Chiefs Women 38 Sale Sharks 0
Exeter Chiefs Women 38
Sale Sharks Women 0
Harry Scott-Munro at Sandy Park
Exeter Chiefs supporters were given a rousing introduction to the club’s new women’s team as they served up a Christmas Cracker of a performance to sink visiting Sale Sharks Women in the Allianz Premier 15s at Sandy Park.
With fans allowed in to watch Susie Appleby’s side for the first time, they were treated to a vintage display in this battle of the league’s newbies.
Linde van der Velden led from the front, claiming the first of Exeter’s six tries, which were also shared out between Sachiko Katoh, Garnet Mackinder, McKinley Hunt, Alex Powell and Kate Zackary. Centre Gabby Cantorna adding four conversions to complete the job for the Devonians.
Earlier this week, Appleby said: ‘’Saturday is the start of the future.’’ And so it proved as her side put in a consummate display to sending the bumper home crowd home with an early Christmas present.
Last week’s encounter with Loughborough Lightning saw the Chiefs go toe-to-toe with one the league’s best, eventually succumbing to a narrow 14-7 defeat. However,Appleby again kept faith with her go-to selection, naming a largely unchanged starting XV, Ebony Jefferies returning at blindside flanker in place of Abbie Fleming being the sole change.
The bench saw a return to the match-day side for winger Louise Burgess and Canadian prop forward Olivia De Merchant, after she had missed a large portion of the season thanks to injury.
The early exchanges were a scrappy affair as both teams struggled for momentum and territory. The usually inch-perfect Katy Daley-Mclean, who earlier this week announced her retirement from international rugby, miscyed an early penalty attempt at goal for the visitors.
It took until the 10th minute for Chiefs to offer their first attacking threat, Merryn Doidge and Katoh carrying with purpose, before the ball was worked wide to Garnet Mackinder. Despite Chiefs being ushered into touch, Sale faltered at the line-out, allowing the Chiefs to build momentum close to their line.
After a strong surge from Jefferies had seen the flanker held up over the line, the ferocious Chiefs pack sent Sale sprawling backwards, van der Velden controlling the ball at the base to dot down with Cantorna adding the extras.
Chiefs were guilty at times in the first half of allowing Sale unnecessary opportunities, through poor decision making or handling errors. This allowed Daley-Mclean, England’s World Cup winning captain, to continue to test out the Chiefs backfield defence. Fortunately, Doidge was consummate under the high ball to avert the danger and allow Chiefs to build phases.
As the game continued with both sides struggling for a foothold, Katoh popped up with a superb charge down to set Chiefs on their way for a second score. After patiently building phases, Appleby’s side won a penalty, Katoh touching down off the back of a brutal rolling maul.
The only negative note for the Chiefs was the loss of fly-half Taylor Black just before halftime, as the young Canadian looked to pick up a nasty looking arm injury.
The half ended with Sale on the attack in the Chiefs 22. However, strong work from Zackary in defence forced a knock-on.
HALF-TIME EXETER CHIEFS 12 SALE SHARKS 0
After an admittedly slow start to the first period, Chiefs came out firing in the second half. After Sale conceded a breakdown penalty, Chiefs looked to build possession in the Sale 22. After a series of phases from the pack, Patricia Garcia unlocked her box of tricks, placing an inch-perfect cross-field kick into the arms of Mackinder for the winger to score her third of the season.
Chiefs were now mercilessly unlocking the Sale defence, with the backs starting to enjoy themselves. After yet another turnover from Zackary, Cantorna found Mackinder on the wing to race through into the Sharks 22. Sadly, her attempted offload didn’t find a team-mate, but Chiefs continued to build momentum.
With Garcia pulling the strings at 10, she fed second-row Hunt through a gap. Again though, the offload didn’t quite go to hand, but Chiefs were continuing to show their intent.
The relentless pressure near the Sharks try-line eventually told on 50 minutes, substitute Vicky Irwin receiving a yellow card less than a minute after entering the action.
Playing with an advantage, Garcia attempted another cross-field kick, this time to winger Lottie Holland, with the ball landing agonisingly in front of the winger. It mattered little though as, after coming back for the penalty advantage, Hunt crashed over from close range after a series of busts from the pack to secure a bonus point score.
With the crowd growing increasingly loud, Chiefs continued to reward their support with an entertaining brand of rugby, substitutes Niamh Terry and Fleming carrying like they had a point to prove every time they touched the ball.
The fifth score of the afternoon arrived on 62 minutes, Powell dotting down for her first in Chiefs colours. Unsurprisingly, that score was based around the sheer dominance of the Chiefs pack, that seemed to leave Sale in retreat every time they made a carry.
Sale really struggled for any territory throughout and even when they did, the Chiefs defence was up to the test.Indeed, right on full-time, the hosts had the final say, American flanker Zackary crossing out wide to seal the victory for the Chiefs, Cantorna’s conversion sealing a 38-0 rout right before Christmas.
Chiefs: M Doidge (L Burgess 62) L Holland, L Cattell (N Terry 57) G Cantorna, G Mackinder; T Black (F Robinson 34) P Garcia; S Kato (M Roberts 57) E Tuttosi (D French 63,) L Delgado (O De Merchant 57,) P Leitch, M Hunt (A Powell 57) E Jefferies, K Zackary, L Van der Velden (capt, A Fleming 50)
Tries - Van der Velden, Katoh, Mackinder, Hunt, Powell, Zackary; Conversions – Cantorna (4)
Sharks: J Wooden (V Irwin 41); A Wallace, L Delaney, L Perrin, L Neumann; K Daley-McLean, J Roberts (M Grieve 41); S Fielding, M Kelly (H Kurtz 50) K Houghton (B Leung 41); T Wyn-Davies, N Howat; G Perries-Redding, D Hibbert-Jones, B Stafford
Yellow Card: Irwin
Referee: C Gayther