Appleby reacts to Bristol defeat

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Exeter Chiefs Women's Head Coach Susie Appleby talks to her players ahead of the Allianz Premier 15s clash with Bristol Bears. Picture:

By Harry Scott-Munro

Exeter Chiefs Women’s head coach Susie Appleby believes her newly-formed side are improving by the week, this despite slipping to a narrow 24-22 defeat at home to Bristol Bears in the Allianz Premiership 15s.

Despite trailing 19-5 at the break, the Chiefs produced a powerful second half showing to come within a whisker of snatching a share of the spoils against their Westcountry rivals at Sandy Park.

Sadly, a last-gasp conversion from Lauren Cattell fell just short of the target for the home side, whose other points came courtesy of tries from Taylor Black, Linde van der Velden and Kate Zackary.

Fly-half Black had given the Chiefs a dream start, scoring a try inside the opening few minutes, but it was the visitors who ruled the remainder of the first half, pulling clear with three tries of their own.

Bristol secured the all-important bonus point early in the second half, before Appleby’s side came storming back into contention. Skipper van der Velden claimed her second try in as many matches, before Zackary struck late on.

“Wow, what a game,” said Appleby at the final whistle. “I’m not quite sure what to say. I thought we were quick to start, but then we kind of slow in all our reactions in that first half. We were slow to get organised, slow to the ball on the floor, and we kind of gave up some really soft tries.

“When we started to play, particularly in that last 20 minutes, like I know we can, that showed how hot we can be and it’s certainly given us more things to build on next week. As always, we’ll look at the footage and we’ll tweak a few things, but the key message moving forward is probably around being patient. There were times out there today where we tried to force things, rather than go through the phases.”

Zackary’s late try, coupled with the fact the Chiefs finished within two points of the Bears, mean the Chiefs are now up and running in terms of league points in the table.

“That’s another positive for us,” added Appleby, who handed Exeter debuts to Olivia De Merchant, Poppy Leitch and Niamh Terry.

“Poppy had a massive impact off the bench,” said Appleby. “I thought Niamh performed well in a position for her and Olivia, even by her own admission, was a bit rusty, but UI thought she still provided a good impact coming on for Sachi so early in the game.”

Next up for the Chiefs is their testing trip this Saturday (2pm) to league heavyweights Harlequins, who have started the new campaign with victories over DMP Sharks (103-0) and Wasps (31-12).

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