OA Saints clinch title but promotion remains the target

PUBLISHED: 11:21 07 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:15 07 March 2019

OA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

OA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

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A battling victory over Medway has put Old Albanian Saints on the verge of completing their target and winning promotion to the second tier of rugby in England.

Aisha Abumarzouq in action for OA Saints against Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKEAisha Abumarzouq in action for OA Saints against Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

The 15-5 success over Medway at a wet and windy Woollams was enough for them to clinch the Women’s Championship South East Two title.

Mica Gooding battles to escape the attention of the Medway defenders. Picture: EMMA COOKEMica Gooding battles to escape the attention of the Medway defenders. Picture: EMMA COOKE

That means they now head into a promotion play-off with the winners of South West Two to decide who gets the prize of playing in step two next season, one below the Tyrrells Women’s 15.

Mairead Ladbrooke in action for OA Saints against Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKEMairead Ladbrooke in action for OA Saints against Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

And head coach Darran Brown says with the speed that the game is growing in this country, it is vital that OAs reach that level soon.

Aisha Abumarzouq was unsuccessful with this conversion attempt for OA Saints against Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKEAisha Abumarzouq was unsuccessful with this conversion attempt for OA Saints against Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

He said: “Our target is to go up with this squad and then hopefully other people will come and join us.

OA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKEOA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

“The way the women’s game is growing we targetted this specific season to get up.

OA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKEOA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

“We know clubs are going to get stronger and there will be clubs coming up from other leagues going very quickly through the system but we think we’re good enough to be in that next level.

OA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKEOA Saints celebrate winning the Women's Championship South East Two title following victory over Medway. Picture: EMMA COOKE

“We’ve missed out the last few years where we haven’t got the odd game right but this time we’re happy.”

Sunday’s match in front of an excited crowd saw Saints bag three first-half tries, two from Siobhan Drummond and one for Kate Skelton, before closing the game out in the second period.

Brown, who is assisted by Saracens and England star Sarah McKenna, was full of praise for his side.

He said: “It feels great and they deserve it. They’ve worked really hard this year.

“Sarah and I have been pushing them and they’ve taken everything on board and grown as a side.

“We knew Medway would be tough with a big forward pack but we had a little bit more movement than they did and a little bit more fluidity.

“And the second-half we ground it out and defended well.”

Being a clincal full-back herself, McKenna was naturally pleased with the scoring performance of Drummond.

She said: “She’s been on form all season, she’s a devastating player and she just needs a bit of time on the ball and she will run round teams.

“On days like today when the ball is coming round your shoulders or by your knees it isn’t ideal for her but she can fight her way out of any corner and get over the try-line.

“We knew we had to make the points count in the first-half with the wind at our backs.

“To execute in the redzone in the manner that we did was obviously what we wanted but there were plenty of other opportunities left on the field.”

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