Fighting spirit delights Appleby

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Exeter Chiefs Women's Head Coach Susie Appleby is all smiles after seeing her side claim victory on the road against rivals Bristol Bears. Pictures:

By Harry Scott-Munro

Exeter Chiefs Women’s head coach, Susie Appleby, praised her side’s resilience as they fought their way back from being down on the scoreboard – and down a player on the pitch – to secure a hard-fought 31-27 victory over Bristol Bears.

The Chiefs made it back-to-back wins in the Allianz Premier 15s division, scoring five tries in total to move themselves up to fifth in the table.

First half touchdowns from skipper Linde Van der Velden, Ebony Jefferies and Laura Delgado, alongside two Gabby Cantorna conversions, had given the Chiefs a 19-17 lead at half-time. However, n the second half, the visitors lost Patricia Garcia to a red card early on, but were still able to fight back and secure victory thanks to scores from Emily Tuttosi and Garnet Mackinder, Cantorna adding an additional conversion.

Appleby was delighted with the showing from her side and how they dug in in the face of adversity during the second half.

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Garnet Mackinder touches down for Exeter's winning try

“I said at half-time, these 35 minutes will determine our future and it did because they could’ve just gone, because it’s tough,” said Appleby. “Playing without your nine and then you lose your centre because we made that change, it wasn’t easy out there. It wasn’t perfect and Flo (Robinson) overplayed a little bit, but it’s really pleasing to get a bonus point win on the road at Bristol who are a really good side. We’ll take that moving forward.”

Quite rightly, Appleby praised the performances of a number of her players, who shone in what was a superb team performance, giving her a pleasing selection headache ahead of next week’s encounter with league leaders Harlequins.

“Ebony was on fire,” she added. “Emily Tuttosi at hooker was absolutely outstanding. She nailed her lineouts, she carried ball all around the field, she defended but Ebony really took her game to another level today. Merryn at the back, she had a really good performance. People are really bringing each other’s performances forward and the competition for shirts is huge, so I’m looking forward to selection this week!”

Despite naming new signings Laura Sheehan and Rachel Johnson on the bench, neither player made it onto the pitch. Appleby admitted that she was “gutted” she couldn’t give them any minutes, but explained that their time will come over the coming weeks.

“With the game in such a balance and them being so new to the squad, we were going for the win and its tough decisions when you’re leading in a head coach position,” she explained. “But they’ll get opportunities in the next week or two and I know they’ll come on and show what they’re worth.”

The main talking point from the encounter was scrum-half Patricia Garcia’s red card after a tackle on Welsh flyer Jasmine Joyce. Appleby was disappointed for her player, but delighted with how her side responded to the challenge.

“The red card was a bit disappointing. I’m gutted for Pat,” she continued. “It was nothing malicious, obviously, but then we had to deal with it. I think that was the turning point wasn’t it?

“What resilience can we show? What fight? What real Chiefs spirit? And the girls found a way, they found a way to win in the face of adversity.”

Looking ahead to next week, Appleby’s side will return to the home comforts of Sandy Park against Harlequins, with the head coach seeing a few areas to work on as she issued a rallying cry to her side.

“Let’s get a little bit more right and cut out those errors,”she said. “Some of that comes from the decision making and the tactical side. Let’s not go too hard physically as it’s going to be a battle of attrition over these next few weeks. We had an interesting game against Quins. They’re a very good side and top of the league for a reason so, it’s going to be great!”

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