Welsh Stars Set Up Gloucester-Hartpury v Bristol Bears Final In England

Keira Bevan Wales. Pic: Getty Images

Welsh Stars Set Up Gloucester-Hartpury v Bristol Bears Final In England

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By Hannah Blackwell

A strong Welsh input means Gloucester-Hartpury will defend their Allianz Women’s Premiership title against Bristol Bears on Saturday 22 June after the two west country rivals emerged triumphant at the semi-final stage last weekend.

The reigning champions had four tries from their Welsh stars to thank for their 50-19 victory over Exeter Chief, while the Bears made history by becoming the first team to win away from home in the semi-finals to reach their first final thanks to a 29-21 triumph at Saracens – the team that had beaten them in the Allianz Premiership Cup final earlier in the season.

The Bears, who had Keira Bevan starting at scrum half and Alisha Joyce-Butchers in the back row, came from behind to stun former champions on their own patch.

They were forced to recover from a 14-point deficit and had a hat-trick from England hooker Lark Atkin-Davies to thank for their major revival.

A third Welsh international, Courtney Keight, also came on to play a major role in the triumph after coming on after half-an-hour.

Her try wide out in the second half gave the Bears the lead for the first time in the match to make it third time lucky for the Bears, who had lost at the semi-final stage in the past two seasons.

Bevan’s expert box-kicking with the wind in her favour after the break was another key factor in the Bears triumph.

They also managed to get the upper hand at the set-piece and will now go in search of their first win over Gloucester-Hartpury since the opening month of the 2021-22 season seven games ago.

Gloucester-Hartpury were in irrepressible form against the side they beat in last season’s final, running in four of their eight tries in the opening half-hour at Kingsholm.

Two of those went to Welsh outside half Lleucu George, who opened the scoring after only two minutes, while Wales skipper Hannah Jones got another.

Wales prop Sisi Tuipulotu also got on the score sheet after coming on as a replacement in the 59th minute, just after Kate Williams had also entered the fray to join Beth Lewis in the magnificent Bears back row.

“I give these girls a bit of a licence to inspire – that’s our main pillar. Everything we’ve worked on just clicked for us,” said Gloucester-Hartpury’s Welsh head coach Sean Lynn.

The final will be played at Exeter’s Sandy Park on 22 June – the weekend before the Welsh contingents in both teams are on duty in the vital WXV qualifier against Spain at the Arms Park.

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