DMP Sharks 0 Exeter Chiefs 88
DMP Durham Sharks 0
Exeter Chiefs Women 88
Harry Scott-Munro at the Northern Echo Arena
Exeter Chiefs Women made sure they played the part of the Christmas grinch as they blew away DMP Durham Sharks to firmly put themselves back in the mix for a top four berth and ensure they were driving home for Christmas sitting in third in the Allianz Premier 15s table.
The Chiefs scored 14 tries in all with flanker Ebony Jefferies scoring four. Patricia Garcia, playing in the unfamiliar position of centre scored a double, as did Emily Tuttosi, whilst Eilidh Sinclair and Nichola Fryday scored tries on their first league starts for the Chiefs. There were further tries from Merryn Doidge, Garnet Mackinder, Laura Sheehan and Nancy McGillivray with Garcia adding five conversions and Megan Foster another four on her debut.
In amongst the fog and condensation of the Northern Echo Arena, Head Coach Susie Appleby made a number of changes ahead of this one, with several players looking to make the most of an opportunity to impress, following the disappointment of last weekend’s defeat to Gloucester-Hartpury.
Ahead of kick-off, Appleby had challenged her side to start fast – and they certainly did that – with Sinclair scoring after little over a minute of action. A relentless pressure at the breakdown from the Chiefs saw them turn the ball over, with the ball being worked wide to Doidge, who nearly wrestled her way over the line. Chiefs though regrouped in attack, as the pack kept it tight, allowing Sinclair to spot a gap and crash over, Garcia converting.
Exeter were continuing to ask questions with DMP reduced to a kicking game as they searched for territory.
The unfamiliar kicking game from the visitors initially left the Chiefs looking to readjust in defence, Chloe Rollie having to go searching for the ball in a dangerous position. Exeter were then penalised at the breakdown, allowing DMP to line up a shot at the posts, only for the ball to fall short.
That seemed to spur the Chiefs back into life though, as Linde van der Velden burst up the field, allowing the Chiefs to settle into the far corner, Jefferies bursting over from a devastating maul.
Straight from the restart, Exeter surged through Robinson back up into the DMP 22, with van der Velden again charging forwards. That surge allowed Garcia to find a gap in the defence, to shake and shimmy her way over for the score, before adding the conversion.
The Chiefs were relentless now, with Jefferies adding her second from close range after a powerful carry from DaLeaka Menin had left the DMP defence and sixes and sevens.
Garcia again converted and it wasn’t long before Jefferies had secured her hattrick. From a set-play from the line-out, Garcia wriggled her way through a gap, drawing the DMP full-back and finding Jefferies to race clear, with the Spaniard again successful from the tee.
With half an hour on the clock, the Chiefs were in for their sixth of the afternoon with Fryday crashing over for her first try in an Exeter shirt. Again, it was the power of the Chiefs pack that did the damage as they muscled through the beleaguered DMP defence, allowing the Irish international to use her long frame to reach out and ground.
There was to be one final try for Exeter from a non-stop first half, as Garcia added her second of the afternoon. This score though was all about the work from Garnet Mackinder, who had shown power and strength to charge through her opposite number and into the 22, before Foster swept the ball wide to Garcia to dive over for her second, converting her own score with another pin-point kick.
HALF-TIME: DMP DURHAM SHARKS 0 EXETER CHIEFS 45
On the blow of the referee’s whistle, Exeter were straight back to their task with Doidge darting over after a searing break from Kate Zackary had allowed Rollie to set the England wing free.
Rollie was really on fire, with the Scotland international breaking free and stepping inside four defenders to burst free from 60 metres, with Holly Thorpe denying her the score with a stunning last ditch covering tackle.
Exeter were then held up over the line and it took the best part of fifteen minutes for the next try to follow, but it was certainly worth the wait.
After a strong carry in midfield from Delgado, the ball was worked wide to Mackinder, with the experienced wing showing all of her tactical knowledge to stop and go, to leave her opposite number for dead and race over.
With fifteen minutes to go replacement hooker Tuttosi scoring from the back of a driving maul with just her second touch of the game, Foster scoring her first points for the club with the conversion.
Whilst the second half had been a somewhat disappointing affair up to this point for the Chiefs, they were back in full flight again now, with Doidge selling a dummy and waltzing through a gap, before putting in an inch-perfect pass to Sheehan to scamper in under the posts, Foster again adding the conversion.
Tuttosi was then in again for her side, with another driving maul, this time from the best part of 20 metres.
There was still time for another two Exeter scores and a fourth try of the afternoon for Jefferies. Initially, back-row partner Sinclair made the hard yards, with a powerful leg drive to shake off several tacklers, with Jefferies then spotting the opportunity to crash over with the DMP defence struggling to realign.
It was really beginning to look a lot like Christmas now for the Chiefs, and their final try was a present in itself, as McGillivray came up with a fine solo effort to round off the afternoon’s scoring. The young centre had been impressive since entering the fray and showed a clean pair of heels here, as she powered over from halfway, with Foster again adding the conversion.
For Exeter, this was the perfect tonic to last weekend’s defeat at home, leaving Appleby’s side celebrating the most wonderful time of the year, as they pause for the Christmas break jingling all the way back into the play-of places.
DMP Durham Sharks: H. Thorpe; D. Phan; L. Taylor, M. Thomas-Roberts; A. Ishida; C. Cookland, C. Broom; E. Hunter, A. Bainbridge, S. Herrick; K. Crute, M. Gardner; K. Smith, C. Storer, J. Hazell
Replacements: E. Pigford, C. Hidlitch, K. Colvin, G. Trimble, A. Lewis, J. Dadds
Exeter Chiefs: C. Rollie; G. Mackinder (O. Jones 57); K. Zackary (L. Sheehan 57), P. Garcia (N. McGillivray 57); M. Doidge; M. Foster, F. Robinson; L. Delgado (L. Hanlon 70), C. Nielson (E. Tuttosi 63), D. Menin (A. Middlebrooke 51); P. Leitch (A. Fleming 40), N. Fryday; E. Jefferies, E. Sinclair, L. van der Velden (M. Allen 65)
Tries: Sinclair, Jefferies (4), Garcia (2), Fryday, Doidge, Mackinder, Tuttosi (2), Sheehan, McGillivray; Conversions: Garcia (5), Foster (4)
Referee: R. Rees