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PWR Final preview: 'The engine rooms of both teams will play a key role'

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Zoe Aldcroft of Gloucester-Hartpury speaks to the team in a huddle prior to the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby match between Gloucester-Hartpury and Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm Stadium on June 09, 2024 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

It’s finals week! Bristol Bears are heading into their first PWR final taking on reigning champions, Gloucester-Hartpury down at Sandy Park on Saturday 22nd June.

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For Saracens, the heartache continues. A semi-final of two halves meant that the women in black didn’t secure a finals spot for the second year in a row.

Similarly, Exeter Chiefs suffered a big loss of 50-19 at Kingsholm in the penultimate game and will be disappointed with falling short. But that’s sport for you… You win some and you lose some and it’s how you come back from these moments and push for more!

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The final this weekend is going to be a cracker. Both teams are home to a significant number of internationals and it is going to be a battle of the best. In the front row, you have the likes of Hannah Botterman and Maud Muir going head to head, with rumours of Sarah Bern potentially making an appearance in the final following extensive rehab on a knee injury she picked up earlier in the season.

The engine rooms of both teams will play a key role in the fixture. As a fellow second row, it is usually the ‘boring’ and unseen work we do in our position. I’m excited to see Sam Monaghan and Abbie Ward go head to head in a lineout battle. Both of them are world-class in set piece, so it’ll be interesting to see what bank of lineout options they have opted for in this fixture.

Fixture
England Premier 15s
Gloucester-Hartpury Women RFC
36 - 24
Full-time
Bristol Bears Women
All Stats and Data

For me personally, I am gutted that Alex Matthews is going to be missing out having sustained a facial injury in the Saracens fixture the week before the semis. She has been a key player for Gloucester all season and has such a calm, experienced head on her.

However, I think that Gloucester-Hartpury have an abundance of talent in their back row. The likes of Georgia Brock, Beth Lewis and of course, Zoe Aldcroft who is a talisman for the side will hold down the fort in Alex’s absence.

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When you look at the Bristol back row from previous rounds, you see a slightly different dynamic with Rownita Martson-Mulhearn as a ball-carrying powerhouse threat (rather than a set-piece player). Row joined by Alisha Joyce-Butchers and Evie Gallagher creates a well-balanced trio, offering a multitude of skills and strengths.

The nine and 10 pairings for this fixture are going to be vital for the success of either team. Both squads have had consistency with their partnerships, with Amber Reed holding the 10 shirt for the latter half of the season alongside Keira Bevan. I think the difference we see between the teams is their points of kicking. With Holly Aitchison sitting at 12, Bears have an opportunity to kick one further out and can also split the pitch with Reed being a kicking threat too.

Whereas for Gloucester-Hartpury they put boot to ball through Lleucu George and Emma Sing who usually wears the 15 shirt. Tactically, this could be a make-or-break for both teams. It will be fascinating to see what analysis they have done in order to make the most of their footballers.

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Unfortunately, Deborah Wills sustained an ACL injury in the semi-final a few weeks ago. Credit where credit is due, Debs hurt her knee very early on but continued to play for 25 minutes before hitting the floor in pain. I hope she makes a speedy recovery and can enjoy the game from the sideline on Saturday.

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The other wing is usually home to Reneeqa Bonner who has an extremely bright career ahead of her. The speed, the footwork, she seems to have it all, scoring the winner in the semi-finals at Stone X Stadium.

Likewise, for the girls at the ‘Circus’, Pip Hendy and Mia Venner have been fantastic and come into their own this year. I’m really excited to see how Mia progresses over the next few years having picked up a Red Roses contract earlier this month.

So, with that being said, I think that’s enough talking (writing)! Get yourself down to Sandy Park on Saturday, or if you can’t make it, be sure to tune in on TNT Sports, or RugbyPass TV to watch the action for free outside of the UK, Ireland, Canada and USA.

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M
Mzilikazi 3 hours ago
Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt

Nice article, Brett, and good to be writing about a second win. I think Georgia will be far more testing. Tbh, I have not looked at their touring squad, but at full strength they are a far better and more dangerous team than they were at RWC France. They would have been disappointed they did not perform to full potential there. I think that the WB’s under Joe Schmidt have started soundly. Recovery from a serious setback always takes time. And the Jones era was that and more. I think the arrival of Les Kiss back to his native Qld. is a very positive factor, and the fact that he and Schmidt know each other well is a help. Players I think are much improved this year: Daugunu, who has blossomed with the Rebels, so credit to the coaching unit down there. Am pleased he will come back to the Reds. McReight is said to have put on up to 7 kgs since last season. His work rate has always been good, but it is his carrying into contact that has gone up. Now makes those critical one or two metres post contact very often. Is conceding fewer penalties now as his game matures. Rob Valetini was good last year, but is now a greater force this one. A really punishing ball carrier. Hunter Paisami is now a more controlled player. His carrying into contact is very impressive for an 80 kg man. Interestingly, if you saw Nick Bishops latest article, he has a team for RC with Kerevi at 12. Also Skelton in the team. Not sure if there will be o’seas players as early as RC though….but need them in by the EYOT games.

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