DMP Sharks 6 Chiefs Women 31

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Exeter Chiefs winger Lottie Holland finds a way through the DMP Sharks defensive line during their Allianz Premier 15s encounter at the Northern Echo Arena. Pictures: Andy Hall

DMP Durham Sharks 6

Exeter Chiefs Women 31

Harry Scott-Munro at the Northern Echo Arena

Fresh off the back of their first-ever Allianz Premier 15s victory last weekend, Susie Appleby’s Exeter Chiefs side continued to show their bite, as they secured a 31-6 victory against winless DMP Sharks at the Northern Echo Arena.

Winger Garnet MacKinder led the way claiming a first-half double, alongside scores from international stars Laura Delgado, Kate Zackary and Patricia Garcia.

Centre Gabby Cantorna landed three conversions to seal the victory over the Sharks, who countered with two first half penalties from Beth Blacklock.

The result caps off a successful fortnight for the Devonians as they head into the second rest week of the season.

Consistency of selection has been key for Appleby thus far this season and she stuck with largely the same side that secured that landmark victory last week. The only changes to the starting XV saw Michaella Roberts replace the injured Olivia De Merchant at loose-head prop, while Poppy Leitch switched to the blindside flank to accommodate the debut of second-row Alex Powell.

The Sharks have endured a difficult start to the season, twice leaking over 100 points in fixtures, but they have been blooding an array of new faces as they look to grow and strengthen. Today was no different, as four players made their Premier 15s debuts.

Misty conditions greeted both sides as they made their way out of the changing rooms, but it was the hosts who started off the strongest, going through the phases in the Chiefs 22, before Blacklock opened the scoring after three minutes with a penalty from in front of the posts.

The Chiefs looked to respond immediately, with a strong initial carry from Roberts taking play into the home 22. After building the phases, Lauren Cattell looked to fling the ball wide to winger Lottie Holland, who was unfortunate to not quite gather a difficult pass with the try line in sight.

Strength at the breakdown has been a feature of Chiefs performances so far this season. It was no surprise therefore to see the work of flankers Leitch and Zackary bailing the Chiefs out from difficult positions on more than one occasion.

Chiefs finally got into their stride in the 11th minute, Spanish prop Delgado crossing for her second try in as many weeks. After the hosts had done well to stop a strong carry from Cantorna and cleared their lines, Chiefs responded with interest, the forwards keeping it tight, Delgado the player to eventual burst the resolute Sharks defence. Cantorna successfully added the extras via the left-hand upright.

From the restart, Chiefs looked to attack again, captain Linde Van der Velden and MacKinder leading the charge. However, Chiefs coughed up possession in a promising position, a feature of their performance that Appleby will be keen to eradicate moving forward.

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Exeter Chiefs fly-half Taylor Black instigates another attack for her side

Ill-discipline from the Chiefs allowed Blacklock to reduce the deficit to a solitary point before the first water break – and it wasn’t until the 22nd minute that Chiefs were to get their second score, MacKinder crossing for her first in a Chiefs shirt. A huge carry from van der Velden took play into the home 22, before the ball was sent along the Exeter backline to Mackinder, where the winger raced into the corner to open up a 12-6 advantage.

Again though, for all Chiefs’ good work in attack, poor discipline allowed the hosts to stay in the game, Blacklock’s long-range penalty effort this time falling short.

Threat averted, the Chiefs then turned defence into attack. Penned in their own 22, full-back Merryn Doidge sold a beautiful dummy and raced through, fending her opposite number before feeding MacKinder to cross for her second score of the afternoon. Cantorna’s conversion opened up a 19-6 advantage.

With half time fast approaching, the Chiefs struck once more. Cantorna put the visitors into a promising position near the DMP line, after which Emily Tuttosi went close before Zackary used her power to crash over.


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Exeter Chiefs scrum-half Ffion Lewis looks to get her side on the front foot

The second-half started in an erratic fashion from both sides, with a host of handling errors and loose passes. The one standout for Chiefs though was the work of McKinley Hunt and Leitch at the line-out, as they helped cause havoc in the Sharks ranks, stealing possession on multiple occasions.

On 49 minutes, Chiefs added their fifth and final try, scrum-half Garcia spotting the space at the side of the ruck and darting through, rounding the full-back to score under the posts. Cantorna’s bagged the extras to extend her side’s lead.

Although the bonus point had already been secured, the Chiefs were looking to add to their tally. However, they struggled to find the same rhythm as they did in the first period, much to the frustration of Appleby.

Indeed, a loose pass in midfield saw Blacklock grubber through and win the ball back for her side, before superb work from Zackary spared her sides blushes.

The Sharks continued to press, offering a genuine threat from a series of challenging up-and-unders that continued to rain down on the Chiefs back three. Thankfully, replacement Niamh Terry was up to the task, covering off the danger in the shadow of her own posts.

Late on, the Sharks looked to grab a late consolation with a promising lineout five metres from the Chiefs line. However, great work from Leitch saw her pluck the wayward throw out of the air, before the referee signalled for full-time.

DMP Sharks: S Shams (S Dowson 35); R Blount, B Blacklock, L Taylor, F Dewar (H Thorpe 65); L Fisher, C Broom; C Simpson (L Hart 64), A Bainbridge (E Hunter 64), S Herrick (M Gardner 64); J Wiesheu, A Orrow; O McCallion (E Haynes 65), M Picut, R Manson

Penalties: Blacklock (2)

Chiefs: M Doidge (N Terry 60) L Holland, G Cantorna, L Cattell (F Lewis 49) G MacKinder (F Robinson 64); T Black, P Garcia; M Roberts (L Leatherland 49,) E Tuttosi (C Budge 60,) L Delgado (K Armstrong 62) A Powell (E Jefferies 35) M Hunt (A Fleming 60); P Leitch, K Zackary, L van der Velden (capt)

Tries: Delgado, Mackinder (2), Zackary, Garcia; Conversions: Cantorna (3)

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