Category Archives: Women’s Rugby

REPORT | Bristol Ladies Rugby 32-20 Worcester Valkyries

By Thomas Branston


Worcester Valkyries put in a commendable performance but were beaten 32-20 by Bristol Ladies Rugby in the Women’s Senior Cup Plate final at Wootton Bassett RFC.

Bristol dominated possession in the early exchanges and made Worcester pay with Becki Belcher opening the scoring before Jaz Bixley quickly levelled.

Bristol added three more tries before the interval to stretch their lead courtesy of another from Belcher and scores for Phoebe Murray and Brooke Bradley.

Valkyries scored three second-half tries with Helena Bunce, Rhi Donnahey and Ceri Large crossing but a Chantelle Miell brace was enough to earn Bristol the Plate.

Bristol broke down the Valkyries in the opening stages with Belcher strolling in from distance to score in the corner.

Worcester reacted well with Bianca Blackburn’s accurate pass allowing Bixley time and space to dive over for a spectacular finish in the far corner.

However Bristol made the visitors pay as Belcher again crossed the whitewash in similar fashion to her first.

Murray then received the ball out wide before producing a delicate chip over the defensive line which she managed to collect to dive over in the corner.

Bristol notched their fourth try before half-time and after dominating at the scrum, Bradley spotted a gap in the defence to score under the posts.

Bristol led 20-5 at the interval and got a fifth try early in the second period as winger Miell stepped through to score and Sarah Graham added the extras.

Worcester were playing some nice rugby and would have felt hard done by to be 27-5 behind, but they didn’t roll over.

After enjoying a large spell of possession and territory in the Bristol half, Valkyries capitalised as flanker Bunce found her way over for her first try for the Club, following a well-constructed lineout.

Miell did get her second try for Bristol from close range but it was Valkyries who dominated late in the game.

Lisa Campbell led by example, as the powerful number eight broke through which led to Donnahey scoring in the corner.

Large then added a fourth try after receiving the ball on the Bristol ten-metre line and racing downfield but it wasn’t enough to get back into the contest, as Bristol won the Plate.

With the 2016/17 season now over, Valkyries will look ahead to next season’s exciting and inaugural Super Rugby campaign.

06m | Belcher try 5-0
08m | Bixley try 5-5
16m | Belcher try 10-5
20m | Murray try 15-5
40m | Bradley try 20-5
44m | Miell try 25-5
45m | Graham con 27-5
53m | Bunce try 27-10
55m | Miell try 32-10
63m | Donnahey try 32-15
75m | Large try 32-20

Valkyries | 1 Harriet Dunn (Binks 71), 2 Lark Davies, 3 Lizzie Binks (Phillips 40), 4 Stacey Hiscox (Smith 67), 5 Courtney Gill, 6 Helena Bunce (Donnahey 61), 7 Rosie Haigh, 8 Lisa Campbell, (c) 9 Bianca Blackburn, 10 Megan Goddard, 11 Jaz Bixley (Clarke 46), 12 Rhi Parker, 13 Ceri Large, 14 Alexia Mavroudis (Taft 75), 15 Samantha Bree (S Parker 70)

Replacements | 16 Katie Phillips 17 Steph Smith, 18 Rhi Donnahey, 19 Brooke Clarke, 20 Sam Parker, 21 Ally Taft


Gill set for Valkyries’ big occasion

By Thomas Branston


Worcester Valkyries lock Courtney Gill has labelled Saturday’s Senior Cup Plate Final as a ‘big occasion’ against rivals Bristol Ladies Rugby at Wootton Bassett RFC (kick-off 3pm).

Gill, who captained Valkyries in their final Women’s Premiership game of the season last weekend, believes the squad are capable of finishing the season on a high.

But she knows they have to be at the top of their game if they are to get the result against the side that finished top of the league table.

She said: “It’s a cup final and we want to end our season with a trophy. It’s a big occasion and one that we are all looking forward to.

“We want to finish the season on a positive note and we will train hard this week to give us the best possible chance of winning the Plate Final.”

The 21-year-old insists Valkyries need to believe in their own abilities in order to overcome Bristol, who have defeated them twice in the league this season.

She explained: “We need to go into the game with confidence and believe in ourselves.

“We have been caught out too many times when we are flat and if we play good rugby for 80 minutes then we are really hard to beat.

“Bristol have beaten us twice this season so now it’s time for us to show them what we are capable of.”

Valkyries fell short of victory despite putting in a brave performance against Aylesford Bulls Ladies at Surrey Sport Park on Sunday as they completed their league campaign.

And Gill believes the never-say-die attitude they showed is key ahead of the weekend’s final.

She added: “There are plenty of positives that we can take from last weekend. It’s a disappointing result but the main thing is we didn’t give up.

“There were things in the game that we can improve on but we showed our heart, kept pushing throughout and finished on a high.”

REPORT | Aylesford Bulls Ladies 44-17 Worcester Valkyries

By Thomas Branston


Worcester Valkyries fell to a 44-17 defeat in their final Women’s Premiership fixture of the season against Aylesford Bulls Ladies at Surrey Sports Park.

Aylesford stormed into a healthy first-half lead with a Hannah Breach brace followed by tries from Leanne Riley, Michi Sillari and Rachel Burford as Zoe Bennion added a score for the visitors.

Valkyries’ Lark Davies opened the second period with a try but scores from Montei Roi, Holly Myers and Breach’s third put the game beyond doubt before Courtney Gill added a consolation score at the death.

Aylesford got off to a whirlwind start to the game as Breach capitalised on a turnover to score in the corner in the first minute and Sillari added the extras.

The hosts soon added their second try as Riley went over from a quickly-taken penalty to strengthen the lead and Sillari added the conversion.

Sillari then added a quick third in the same corner as Aylesford took full control of the opening period.

Worcester began to grow into the game as the visitors went through several phases before good work from Lydia Thompson and Samantha Bree opened up a gap for Bennion to crash through to score.

However the hosts extended their lead as Burford capitalised from another quickly-taken penalty.

Breach then added a fifth for Aylesford as they dominated possession in the Worcester 22 and this was the last score of the first period with the half-time score reading 29-5 to the hosts.

Valkyries built pressure in the Bulls 22 and got their reward when Davies crashed over from close range after a driving maul and Goddard converted.

But a lack of concentration from Valkyries saw the hosts capitalise with Roi receiving the ball after several offloads to go over.

Breach soon added her hat-trick with a quality individual try, running in from the Worcester 22.

Valkyries were unable to cope with another bombardment of Aylesford attacks and conceded as Myers crossed the line from another quick penalty.

However it was Worcester who had the final say of the game as Gill scored from a driving maul.

Valkyries have one final game this season when they face Bristol Ladies Rugby in the Senior Cup Plate Final at Royal Wootton Bassett RFC on Saturday 1 April (kick-off 3.15pm).

01m | Breach try 5-0
01m | Sillari con 7-0
06m | Riley try 12-0
07m | Sillari con 14-0
13m | Sillari try 19-0
17m | Bennion try 19-5
26m | Burford try 24-5
30m | Breach try 29-5
50m | Davies try 29-10
51m | Goddard con 29-12
66m | Roi try 34-12
70m | Breach try 39-12
78m | Myers try 44-12
79m | Gill try 44-17

Valkyries | 1 Harriet Dunn, 2 Lark Davies, 3 Laura Keates, 4 Stacey Hiscox, 5 Courtney Gill (c), 6 Helena Bunce (Donnahey 60), 7 Sian Williams (B Williams 60-62), 8 Lyndsay O’Donnell, 9 Bianca Blackburn, 10 Megan Goddard, 11 Samantha Bree (Bixley 40), 12 Ceri Large, 13 Zoe Bennion, 14 Rhi Parker, 15 Lydia Thompson

Replacements | 16 Rhi Donnahey, 17 Jasmine Bixley 18 Benedicte Williams

Red Roses crowned Grand Slam Champions in Ireland Masterclass

By Thomas Branston


England’s Red Roses were crowned the 2017 Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam Champions for the first time since 2012 after an impressive 34-7 win over Ireland in Donnybrook.

Amy Wilson Hardy gave England a narrow 5-0 first-half lead after Ireland had the ball held up twice just before the break.

Second-half tries from Laura Keates, Amy Cokayne, Emily Scarratt and Lydia Thompson with Scarratt ending the match with 14 points.

Ireland did scored a consolation try of their own when hooker Leah Lyons crashed over from close-range but it was not enough to prevent England’s first Six Nations win in Ireland since 2011.

In a tense first-half it took the opening until the 15th minute for Scarratt to loop a fine pass to Wilson Hardy who finished well in the corner.

Scarratt couldn’t add the conversion in difficult conditions as the score stayed at 5-0 at the half-time interval.


England started with the same intensity and brought on Worcester Valkyries’ Laura Keates for Rochelle Clark in the front row and it took just 14 minutes for the prop to crash over from close-range.

Just minutes later England were awarded as Ireland’s Mairead Coyne was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on and Scarratt slotted the penalty through to extend the Red Roses’ score.

Cokayne raced away like a steam train after receiving a quick offload from Scarratt to extend England’s score with Ireland down to 14 players and Scarratt added the extras.

Ireland did score a try of their own as Lyons crashed over from close-range after a driven maul.

However the Red Roses scored just moments later when Scarratt received an offload from Wilson Hardy off the floor and the centre stepped the last defender to score with ease and she converted her own try.

England furthered their lead as Thompson received the ball from a Scarratt offload and the winger danced her way down the touchline to score under the posts and Scarratt added the extras.

Amber Reed sent the ball out to touch as the clock struck 80 and England celebrated winning their first Grand Slam since 2012.

Lichfield Ladies Director of Rugby left ‘devastated and emotionally destroyed’ after club’s omission from Super League months before 25th-anniversary

By Thomas Branston

Lichfield Ladies Director of Rugby Becky Williams left with sleepless nights after RFU’s decision.

Lichfield Ladies RFC have had their ‘souls destroyed’ by the Rugby Football Unions shock decision to exclude the club from the top-flight of woman’s rugby next season.

The Staffordshire based club has been omitted from the new 10-club Super Rugby League and will start the 2017-18 season in the Championship, despite spending the last 15 years at the top of domestic women’s rugby.

As a result of this decision, Lichfield look set to lose their top stars with several England internationals looking set for moves away this summer including Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt and Amy Cokayne.

Director of rugby Becky Williams this week lamented the club’s exclusion from the new Super League and shared the ‘emotional roller-coaster’ journey the club have faced.

She said: “We don’t agree with the RFU’s reasons and we don’t support their decision’s at all. We are not the first nor will we be the last side to take the bullet.

“We will deal with the decision accordingly and will rebuild as a club. We will ensure what has happened to us isn’t too detrimental on the community game in our area.

“Ensuring that we are prepared for the next opportunity to resume elite rugby is vital and we are devastated at being robbed of the opportunity this time round.”

“We have met the RFU’s requirements in full. There were 14 to apply and only ten places, we are devastated that we are not one of those sides and it comes down to funds.

“Its hard not to imagine just what we could have done had we been given the opportunity to be in the elite league next season.”


The Cooke Fields outfit currently sits in second place behind league leaders Bristol Ladies by a single point with one fixture remaining in the Women’s Premiership, which will be Lichfield’s last game in the top-flight for at least three seasons.

Lichfield will celebrate their 25-year anniversary this summer and could be crowned Premiership champions for the first time in their history, and Williams is confident the club can overcome the RFU’s decision.

She said: “It’s our 25th anniversary this summer and we will be having a massive party to celebrate our success to date.

“It has to be about our success rather than this major disappointment but we will overcome adversity.”

There will be no promotion or relegation for the first two seasons of the new Super League and Lichfields’ star players will have to depart or will risk their international ambitions if they stay.

Williams added: “I’ve spoken to all of my players personally. I ensured that all of those individuals based at Lichfield and all of our members of the playing section heard the news first categorically.

“My players deserved to know what was going on and they had to hear it from me, so I made sure that happened.

“It was a devastating blow for everyone involved.”

Justine Lucas (left) Amy Cokayne (top-left) Harriet Millar-Mills (centre) Emily Scarratt (top-right) Natasha Hunt (right)

Lichfield Ladies have produced a number of internationals including England national women’s rugby union team captain, Sarah Hunter. Emily Braund, Vicky Fleetwood, Georgina Gulliver, Natasha Hunt, Justine Lucas, Harriet Millar-Mills, Amy Cokayne, Emily Scarratt and Tamara Taylor have also played for Lichfield and England after being included in the England Women’s elite playing squad.

The club is set for a minimum three-year stint in the championship and Williams is adamant Lichfield will strive to deliver elite level rugby.

She added: “We are going to do everything within our powers to deliver some fantastic rugby and facilitate the development and nurturing our player base.

“We want to continue to be the best community club in the country and strive towards improving the standards and expectations of Championship rugby.

“This is the only option we have as we look forward through the emotional dust that is in front of us.”


Red Roses confirm three tests in New Zealand ahead of World Cup

By Thomas Branston


England Women will play Australia, Canada and New Zealand’ Black Ferns in June as they prepare for the World Cup in Ireland in August.

The Red Roses will play three Tests in an international series in New Zealand between June 2-18, as the world champions steer their attentions towards the World Cup.

“To be the best we have to play the best,” coach Simon Middleton said.

The match against New Zealand (Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua) on 17 June will be followed by the British and Irish Lions taking on the Maori All Blacks.

A 28-player squad will make the trip to New Zealand with their first fixture taking place in Wellington against Australia on June 9 (Porirua Park, Wellington), before a clash with Canada (Rugby Park, Christchurch) on June 13.


Ten sides make the cut for new Women’s Super Rugby League

By Thomas Branston


England RFU have today announced that the current Women’s Premiership will be replaced by a Women’s Super Rugby league for the 2017-18 season.

This major development will expand the women’s game in England and aims to raise the standards of rugby domestically and help support the Red Roses’ ambition to be the best team in the world.

It is also expected to help increase participation and create new commercial partnerships to help underpin the competition.

The ten sides that will feature in the new era of Women’s Rugby;

    • Bristol Ladies Rugby Ltd
    • Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
    • Firwood Waterloo Ladies
    • Harlequin FC
    • Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC
    • Loughborough Students (Lightning)
    • Richmond FC
    • Saracens Women
    • Wasps FC Ladies
    • Worcester Valkyries

However in the current Women’s Premiership competition two sides that will not feature in the new Women’s Super Rugby league are second placed Lichfield Ladies whom have supplied a number of high-profile England Internationals over the years. Aylesford Bulls Ladies who are affiliated with Aviva Premiership side Harlequins will also not feature as they are being replaced by Harlequin FC.

The competition will receive a multi-million pound investment from the RFU over the next three years to help deliver the minimum standards expected and provide high-quality coaching, facilities, training environments and community engagement plans.

The announcement reflects the increasing popularity and success of women’s rugby in England following the Red Roses’ success of winning the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014 and Great Britain playing in the first Sevens competition of the Olympic Games last year in Rio.

This season has seen the RFU announce its ambitions to double the number of women and girls playing rugby to 50,000 and the arrival of 15-a-side professional contracts ahead of eagerly anticipated Women’s Rugby World Cup in August this year.