Premiership Women's Rugby: Abbie Ward scores on return after giving birth

A new era for women's rugby in England got off to a flying start with 21 tries in the first three games of Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby.

The new league - rebranded this year from Premier 15s - kicked off at Ashton Gate where Abbie Ward celebrated her return from giving birth to her first child just four months ago with a try as Bristol Bears beat Sale Sharks 48-5.

England lock Ward became a mum in July with the arrival of her first child Hallie - who she carried to the pitch before the match.

Lark Atkin-Davies had the honour of scoring the new league's first try followed by scores for Reneeqa Bonner, Ward, Lucy Burgess, Phoebe Murray, Jess Sprague, Ella Lovibond. Italy's Beatrice Rigoni replied for the visitors.

Saracens equalled the Bears' score, beating Loughborough Lightning 48-7 at home with Canada skipper Sophie De Goede leading the way with two tries.

That was added to by scores from England captain Marlie Packer, Leanne Infante, Poppy Cleall, Jess Breach, Sydney Gregson and a penalty try. Scotland's Rachel Malcolm replied for Lightning,

Trailfinders Women made their league debut and almost pulled off a shock, losing 22-17 at home to Harlequins with tries from Liz Musgrove and Ella Amory. Quins hit back with their own scores from Izzy Mayhew, Flo Robinson, Abbie Fleming, who grabbed the final try on the hour mark on her debut.

Trailfinders played with 14 women for most of the game following Shannon Ikahihifo's red card.

On Sunday, Exeter Chiefs won 44-27 at Leicester Tigers, who were also making their first appearance in the league.

Last season's finalists Exeter started strongly, taking an early lead through tries from Merryn Doidge, Niamh Orchard and Cliodhna Moloney.

However, right before the break Tigers clawed their way back into the contest with a fine finish from club newcomer Meg Jones, leaving Exeter with a 15-10 advantage after the first 40.

Leicester emerged with a new lease of life in the second period, drawing level with a score from another new arrival Francesca McGhie.

Just as it looked like an upset was on the cards, Chiefs entered another gear and scored four tries in quick succession, with Katie Buchanan crossing for the final one with the clock in the red.



Bristol Bears 48-5 Sale Sharks

Saracens 48-7 Loughborough Lightning

Trailfinders Women 17-22 Harlequins


Leicester Tigers 27-44 Exeter Chiefs

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