Match report: Bristol Bears Women 22 - 12 Exeter Chiefs Women
Caroline Moore at Shaftsbury Park
It was third versus fourth this afternoon as Exeter Chiefs Women took on Bristol Bears Women at Shaftsbury Park. This match marked the start of the second half of the season and is proved a successful day out for the home side as the wind played its part in pinning the action into one half of the pitch.
The first half was a good one for Chiefs. It did not take too long for them to settle in, forcing the home side to defend their try-line in the first few minutes. A scrum-penalty saw No 8 Rachel Johnson waste no time to get up and running…and over the line for the first try of the afternoon.
Chiefs also make themselves known at lineout time. A neat box kick from scrum-half Brooke Bradley saw them get back into the Bristol 22 for a home side lineout, only for it to be stolen by Chiefs. A break and long run from fly-half Alex Tessier also put the pressure on until the visitors were penalised right on the try line and were then, frustratingly, held up just minutes later.
Despite numerous opportunities, Chiefs just could not score, despite having the lion’s share of the territory, and with the penalties being regularly awarded to Bristol. However, the home side were struggling also to get anything meaningful out of the possession they had been gifted.
Chiefs had to wait until the 36th minute to get the try they were chasing. A scrum was the platform that set up the backs for full-back Merryn Doidge to complete an arcing run to dot the ball down.
With the score, 0-12 Chiefs had made a comfortable start, but Bristol had the last word in the first half after kicking a penalty to touch for a lineout and drive. Hooker Lark Atkin-Davies was the body under the pile to take the try. The score was 5-12 at half-time.
Chiefs had to battle the wind in the second half but looked bright early on when a lineout throw from hooker Emily Tuttosi found second row Poppy Leitch. Hope Rogers joined the action and Maisy Allen was in support. Rogers was so nearly over, but no joy!
More disappointment followed when centre Kanako Kobayashi was shown a yellow card. Bristol made the most of the missing player and the penalties given away by their visitors.
The Bears added to their score following a penalty kicked to touch for the lineout. The backs got the ball moving and winger Deborah Wills scored out wide.
Almost the same deal a few minutes later and exactly the same scorer. Wills’ brace brought the score to 15-12.
Chiefs won a penalty for Bristol holding on. Tessier kicked to touch but the strong breeze meant it only reached the halfway line. Chiefs tried to press into Bristol's half with Rogers really pushing the point, but Bristol fly-half Holly Aitchison intercepted the ball and possession swung back to the home side.
Another Chiefs infringement saw the lineout and drive set up the Bristol backs to release winger Meg Varley over for a fourth try. This time, Aitchison converted.
The Bears had their tails up for the last 10 minutes with an amazing break from replacement Jenny Hesketh proving the point.
Chiefs tried to claw back territory in the final minutes, but this just wasn’t their half…and, ultimately, their game.
Bristol Bears Women: Bristol Bears Women: M Smith (J Hesketh 63mins); M Varley, P Murray (R Bonner 71mins), A Reed (c), D Wills; H Aitchison, L Burgess (K Bevan 48mins); H Botterman (G Pyrs 66mins), L Atkin-Davies (vc) (L Skeldon 56mins), E Clarke (H Phillips 63mins), H Cunningham (C Balogun 66mins), D Burns, A Joyce-Butchers, E Gallagher, R Marston-Mulhern (H Caux 73mins)
Tries: Atkin-Davies, Wills (2), Varley
Exeter Chiefs Women: M Doidge (vc); C MacDonald, K Kobayashi (L Cramer 55mins), G Cantorna, K Buchanan; A Tessier, B Bradley (O Ortiz 75mins); H Rogers (A Middlebrooke 70mins), E Tuttosi (C Moloney 48mins), D Menin (L Hanlon, 56mins) H Millar-Mills (N Fryday 48mins), P Leitch, E Jefferies (E McMahon 48mins), E Jefferies, R Johnson.
Tries: Johnson, Doidge
Yellow card: Kobayashi (53mins)
Referee: Dan Jones