both sides ran out in the blistering cold following Tigers men’s victory over Newcastle without a win to speak of in the league this season and it was Leicester who dropped to the foot of the Premiership Women’s Rugby table as two tries apiece from Bo Westcombe-Evans and Maja Meuller proved the difference.

“The tale of our first three games,” said Tom Hudson, Leicester’s senior coach. “We string 40 minutes together – somewhere. We’re learning every step of the way. I have a few things we didn’t quite get right – in the coaching, too. Did we have a wet-weather game suited to play? No, we didn’t. That’s the next string to our bow.

“We bought into this league and it’s about proving to our fans as a club that we deserve to be here. I hope we’re just about showing that.”

Given the adaptation required for both dire weather conditions and a 26,000-seater, floodlit stadium, it was Loughborough who started the better, accumulating at 19-0 half-time lead that they would never surrender. Westcombe-Evans finished astutely on the left flank for Loughborough’s opener, before Meuller – the game’s outstanding player – dotted down twice: first bustling over from close range and then on the back of a meaty Lightning maul.

Then came the Leicester revival, with the Tigers changing their entire front row at the break and bringing on Amy Relf at scrum-half. Replacement tighthead Keia Mae Sagapolu Sanele was at the heart of Leicester’s physical resurgence, with Tahlia Brody and Relf both crossing from close range. Meg Jones, Leicester’s most dangerous running threat, converted the replacement scrum-half’s score to make it a seven-point game.

Even with Abby Duguid yellow-carded for repeated infringements, however, Loughborough rallied, with Westcombe-Evans sealing the win to lift Lightning off the foot of the table.

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-5 Westcombe-Evans try, 0-10 Meuller try, 0-12 Nelson con, 0-17 Meuller try, 0-19 Nelson con, 5-19 Brody try, 10-19 Relf try, 12-19 Jones con, 12-24 Westcombe-Evans try.

Leicester: A Swartz (Collie 65); T Feury, M Jones, R DeFilippo (Childs 58), F McGhie; N Jones (c), L Nye (Relf 41); L Cockburn (Bartlett 41), A Bainbridge (Martin 41), O Ugiagbe (Sagapolu Sanele 41), E Donaldson, C Jacobs, B Noon, M Richardson, T Brody.
Replacements unused: M Massey, Z Warrington.
Loughborough: C Rollie; G Tasker (vc), E Hardy, C Morrall, B Westcombe-Evans; H Nelson, M Davey; K Trevarthen, M Meuller (Treder 58), C Belisle (Clifford 58), L Ives Campion, C O’Donnell (Duguid 63), E Wassell, R Malcolm (c), D Hibbert-Jones.
Replacements unused: I Curphey, K Waudby, J Weaver, L Green, C Williams-Morris.
Yellow card: Duguid 68

Referee: Andy Wigley

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