Match Reaction - Susie Appleby
By Harry Scott-Munro
Exeter Chiefs Women's head coach Susie Appleby was left delighted with what she described as ‘the most complete performance of the season’ as her side carried their cup-winning form into the Allianz Premier 15s.
On a glorious afternoon at Sandy Park, the Chiefs were quite simply superb, running in eight tries to hand table-toppers Saracens a record 54-12 defeat.
The result also secured the Chiefs’ place in the semi-finals for the first time - with the battle for a home semi-final also firmly in their hands against Bristol Bears next Saturday.
Tries from Hope Rogers, Merryn Doidge, Emily Tuttosi, Flo Robinson, Rachel Johnson, Jennine Detiveaux, Linde van der Velden and Gabby Cantorna were the highlights for the hosts with Cantorna adding seven conversions from the tee.
“It’s a really pleasing performance. It was probably the most complete performance that we’ve put on field and to do it against a top side is really pleasing," said Appleby at the final whistle. "We’re in the semi-finals, which is what we set out to do at the beginning of the season. But our feet are firmly on the ground, as we’ve got some work to do and a really strong team to face next week against Bristol.”
One of the standouts from the match was the physical edge that Appleby’s side held over the Londoners, with her back three in particular of Doidge, Detiveaux and Eilidh Sinclair all impressing with ball in hand.
“We’ve worked a lot on the physicality and leg drive in the contact in the last few weeks and all of our back three came with that today. Merryn found some fantastic space as well. We talked about Saracens often being so dominant that they don’t have to defend much. That was the focus today and to find the space, which the girls did really well.”
Appleby credited a 1-23 performance from her side, as they put on a show for the Sandy Park faithful, crediting her pack for putting her side on the front foot from the first minute.
“The pack were superb, but we still left things out there!” laughed Appleby. “We need to sort that out, but around the park, there were unbelievable performances from everyone, coupled with a huge defensive set. If we can just tidy up some things, we’ve got a lot of confidence going forward.”
Whilst the attacking prowess her side showed was what will take the headlines, the defensive effort as well was a standout. In fact, the Chiefs have the best defensive record in the league this season, with Appleby praising the heart that her side showed.
“It’s about how quickly you can transfer into defensive sets and the girls really did that today. It’s about your mindset and how desperate are you to get the ball back. The girls really showed that today in their attitude. It was phenomenal. The work in the week, the challenge is to transfer it into the match and we did that today.”
Appleby admitted that you ‘couldn’t script’ what rides on next weekend’s match against Bristol. With a semi-final secured, a victory will secure a home semi-final for her side, with Appleby crediting the fans and calling on them to get behind her side again in seven days' time.
“I cannot underestimate how important the crowd are. As long as we keep performing and smiling, it should be enjoyable. The fans are just amazing. I loved the drum and everything that goes with Sandy Park. This is growing here and it’s really special. The girls love it and they love spending time with the fans because they just get rugby down here. It’s so important that we keep moving forward with them.”
Appleby’s squad is packed with international talent and local youngsters beginning to make their mark, including the likes of Doidge. Appleby credited the development of everyone in the league and was hoping for an exciting finale next weekend at Sandy Park.
“We can recover and prepare for Bristol. You couldn’t script it really. This league is incredibly exciting. It’s filled with incredibly talented athletes and a young generation coming through as well, who are really showing who they are on the field.”