Chiefs Women 54 Saracens Women 12
Exeter Chiefs Women 54
Saracens Women 12
Harry Scott-Munro at Sandy Park
Some days the sun just shines down on you.
This was one of them for Exeter Chiefs Women, as they secured their place in the Allianz Premier 15s semi-finals for the first time in their history, handing out a record defeat on league leaders Saracens at the same time.
After Saracens had hit the front through Jodie Rettie early on, the Chiefs were relentless, as first Hope Rogers, swiftly followed by Merryn Doidge, Emily Tuttosi and Flo Robinson all crossed before the break. In the second half, further scores followed from Rachel Johnson, Jennine Detiveaux, Linde van der Velden and Gabby Cantorna, with Hannah Botterman grabbing a consolation score for the visitors.
Having secured their first piece of silverware in the Allianz Cup a fortnight ago, the Chiefs were determined to keep their momentum going into the league, as the Allianz Premier 15s reaches its crescendo.
Ahead of kick-off, Head Coach Susie Appleby welcomed back the Canadian trio of Tuttosi, McKinley Hunt and DaLeaka Menin into the starting XV, with Rachel Johnson also returning from injury in a timely boost to her side.
Saracens were without England Grand Slam trio Marlie Packer, Poppy Cleall and Zoe Harrison, but still named an experienced side, with Holly Aitchison, Hannah Botterman and Vicky Fleetwood all named in the starting XV.
Despite the roar of the Sandy Park crowd, it was the visitors who would open the scoring, after a penalty at the breakdown had allowed Alev Kelter to put her side within range. Despite the relentless pressure from the Chiefs defence, Rettie eventually found a gap to wriggle over, but the Chiefs would not have to wait long for their response.
As Saracens looked to clear their lines from the restart, the chasing runners strayed offside, allowing Cantorna to put the ball into the corner.
The driving maul has become a trademark for the Chiefs in recent weeks and it was at its dominant best here again, as the pack motored towards the try line. Whilst they were hauled down just short, there was to be no stopping Rogers, as she smashed her way over for her tenth try in as many games, with Cantorna’s conversion edging her side into the lead.
Straight from the restart, the Chiefs were in again and this one truly was something special. As Zackary found space on the wing, the No.8 expertly offloaded to Doidge, who sold most of the Saracens team with several stunning dummies, to coast in from halfway.
Doidge was leaving the Saracens defence chasing shadows, as she routinely carved through the red line to put her side on the front foot.
If it wasn’t Doidge causing the damage, it was one of her back three team-mates with Eilidh Sinclair the next to weave her way through into the Saracens 22. With the visitors infringing at the breakdown, Cantorna kicked her side into the corner, with Tuttosi making no mistake to dot down from the back of the driving maul, for her side’s third try in just 17 minutes of action.
Saracens though are too good a side to lie down and they were back on the attack soon after, before Johnson popped up with a crucial turnover for her side, allowing Cantorna to clear her lines.
The bonus-point, however, was in the bag on the half hour mark, as Exeter again took the Saracens pack apart. With the forwards driving towards the line, Robinson spotted a gap and coasted in to take her side’s advantage past 20 points.
The Chiefs continued their relentless pursuit of points, with the half ticking towards its conclusion but were unable to make headway. They had though, put down some marker heading into the second period.
HALF TIME: EXETER CHIEFS 26 SARACENS 5
The visitors were out to prove a point in the second half, as they looked to wrestle momentum back from a rampant Chiefs side.
Exeter though, were in no mood to let-up, as they secured a turnover near their own line and marched their way up the field.
The pack thought they were in again as they drove towards the line, only for the drive to be illegally stopped. It didn’t matter though as that merely delayed the inevitable Chiefs onslaught, Johnson eventually powering over on her return to the side, with Vicky Fleetwood seeing yellow in the act of trying to stop the try.
There was barely time to pause for breath before Exeter were in again. Straight from the restart, it was Zackary again who found space, breaking free and feeding Detiveaux. The wing still had a lot of work to do from 60 metres out, but showed all of her muscle and finishing prowess to steamroll Lotte Clapp and race over out wide.
Fly-half Patricia Garcia had the ball on strings throughout the match, with several sublime 50:22’s keeping her side on the front foot.
It was from the second of these that the Chiefs would score again, as they drove up towards the line. There was no stopping the Chiefs charge as van der Velden, managed to find a huge fend and dot down to send her own supporters club in the crowd wild!
Saracens to their credit, refused to give in and found a brief opening with just over ten minutes to go, as Clapp burst free and found Botterman on her outside.
Sinclair tracked back well to make a crucial tackle on the prop for the Chiefs, but the visitors recycled the ball to allow Botterman to eventually crash over.
The Chiefs though, were not going to let the match finish without having the final say, with van der Velden again the one to make headway through the Saracens defensive line.
With numbers aplenty on the outside, the ball was fed out to Cantorna to crash over and cap a fine individual display with a score, to leave Exeter celebrating a third successive game in league and cup where they have reached a half century of points.
Head Coach Susie Appleby called this her side’s most complete performance of the season and, heading into next weekend’s grandstand finale against Bristol Bears, a home semi-final is firmly in the Chiefs’ grasp.
Exeter Chiefs: M Doidge (N Terry 59); E Sinclair; K. Kobayashi, G Cantorna; J Detiveaux; P Garcia (N McGillivray 71), F Robinson (B Bradley 71); H Rogers (M. Roberts 69), E Tuttosi (C Nielson 62), D Menin (L Delgado 62); M Hunt (N Fryday 62), L van der Velden; P Leitch, R Johnson (E Jefferies 66), K Zackary
Tries: Rogers, Doidge, Tuttosi, Robinson, Johnson, Detiveaux, van der Velden, Cantorna; Conversions: Cantorna (7)
Saracens: S McKenna; A Corrigan; H Casey (C Wardle 61), A Kelter; L Clapp; H Aitchison, E Wyrwas (C Waters 66); H Botterman (J Turl 71), M Campbell (K Evans 62), A Ellis (J Turl 49); F Mcintosh (S Tansley 65), C Jacobs (S Green 49); J Rettie; V Fleetwood, M Carson
Tries: Rettie, Botterman; Conversion: Kelter
Referee: H Walbaum