Gloucester-Hartpury 32 Exeter Chiefs 36
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 32
Exeter Chiefs Women 36
Harry Scott-Munro at Kingsholm
It may have been Gloucester-Hartpury’s big day, but it was Exeter Chiefs who played the part of party-poopers.
This was a huge result for the Chiefs, as they finally ended their hoodoo against the Cherry and Whites, to secure a 36-32 victory at Kingsholm.
Ahead of kick-off, Head Coach Susie Appleby challenged her side to up their intensity and they did just that, with a hat-trick from co-captain Kate Zackary and further scores from Kanako Kobayashi, Clara Nielson and Rachel Johnson, with Patricia Garcia adding three conversions.
Appleby made a number of changes ahead of kick-off, with a new look half-back pairing of Brooke Bradley and Garcia, plus the return from injury of Kanako Kobayashi. Jennine Detiveaux also made her return to the side, along with compatriot Hope Rogers, who made her first start for the Chiefs.
For the hosts, this was a first opportunity in several years to show what they can do on the turf at Kingsholm, but the Chiefs were the ones to start quickly, silencing the home crowd with their ferocity at the breakdown.
Just five minutes were on the clock when the Chiefs opened their account for the afternoon. The pack had been in fine form, dismantling the hosts at the scrum, before searching to the line. Despite the Gloucester-Hartpury defence managing to halt the drive, Exeter refused to panic, working the ball wide to the returning Kobayashi to crash over out wide.
Exeter’s scrum was on song in the early exchanges, as they churned through the Gloucester-Hartpury front row, drawing another scrum penalty. Sadly for Chiefs, the opportunity came to nothing, and after a slow opening few minutes, the hosts finally got the crowd off their feet.
With ball in hand, the hosts were always going to be a threat, and they got the crowd off their feet, with Rachel Lund breaking down the wing, only to be hauled into touch at the last moment by Merryn Doidge.
It was all Gloucester-Hartpury now, as they hammered the Exeter line in search of the try. Whilst there was disappointment last week against Wasps, the defensive performance had remained a pleasing factor and it was at its very best again here, Bradley managing to wriggle her way under the onrushing Ellie Underwood to hold the ball up over the line.
The hosts would eventually open their account through an Emma Sing penalty, but the Chiefs would soon score their second with one of the individual tries of the season.
Off the base of a scrum on halfway, Zackary burst through the Gloucester defence, weaving past defenders and stepping past Sing for a stunning score, Garcia again adding the extras.
Gloucester-Hartpury were not going to lie down easily though, as they looked to put on a show for the home crowd, and again they set about hammering away at the Chiefs line. The defence though, again stood firm, with Rogers holding the ball up over the line.
With half an hour on the clock, Gloucester-Hartpury eventually managed to break the Chiefs defensive wall, as Gwen Crabb finally managed to find some space around the fringes.
As time ticked away at the end of the first half, Sing would add another penalty, as the Exeter discipline began to drop off, leaving the match tantalisingly poised heading into the second forty minutes.
HALF-TIME SCORE: GLOUCESTER-HARTPURY 13 EXETER CHIEFS 14
Appleby and assistant coach Steve Salvin both told their side to start quickly in the second half, and they did just that, as Johnson helped herself to a birthday try just two minutes after the restart. Lleucu George’s kick was charged down by Exeter, before Garcia found Sheehan with a crossf-ield kick. With the hosts on the ropes, the pack kept it tight, to allow Johnson to bundle over for the score.
Exeter were really in the groove now and with George’s miscued restart and the threat from the pack, the Chiefs looked to up the ante, as they hunted a bonus point score.
It would be the hosts though who would score next and hit the front for the first time in the afternoon, as Hannah Jones burst over in the corner following a period of sustained pressure, Sing converting from the touchline to take a slender lead.
That setback didn’t deter the Chiefs though and they were straight back on the attack in an end-to-end match, as Doidge cut a sumptuous line off Garcia to burst to within metres of the line.
With Gloucester-Hartpury struggling to realign and conceding the penalty, Rogers took quickly and went close, before compatriot Zackary wriggled over for her second of the afternoon.
The momentum was now firmly with the Chiefs and they scored their fifth on the hour mark, as Garcia threw caution to the wind with a floated pass out wide. As Underwood looked to intercept, she fumbled forwards into the hands of replacement Nielson, who was able to run in unopposed to give her side a nine-point advantage.
Exeter’s defence was still as robust as it had been in the first half, with Kobayashi and Mpupha both putting their bodies where it hurt to force a turnover from the hosts.
The pressure was relentless though and, when the Gloucester-Hartpury maul was collapsed just short of the Exeter line, Ebony Jefferies saw yellow.
From the resulting penalty, Gloucester-Hartpury kicked to touch and scored their third of the afternoon through a well-worked play down the shortside, as Connie Powell barrelled over Bradley to score.
Kobayashi and Mpupha were beginning to link up well in attack, as well as defence, on their first outing as a centre pairing. It was their fleet of foot that again put the Chiefs on the front foot with under five minutes remaining, drawing a penalty that Garcia put into the corner.
Now, the Chiefs needed composure in attack, and they found it after patient build-up allowed Zackary to crash over for her third, taking the game out of Gloucester-Hartpury’s reach, with Garcia adding another conversion.
The final say of a highly entertaining match though, would go to the hosts, as Sisilia Tuipulotu was able to power over from close range from a series of driving carries, Sing converting, to ensure that the hosts left Kingsholm with two bonus points to their name.
This could potentially prove to be a huge result come the final reckoning, as the Chiefs put in a performance to silence the doubters. The significant of a first victory over Gloucester-Hartpury should not be lost either, as the Chiefs continue to build into another huge away day against Loughborough Lightning in two weeks’ time.
Gloucester-Hartpury: E Sing; E Underwood; R Lund (S Tandy 74), T Heard; H Jones; L George, B Blackburn; M Learned (C Hope 60), C Powell, K Buggy (C Hale 46); S Tuipulotu, Z Aldcroft (S Pinnock 74); K Sommer, G Crabb, A Caplice (T Copson 58). Replacements (not used): N Jones, C Hope, A Maude, R. Wilkins
Tries - Penalty: Crabb, H. Jones, Powell; Conversions - Sing (2); Penalties - Sing (2)
Exeter Chiefs: M Doidge; J. Detiveaux; Z Mpupha, K Kobayashi; L Sheehan; P Garcia, B Bradley; H Rogers (M Hunt 63), E Tuttosi (C Nielson 32), D Menin (L Delgado 68); P Leitch (A Fleming 30-39), N Fryday (A Fleming 65); E Jefferies (G Senft 78), R Johnson, K Zackary. Replacements (not used): M Foster, N McGillivray, O Jones
Tries - Kobayashi, Zackary (3), Johnson, Nielson; Conversions - Garcia (3)
Yellow Card: Jefferies
Referee: A Wookey