Lynn hails Gloucester-Hartpury's warrior spirit after epic fightback

Sean Lynn hailed his Gloucester-Hartpury warriors after they overcame an almighty scare to retain their Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby crown with a 36-24 victory over Bristol Bears.

The defending champions were behind at the break for the first time this season after Bristol came flying out the blocks to claim a 17-7 half-time lead in their maiden final.

But four tries in 14 relentless second-half minutes turned the game on its head as Gloucester became only the second team to retain the trophy.

“I’m absolutely over the moon, I couldn’t be prouder of the squad,” said Lynn.

“We’ve used about 48 players with the injuries we’ve had and we had an 18-year-old out there today. The future is looking very bright and I’m very happy.

“I’m so impressed with these girls. I always speak about warriors and these girls are samurais.”

Gloucester-Hartpury arrived at Sandy Park as heavy favourites against their West Country rivals, having topped the regular season and won each of their previous six matches against Bears.

But it was they who looked overawed by the occasion, conceding penalties at will and allowing Bears to claim a shock lead through Courtney Keight on her 50th club appearance.

Gloucester hit back through Natasha Hunt but there was plenty of work to do at the interval after tries from fellow Red Roses Lara Atkin-Davies and Hannah Botterman left Bears 40 minutes from a big upset.

“The mood at half time was very calm, the big message was ‘have that belief,’” said Lynn.

“You can be disappointed, however that was a very good Bristol first half. Full credit to them, they were outstanding but it’s how we reacted and why I’m very proud.

“We’d been talking about discipline all week and that Bristol side took us out of our comfort zone. We didn’t have the swing of it with the referee at times but the reaction after half time was outstanding.”

Lynn and his coaching staff had initially been denied a vantage point from behind the posts by security and the challenges kept coming in the sweltering south-west sunshine, with flanker Bethan Lewis denied shortly after half time.

Emma Sing had already kicked the conversion by the time Sara Cox poured over footage with the TMO and they judged that Bears’ Meryl Smith managed to get something between ball and line.

Gloucester didn’t let that setback ruffle them and tore Bristol’s previously stubborn defence to shreds with tries from Pip Hendy, Sing, Mia Venner and Hannah Jones.

Bristol’s Ella Lovibond scored with her first touch to set up a grandstand finish but a late Sing penalty saw Gloucester over the line, cementing their status as the team to beat next season.

“What I love about this group is how reactive they are to the feedback they get from coaching staff. They were outstanding all second half,” added Lynn.

“This is what these girls are about, we don’t stick to one script. We can play the territorial game and with ball in hand and that was outstanding from us.

“We’ve been in some dark places this season. The big theme about today was winning moments and in the second half we won those moments and the momentum went our way.”