Chiefs 8 Gloucester-Hartpury 10
Exeter Chiefs Women 8
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 10
Harry Scott-Munro at Sandy Park
Exeter Chiefs Women’s unbeaten home run came to an abrupt end as Westcountry rivals Gloucester-Hartpury played the role of party-poopers to edge a 10-8 victory at Sandy Park.
After a clinical victory over Worcester Warriors last weekend, Head Coach Susie Appleby named an unchanged 23 for this latest Allianz Premier 15s match, as they looked to make it three successive league wins.
Gloucester-Hartpury have had their fair share of narrow defeats this season, including last weekend against Loughborough Lightning, but against the Chiefs they came out ono the right side of another tight game.
After the visitors had opened the scoring through World Rugby Player of the Year Zoe Aldcroft, the Chiefs hit back through a Patricia Garcia score, with the scrum-half then adding a second half penalty to give her side the lead. The visitors, though, added a crucial second try in the second half through Kelly Smith, which ultimately proved the difference.
After a frantic opening, the Chiefs appeared to be the side in the ascendency, with DaLeaka Menin and Abbie Fleming asking questions of the Gloucester-Hartpury defence with several strong carries.
Handling errors though, would let the Chiefs down against a ferocious defence. Fleming again was at the forefront of Exeter’s carrying game, as she drove into the Gloucester-Hartpury 22, but she would see her side forced into touch.
That phase of play set the tone for the early exchanges of the match, as Exeter continued to probe around the Gloucester-Hartpury 22, only to be stopped in their tracks by a brutal defensive effort.
With ten minutes on the clock, the Chiefs thought they had found their first half chance of the afternoon, as co-captain Kate Zackary burst into the 22, only for her side to spill the ball as they looked to work it wide.
From there, the visitors were able to get into their stride, No.8 Anna Caplice bursting up field, before Ellie Underwood caused chaos in the Chiefs ranks with a pacy carry into the 22. Menin came to the Chiefs rescue with a timely turnover at the breakdown, but Exeter were guilty of overplaying, as they lost the ball into touch, allowing the visitors to reset themselves in attack.
That error would lead to the opening score of the match too, as both Tatyana Heard and Sisilia Tuipulotu made the hard yards in midfield, before Aldcroft spotted a gap around the fringes, to wriggle her way over for the opening try of the match.
Exeter though, were straight back into their attacking patterns, with full-back Chloe Rollie sending her opposite number onto her backside with a huge fend, as she looked to create space for herself.
With the Chiefs building momentum, Flo Robinson played a clever inside ball to the onrushing Jennine Detiveaux, who raced through and rounded Sing, before looking to have grounded the ball under pressure, only for the officials to deem that she had knocked on in grounding the ball.
Eventually though, pressure from Exeter in defence would lead to their first score of the afternoon. After Patricia Garcia had spotted space in behind the visitors’ defensive line, a superb read from Nancy McGillivray forced a knock-on.
From the resulting scrum, Exeter carried hard in midfield, before Garcia popped up at first receiver to dance her way over the line from 30 metres to level proceedings. The scrum-half then had the opportunity to take her side into the lead, but was charged down as she looked to convert.
As half time loomed, the visitors continued to apply the pressure and with the clock in the red, Sing lined up a monster penalty, only for her kick to fall narrowly short of the posts.
HALF-TIME SCORE: EXETER CHIEFS 5 GLOUCESTER-HARTPURY 5
The Chiefs started the second-half at a rate of knots, with Garcia gathering the ball well, before feeding Zackary to charge into the Gloucester-Hartpury 22. Again though, handling proved to be the undoing of Appleby’s side, with a series of sloppy errors letting the visitors off the hook.
Exeter continued to stick to their processes, Garcia sniping through a gap up to the Gloucester-Hartpury 22, with the visitors guilty of pulling a player back off the ball. The Spaniard duly added the penalty to take her side into the lead but the visitors were straight back into the ascendency, as they pounced upon a series of Exeter errors to camp themselves in the Chiefs 22.
Whilst the defence was holding firm, there was no let-up from the visitors, with both Jefferies and Menin having to get their hands dirty at the breakdown to secure turnovers for their side.
There was to be a short period of respite for the Chiefs, as Linde Van der Velden burst up to the halfway line, before Gloucester-Hartpury scored the match-defining score.
Again, Exeter’s discipline let them down, as Gloucester-Hartpury kicked themselves to within ten metres of the Exeter line.
From there, the visitors built the phases, drawing Exeter in, before spinning the ball wide for Kelly Smith to race over.
Exeter continued to look to try and find an opening to wrestle the lead back from the visitors, but each time, the visitors stopped them in their tracks.
The Chiefs continued to look for those openings, with both Rollie and Nichola Fryday pressing and probing, before their side were forced into touch as they were perhaps guilty of overplaying.
With time ticking away, Exeter looked to try and work their way up the field from inside their own 22, with Poppy Leitch, Laura Delgado and Eilidh Sinclair all making valuable metres.
It proved to be in vain though, as a knock-on in contact allowed the visitors to boot the ball into touch, as they continued their winning streak over the Chiefs.
Exeter now must regroup ahead of next weekend’s trip to DMP Sharks, as they look to round off the calendar year on a high.
Chiefs: C. Rollie; J. Detiveaux (G. Mackinder 56); K. Zackary, N. McGillivray; L. Sheehan (M. Doidge 53); F. Robinson, P. Garcia (B. Bradley 67); S. Kato (O. De Merchant 53), E. Tuttosi (C. Nielson 70), D. Menin (L. Delgado 60); A. Fleming, L. Van der Velden; E. Jefferies (E. Sinclair 75), P. Leitch, M. Allen (N. Fryday 56)
Try: Garcia; Penalty: Garcia
Gloucester-Hartpury: E. Sing; E. Underwood; R. Lund (H. Jones 56), T. Heard; K. Smith (R. Wilkins 76); L. George, B. Blackburn (N. Hunt 52); M. Learned (C. Hope 53), E. Gilbert (K. Buggy 51), C. Hale; K. Sommer, S. Tuipulotu; Z. Aldcroft, B. Lewis, A. Caplice (T. Copson 60). Replacements (not used): K. Dougan, G. Crabb
Tries: Aldcroft, Smith
Referee: B Wood