The Tyrrells Premier 15s has reached the halfway stage of the season and the competition remains tantalisingly poised heading into 2020, writes Will Jennings.
It’s been a pulsating first four months of action in front of some bumper crowds around the country, with Harlequins leading the way after ten matches after recording an imperious nine victories.
But defending champions Saracens lead the chasing pack, boasting an unbeaten record and sat three points behind Gary Street and Karen Findlay’s side with a game in hand following their postponed clash against Richmond.
It’s Quins and Sarries who have represented the unequivocal pace-setters heading into a blockbuster new year, lying a respective ten and seven points clear of third-place Loughborough Lightning who have lost three of their fixtures so far.
We're back @AllianzPark next week when we face @LightningRugby in our first match of 2020!— Saracens Women (@SaracensWomen) January 1, 2020
Top four clash from as little as £5!
🎫 👉 https://t.co/NPTtroL2Os#TogetherSaracens ⚫️🔴 pic.twitter.com/pb4GPyTh1x
And at the other end of the table it’s Firwood Waterloo who prop up the standings in tenth, struggling for defensive solidity having conceded 538 points and winning just one of their ten matches.
But the relegation battle looks to be a tight one as we enter the business end of the season, with Richmond lying level on points with Giles Heagerty’s side with a game in hand.
It’s Gloucester-Hartpury who look in pole position to clinch the fourth semi-final spot on 34 points, picking up seven wins this season including their pulsating Round 10 triumph over fifth-place Wasps after a late Ellie Underwood try.
🏉 MATCH REPORT@Glos_PuryWRFC finished 2019 on a high with a hard-fought and impressive @Premier15s win on the road away at @Waspsladies, Ellie Underwood’s late try securing a dramatic 17-22 victory in a thrilling finish.— Gloucester-Hartpury (@Glos_PuryWRFC) December 21, 2019
Full report 👉🏻 https://t.co/CwOjAKIkIU pic.twitter.com/txXwBOaUPr
And that hasn’t been the only thrilling contest in a competition with no paucity of drama or try-scoring, with some eye-catching points tallies registered by some of the league’s high-flyers.
The award for the biggest margin of victory this campaign goes to league leaders Harlequins, dismantling a struggling Richmond team 101-0 on the opening day of the season thanks to doubles from Chloe Rollie, Emily Scott and Shaunagh Brown.
And last season’s defeated finalists also racked up 81-0 and 48-7 victories over Firwood Waterloo and Worcester Warriors, playing some fluent, free-flowing rugby and sending out a real statement of intent to the rest of the competition.
But they were toppled in their tussle with Alex Austerberry’s formidable Saracens, losing 33-27 after surrendering a 24-0 lead and succumbing to a stunning second-half comeback.
And that was a result that means Saracens will usurp Quins’ position at the summit of the table should they win their game in hand and continue their flawless start heading into the new year.
The stage is set for what looks to be a thrilling weekend of action when the competition rolls back around next weekend, as Saracens host Lightning and Quins travel to Gloucester-Hartpury in two duels between the current occupants of the semi-final places.
And Wasps will be hoping to capitalise on any Gloucester-Hartpury slip up to cut the eight-point deficit between them and Sean Lynn’s side when they travel to sixth-placed DMP Sharks.
Meanwhile Bristol Bears - who currently lie in seventh - host Firwood Waterloo on January 11, while it’s a clash between eighth and ninth in the Midlands as Worcester welcome Richmond to Sixways