Bristol Bears make first ever PWR Final after stunning comeback at Saracens

Lark Atkin-Davies' hat-trick was at the heart of an incredible comeback as Bristol Bears overcame serial-finalists Saracens to book their place in their first ever Premiership Women’s Rugby Final.

Sarries found themselves 14-0 to the good inside half an hour thanks to tries from Coreen Grant and McKinley Hunt, but that lead was wiped out by a trio of Bears tries.

Things were tightly fought for much of the second half, with both teams trading scores - but it would be Atkin-Davies' third that proved pivotal, giving the visitors a lead they wouldn't lose for the remainder of the contest.

Denying Saracens a fifth PWR final, Bears now look forward to a shot at silverware, progressing into their first ever league final.

Within three minutes, Bears nearly found themselves behind thanks to a mess of their own making, fluffing their own lineout before allowing the prolific Sophie de Goede to drive forward, shrugging off almost all of the challengers that came forth.

The Canadian international was eventually brought down in the final 22, and as Sarries fought to get the ball over the line, Bears were given a reprieve as referee Alex Thomas blew for penalty, evoking a cheer of relief from the away dugout.

On the seventh minute, the StoneX observed a minute’s applause in honour of rugby league legend Rob Burrow, who passed away at the age of 41 last Sunday after a battle with motor neurone disease.

Lineouts continued to be a problem for Bristol, either spilling the ball or losing possession from their own throws on almost every occasion.

With Bears under the cosh, it only looked a matter of time before the visitors would succumb to the pressure of the three-time PWR champions.

And that they did, with a delightful sweeping move finished off by wing Grant in the corner to break the deadlock. This was promptly followed up by a pin-point kick from Zoe Harrison to put Saracens seven points to the good.

Bristol began to grow into the game, fizzing the ball wide to Reneeqa Bonner before a vital turnover allowed Harrison to clear.

However, it would be yet another disastrous piece for Dave Ward’s side that would bring about the second score of the game, losing their own lineout to spark a dangerous Sarries attack.

Grant was at the centre of things once again, darting inside from the right before finding loosehead prop Hunt, who spun her challenge to convert. Harrison kicked with aplomb to make it 14-0 in 27 minutes.

Bears finally hit back six minutes from the break, with Atkin-Davies touching down from a rolling maul to make it 14-5, hoping for a turn in the tide ahead of a crucial second half.

Buoyed by their late try in the first 40, Bristol returned from the interval with momentum on their side – something they capitalised on within four minutes of the restart, with Atkin-Davies adding a second try to her name to move Bears within just two points of Sarries.

And just five minutes later, Bears would find themselves in front through Courtney Keight, going over in the corner to complete a remarkable comeback for the visitors.

That said, there remained a lot of rugby to be played, and it wasn’t long before Saracens produced a response of their own.

The hosts were soon back in front by virtue of a penalty try after Bonner was found guilty of a deliberate knock-on, seeing yellow for her troubles.

As both teams searched for points, tensions began to boil over as England captain Marlie Packer got into a scuffle with Red Roses teammate Hannah Botterman.

In the 68th minute, the game flipped on its head once again as Bears restored their lead - Atkin-Davies with a vital third to complete her hat-trick and put her side 24-21 in front.

And with five minutes to play, Bonner touched down in the corner to seal the victory and send Bears to a first ever league final at Sandy Park.

Tickets are now on sale for the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby Final on 22 June at Sandy Park - kick off 3pm. Click here to buy a ticket and be part of an unmissable day of women's rugby.