Saracens finally settled the argument as to who is England’s top women’s club side with an emphatic victory in the Tyrrells Premier 15s final over the only team to have beaten them in the regular season.
Harlequins looked crestfallen at the end of a repeat of last year’s final. They had fancied their chances with Saracens without three of their England forwards but one of the Red Roses pack who did take the field, the No8 Poppy Cleall, was outstanding in their back row.
The Saracens forwards ruthlessly dismantled their opponents with the game effectively over by the break on a chilly night in Northampton by which time they had run up a 27-point lead. Harlequins scored two consolation tries after the break but could not recover from their cold start.
Saracens eased their nerves when No 8 Cleall was driven over from a lineout with barely four minutes on the clock. The evening began to look ominous for Quins when another England forward Hannah Bottterman supplied a scoring pass for the right-wing Sydney Gregson to go over in the corner.
The Quins defence was stretched again with Gregson apparently scoring in the same spot but the try was ruled out for an earlier knock-on. Zoe Harrison, though, soon managed a third try after a clever dummy and good work by the Saracens pack. A quarter of the match had gone and the champions already looked out of sight.
It was fortunate for Harlequins that Harrison continued to miss conversions but there was little respite for Rachael Burford’s side with Cleall scoring her second try after another powerful drive by the pack.
Saracens were down to 14 players when their flanker Jodie Rettie was sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball and Quins briefly rallied but the one-way traffic continued. Heather Cowell made a try-saving tackle on Lotte Clapp in the corner but in the last move of the first half Harrison darted over for her second try which she at last converted.
Harlequins replaced their fly-half Ellie Green at the break. The 18-year-old Green was the leading points-scorer in the league this season but the game had passed her by and Emily Scott took over as playmaker. Scott kicked a 30-metre penalty to at last break the Quins duck but it was wiped out by a Harrison kick.
One part of the Quins game that was working was the scrum and their forwards worked the England prop Vickii Cornborough over for a try that Scott converted. The TMO Claire Hodnett confirmed that the try had been scored and Hodnett was called into action again, ruling that Burford had grounded the ball after forcing her way through a pile of bodies in the line. Harrison then had the last word with her second penalty.