Chiefs Women 23 Wasps Women 13
Exeter Chiefs Women 23
Wasps Women 13
Harry Scott-Munro at Sandy Park
Exeter Chiefs Women’s maintained their winning streak in the Allianz Premier 15s, stinging visiting Wasps with a powerful second half showing at a rain-drenched Sandy Park.
Looking to build on their victory over defending champions Harlequins last time out, Susie Appleby’s side once again produced another impressive showing against one of their arch rivals to move into the top four for the first time this campaign.
It was the visitors who led at the break, Amy Wilson Hardy’s try being matched by a Gabby Cantorna penalty. However, the second half belonged to the Chiefs, who turned the screw with second half tries from DaLeaka Menin and Rachel Johnson, plus the boot of Cantorna.
Wasps grabbed a late consolation try from winger Ellie Boatman, but it was never enough to hurt the home side, who face Saracens next up at the Stone-X Stadium.
The Chiefs made two changes to the starting XV heading into the match, Cantorna returning from injury in the centre, while Olivia De Merchant made her first start of the season in place of the injured Sachiko Kato. They were also boosted by the return to the match-day side of Spanish duo Patricia Garcia and Laura Delgado, both of whom were named on the bench.
Wasps, meanwhile, were forced into something of a late reshuffle with Abby Dow only fit enough for the bench. In her absence, Lousie Dodd moved to centre with Jess Cooksey reverting to full-back in a reshuffled backline.
With the rain teeming down, it was the Chiefs who started on the front foot, although handling errors meant that they weren’t able to properly capitalise on their possession.
Approaching the end of the first quarter, the crowd were in fine voice for the first time, as Kanako Kobayashi found rampaging prop Menin, who burst through several tackles, offloading to Merryn Doidge to take play up to the visitors 22. Chiefs though, were not able to hold onto possession, much to the disappointment of the crowd, as Wasps somehow survived.
They were to almost score some ten minutes later, as the pack went to work near the Wasps line. With the penalties mounting up, a series of drives saw Menin bundle over the line, only to be stripped as she went to ground the ball.
This seemed to spur the visitors into life, as they then hit their hosts with a sucker punch on the half-hour mark. After a series of penalties against Exeter, visiting wing Boatman cut through the Chiefs defence, feeding Wilson Hardy to race in and finally break the deadlock.
Roared on by the Chiefs faithful, Appleby’s side slowly worked their way back into the match, Cantorna slotting a penalty to open her side’s account for the afternoon.
The final minutes of the first half were admittedly somewhat frenetic, both teams throwing caution to the wind as they searched for a score, which ultimately ended with the ball bobbling into touch.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CHIEFS WOMEN 3 WASPS WOMEN 5
The second half saw the Devonians begin with renewed intent, as they applied the pressure to the Wasps attack. With the visitors hemmed into their half, Kate Zackary charged down Claudia MacDonald’s box kick and gathered the ball. Her side ultimately failed to cross the try line, but a second Cantorna penalty after a ruck infringement from Wasps, edged them in front for the first time.
Wasps countered with a Flo Williams penalty, but the arrival of scrum-half Patricia Garcia early in the second half gave the Chiefs a renewed zip and confidence.
Garcia was at the heart of her side’s first score of the afternoon, as her half break gave her side an attacking platform before Wasps infringed. Garcia has made a career of being alert to opportunities and she showed that game awareness here, after taking a quick tap penalty and feeding the rampaging Menin, who raced over for a second try in a Chiefs shirt. Cantorna added the extras for the Chiefs, before Wasps looked for a rapid response.
Chiefs’ maul defence has been a feature of these opening rounds and it was on display again here, Poppy Leitch and Johnson snuffing out a dangerous looking Wasps maul near the Chiefs try line.
From there, Appleby’s side worked their way up the field, aided by a series of indiscretions from the visitors, the last of which saw No.8 Harriet Millar-Mills sent to the sin-bin.
Doidge’s pin-point kick to touch set her side up for a rolling maul near the Wasps line and they rewarded the fullback’s fine kick with a second score, American flanker Johnson bundling over from close range.
Chiefs were now imposing themselves on the match, Laura Sheehan’s superb take from a cross-field kick springing the crowd into life.
On a day like today though, it was always going to be the pack that decided this match. With little under ten minutes to go, they sent the Wasps scrum backwards at a rate of knots, Cantorna slotting the penalty to extend her side’s advantage to 15 points.
It would be the visitors that would have the final score, as Exeter were perhaps guilty of overplaying in the conditions. Off a scrum, Claudia MacDonald found space, looping a perfectly waited pass over to Boatman to race in for her side’s second.
It was though, no more than a consolation, as the Chiefs secured a hugely impressive victory over last season’s semi-finalists.
Exeter Chiefs: M Doidge; J Duncan (C Lewis 63); K Kobayashi, G Cantorna, L Sheehan (O Jones 69); F Robinson, B Bradley (P Garcia 45); O De Merchant, E Tuttosi (C Nielson 63), D Menin (L Delgado 76); P Leitch, L van der Velden (A Fleming 66); E Jefferies (M Allen 72), R Johnson, K Zackary. Replacement (not used): J Thomas
Tries – Menin, Johnson; Conversions – Cantorna (2); Penalties – Cantorna (3)
Wasps: J Cooksey; E Boatman; A Wilson Hardy, L Dodd; C Williams; F Williams (S Wong 55), C MacDonald; M Muir, H Kerr (M Ransley 76), B Cleall (M Combebias 69); C Cooney, C Balogun (E McMahon 66); E Crake, C Molloy, H Millar-Mills. Replacements (not used): M Evans, K Searcy, H Caux, A Dow.
Tries – Wilson Hardy, Boatman; Penalty – F Williams
Yellow Card: Millar-Mills
Referee: D Rowlands