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Freak scoreline doesn't 'do much' for Premier 15s

By Ian Cameron
Saracens scores against DMP Durham Sharks earlier in the season /Getty

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DMP Durham Sharks conceded more than 100 points at Saracens over the weekend, a scoreline that suggests the Premier 15s has some way to go build competitiveness across the breadth of the league.

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Saracens Women registered a 104 – 0 win over Durham in a match that sent them to the top of the Premier 15s table and painfully illustrated the gulf in class between the Londoners’ side which was heavy with internationals and their northern opponents, who are rooted to the bottom of the table.

Saracens admittedly are significantly further down the road towards professionalism than Durham, with no less than eight England stars in their squad. Hannah Botterman, Poppy Cleall, Vicky Fleetwood, Marlie Packer, Zoe Harrison, Ella Wyrwas, Holly Aitchison and Sarah McKenna were all included in England’s Autumn internationals playing squad.

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Alex Austerberry’s side are one of the most seasoned in the league, while DMP have struggled badly this season in a competition where the spread of top talent can be lopsided and can lead to such aberrations on the scoreboard.

In fact the scoreline isn’t the worst the Durham has suffered this campaign, having shipped a 115 – 0 scoreline to Bristol Bears back in September. They’ve suffered similar results all campaign.  Indeed, the side have yet to win a match and have a minus 683 points deficit from their nine matches to date.

Durham were one of four teams accepted into the league in 2020, alongside Exeter Chiefs Women, Sale Sharks Women and Worcester Warriors Women, having been asked to re-tender for the league’s next three-year cycle by the RFU.

Of course, one side’s campaign to date doesn’t represent the tenor of the league generally, but it certainly doesn’t help. Ugly scorelines and a lack of competitiveness exist in the men’s game of course. The All Blacks beat Tonga 102 – 0 in 2021, while Italy haven’t won a Six Nations game since 2015.

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Women’s rugby commentator and journalist Nick Heath remarked on Twitter that the results like the one on the weekend clearly don’t do much for the competition and questioned whether the team were receiving the right support.

“104-0 to Sarries. Every sympathy with the DMP Durham Sharks players but these results don’t do much for the AP15s. Clearly many of these players in the NE mustn’t be neglected but this doesn’t feel like a women’s side being given the support needed to grow and succeed,” noted Heath, a comment which ignited a healthy debate.

England international Ellie Pigford and DMP Durham Sharks players “we turn up, we play, we give 100% all we ask everyone is to show respect. If anyone has any questions & wants answers we are more than happy to communicate & speak out to supporters of womens rugby.”

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Scorelines like the ones suffered by Durham don’t reflect the massive strides the league has made in recent seasons and rather reflect the inevitable teething problems of taking the women’s game from amateur to semi-professional to professional. With that said, addressing the system that leads to them must surely be a priority for the RFU.

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