Harlequins prop Shaunagh Brown called out those who have said “women’s rugby is not good enough” after her side beat Saracens to win a first Premier 15s title in a thrilling Kingsholm final.
Quins dominated the early stages and held off a late Sarries surge to claim a 25-17 victory.
Brought to tears by the win, Brown said the game was “international standard”.
“I challenge anyone to say women’s rugby or women are not good enough because we are,” she told BT Sport.
Brown – also a key member of the England side which won a third straight Six Nations title in April – has become an inspiring spokesperson for women’s rugby in recent years.
Her impressive player-of-the-match performance, which included a crucial move to prevent a try by Red Roses team-mate Hannah Botterman, helped Quins claim a first Premier 15s final victory against Saracens in three attempts.
The 31-year-old is on a full-time contract with England but the Premier 15s remains an amateur league as it continues to evolve.
Teams have not been provided with coronavirus testing this season, with adapted laws introduced which include playing 35-minute halves and reducing the number of scrums to limit the possibility of Covid-19 transmission.
The level of play reached in the final despite these obstacles – with Saracens coming to within five points of victory in an exciting finish – is a measure of how impressive the teams involved are.
“This is not just about rugby,” Brown said.
“This is not just about the sport. It’s about women. It’s about women’s sport. It’s about putting us on a platform and knowing that we can do it.
“We have come out and put on an international standard of rugby in front of fans.”
‘We will be back fighting’ – Packer
Saracens had been the only team to win the Premier 15s – which began in 2017 – before Quins’ victory.
They threatened to claim a third successive title when Harlequins were reduced to 13 players with Abbie Ward and Amy Cokayne in the sin-bin.
But Sarries were undone by their own indiscipline, allowing Quins’ Lagi Tuima to claim 15 points from the tee.
“It was our discipline that let us down,” Saracens flanker Marlie Packer said.
“It has been a difficult season. The law changes probably have not been in favour for the way we play at Saracens but we have had to adapt and play on.
“We got to the final, we were short today but next season we will be back fighting.”