Gloucester beat Bristol at Sandy Park

Gloucester-Hartpury won the Premiership Women’s Rugby title in successive seasons on Saturday. They overcame a 10-point deficit to seal the title and beat local rivals Bristol Bears.

It was only the second final without Saracens being present since 2017. The tides seem to be turning in the English women’s top-flight.

Read more: GB women’s Olympic star

But what did we learn from the final? Here are five things.

Zoe Aldrcroft – best player in the world?

Zoe Aldcroft has proved her might in attack with linebreaks and ruck steals but it was her defence this season that stood head and shoulders above everyone else.

In the final alone she completed all 16 of her tackles, according to Opta. This means of the 81 tackles she made in the PWR this season she did not miss one.

Aldcroft was named World Player of the Year in 2021 and it should be an award that has her name on it again.

Emma Sing shows class

Gloucester’s Emma Sing has had a whirlwind of emotions in the past few weeks. When they new England contracts were announced, her name was not on the list. Losing her income from the Rugby Football Union could have impacted her performances this season, instead she put in a huge effort to get her team over the line in the final.

Sing scored 16 points in the final – one try, four conversions and a penalty. An incredible performance and if her form continues next season it is hard to see why she would not earn back her England contract.


Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt (left) and Zoe Aldcroft kiss the trophy after last year’s triumph (Getty Images)

New dynasty in PWR

Since 2017 when the English women’s top-flight was rebranded into the Premier 15s, and now the PWR, Saracens have won three titles. Before this season they were involved in all of the finals bar one.

However, Bristol beat Saracens in the semi-final to prevent them from the biggest league stage. Gloucester-Hartpury winning the title again means they are just one trophy away from equalling Saracens’ haul.

Saracens have also not been involved in a final since 2021/22, when they last won the league. This win for Gloucester-Hartpury underpins there is a new dominant force in the PWR.

Bristol Bears are on the rise

Bristol Bears became the first team to win an away PWR semi-final when they defeated Saracens this season. The club did not only get into the history books for that, they also reached their first final.

Bristol have been slowly progressing under head coach Dave Ward, having previously made the semi-finals. The club have now taken another step forward in reaching the final. Pressure may mount in coming seasons if silverware isn’t delivered but for now Bristol are moving in the right direction.

International popularity needs to be translated on a club level

Women’s rugby is growing rapidly on an international stage. Twickenham and other stadiums around the country continue to see large crowds turn out for the Red Roses. Attendance records are being broken in the home nations and beyond. The last Rugby World Cup sold out Eden Park for the final.

However, this is not translating on a club stage. It seemed to be but at a much slower rate with PWR final attendances consistently growing year-on-year. But this season that changed.

In 2023 9,668 people watched as Gloucester-Hartpury beat Exeter Chiefs (a caveat here is that it was held in Gloucester). The attendance this year, though, fell by 3,000.

Only 6,934 fans were at Sandy Park with the target for organisers 10,000. Figuring out a way to translate the international success on a club level is needed. Audiences love women’s rugby but marketing and media need to ensure fans know women’s club rugby is happening too.

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