Chiefs Women 66 Bears Women 0
Exeter Chiefs Women 66
Bristol Bears Women 0
Harry Scott-Munro at Sandy Park
These days don’t come around very often.
After a slow start, Exeter Chiefs Women pulled out a performance of sheer quality to brush aside Westcountry rivals Bristol Bears 66-0 and secure their place in the inaugural Allianz Cup final against Harlequins.
The Chiefs scored ten tries in all, Hope Rogers and Jennine Detiveaux bagging braces, alongside further tries from Linde van der Velden, Kate Zackary, Clara Nielson, Charlie Willett, Daisy French and a penalty try.
Meg Foster and Gabby Cantorna slotted two conversions each, whilst Patricia Garcia added an extra three, to move past 100 points in a Chiefs jersey.
The cancelled match against Saracens meant that Susie Appleby’s side had gone three weeks without a match, but on a beautiful sunny day in Devon, any cobwebs were swiftly brushed away.
The rust didn’t show in the opening exchanges though, as the hosts raced out of the traps. With the scrum forcing the Bears into reverse, a shunt on halfway sent the Bears backwards at a rate of knots, allowing Zackary to pick up from the base and charge half the length of the field and crash over under the posts for a stunning individual score.
From that point on, the Bears to their credit kept themselves in the game, as they drew a series of penalties from the Exeter breakdown, allowing Lucie Skuse to kick the corners and keep the pressure on. Every time though, the Bristol line-out malfunctioned, under extreme aerial pressure from Poppy Leitch and van der Velden.
Those missed opportunities seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Bears, as Exeter built their way up the field in search of their second try.
Whilst Appleby admitted afterwards that her side were understandably rusty in the first period, they were relentless in taking their opportunities, as from the back of a maul, Clara Nielson charged towards the line, before Rogers crashed over from close range for her first of the afternoon, with Foster again adding the extras.
There would be one final opportunity at the end of the half for the Chiefs, as wing Olivia Jones latched onto a pin-point kick through from Cantorna, but the Chiefs would be penalised as they went off their feet trying to regather the ball.
HALF-TIME SCORE: EXETER CHIEFS 14 BRISTOL BEARS 0
Whilst the Chiefs were perhaps slightly rusty in the first half, the second period saw them again start at a rate of knots.
As the Bears looked to build phases in midfield, van der Velden wrestled possession back for her side, before charging through the heart of the Bears defence and releasing Detiveaux, only for the American to be pulled down metres short of the line.
Exeter regrouped quickly though, and aptly, it was van der Velden who finished off the move she started, as she picked her spot and crashed over.
There would be a moment of personal celebration as well after the conversion, as Spaniard Patricia Garcia moved past 100 points for the club. Garcia has been an unbelievable servant for the Chiefs and this accolade was one that she is incredibly deserving of.
The Chiefs though, were in no mood to let-up, as they kept the pressure on and punched through the Bears defence, Maisy Allen on her return to the side, causing carnage every time she got her hands on the ball.
In the end the Bears defence finally buckled, allowing Rogers to score her second of the afternoon, to a huge ovation.
With only 20 players to select from and having lost Delany Burns to injury, it was not surprising that Bristol struggled to live with the relentless pace from the Chiefs as, if anything, Exeter seemed to up the speed again.
After a midfield scrum had again sent the Bears flying backwards, full-back Merryn Doidge picked up a sumptuous line to weave her way into the Bristol 22.
Exeter were unstoppable at the point and there was no way the Detiveaux would be denied, as she was fed the ball to dive over out wide and further extend the lead.
Minutes later, the wing was in for her second in as many minutes, as Garcia and Cantorna pulled the strings to release the American in space. This one still took some finishing though, with the speedster breaking through several tackles, before bulldozing her way over the full-back to charge over under the posts.
Exeter were not stopping there and still found time to notch three more tries in the final ten minutes.
After Brooke Bradley had carved open the Bristol defence with a stunning break from scrum half, Exeter kept it tight, as they surged forward at speed. Co-captain Leitch then powered up to the line, before Willett popped up with the ball to score her first try in an Exeter shirt and take her side up to the half century of points.
With time ticking away, Exeter were starting to bring the champagne rugby to proceedings, as Ebony Jefferies surged through in midfield with what has become a trademark rumbustious break. She then looked to feed inside to Cantorna, only for the hand of Lovibond to slap the ball down, leaving the referee with no choice other than to award a penalty try and send the full-back to the bin for the rest of the match.
The clock was well in the red now but Exeter were in no mood to let up, as Garcia kicked her side into the corner for one final attacking opportunity.
As with Nielson’s try earlier in the match, this one was a carbon copy, as the maul powered forwards at blistering speed, allowing French to dot down at the death, Cantorna converting, to seal a quite superb semi-final victory for the Chiefs.
A date with destiny now awaits next Saturday, as the Chiefs face Harlequins at Sandy Park, as they go in search of their first ever silverware as a side.
For now though, the joy of a semi-final victory will send the Chiefs faithful home happy, as Susie Appleby’s side know they are now one game away from a significant milestone in their short history.
Exeter Chiefs: M. Doidge (E. Sinclair 66); J. Detiveaux (N. McGillivray 71); K. Kobayashi, G. Cantorna; O. Jones; M. Foster (P. Garcia 55), F. Robinson (B. Bradley 66); H. Rogers (M. Roberts 62), C. Nielson (D. French 69), L. Delgado (L. Halon 62); P. Leitch, L. van der Velden (C. Willett 66); E. Jefferies, M. Allen, K. Zackary
Tries: Rogers (2), Zackary, van der Velden, Nielson, Detiveaux (2), Willett, Penalty Try, French; Conversions: Foster (2), Garcia (3), Cantorna (2)
Bristol Bears: E. Lovibond; K. Martin; J. Smith, P. Murray; L. Stoeger-Goddard (L. Powell 79); L. Skuse, L Burgess (E. Lewis 60); S. Pam (C. Kill 52), H. Phillips (J. Sprague 66), H. West; D. Burns (M. Boyd 28), H. Cunningham; J. Herring, D. Mayes, A. Lockwood
Yellow Card: Lovibond
Referee: H Groves