Match Report: Chiefs Women 69 Sale Sharks 17
Exeter Chiefs Women put in a near-relentless performance to secure a 69-17 win at Sandy Park over Sale Sharks in the Allianz Cup competition. Eleven tries, including a hat-trick from Harriet Millar-Mills, thoroughly entertained the home crowd with plenty of youthful talent on show.
It was a bright start for Chiefs with a first minute try for winger Eilidh Sinclair converted by debutante fly-half Ellie Cunningham after the kick-off ball was tapped back by Sale into Chiefs hands. Several phases later and Sinclair wriggled over in the corner.
But Chiefs were unable to rest on their laurels with Sale’s opening try coming from hooker Niamh Swailes in the fifth minute after a penalty kick to touch resulted in a lineout secured by lock Alycia Washington before scrum-half Mhairi Grieve celebrated her 50th appearance for the visitors with a sweet pass that sent Swailes through the gap and over the line.
A driving maul from a Chiefs lineout was followed by some wonderfully simple rugby to suck in the Sale defenders at the ruck leaving the home side’s youthful backline ready to spread the ball wide when the opportunity presented itself, leaving space for full-back Merryn Doidge to glide over the line.
Chiefs were causing trouble from the kick-off with the most troublesome being Sinclair. She pounced on a loose ball, put her head down and sped up the pitch, shouldering off defenders in her wake, before being brought down just short of the try-line. The ball was recycled for lock Millar-Mills to force her way over in the 17th minute.
Chiefs fourth and fifth tries came from lively centre Danielle Preece, both initiated from barging runs by No 8 Niamh Orchard, who seemed to be enjoying her afternoon in the sunshine.
Millar-Mills made it a brace of tries after a kick was knocked on by Sale. The lock abandoned her hands and opted to use her feet instead to kick the ball along the ground to put it just where she wanted it for her second score of the afternoon.
As the first half entered its last five minutes, Nichola Fryday and Ebony Jefferies combined to power into Sale territory. The backs took over from there and replacement Sammie Harris sped over to keep the scoreboard turning over.
The Exeter Chiefs Women though were not done in this half. They had found their rhythm with the forwards creating holes and the backs slipping through the gaps and overlaps. A lovely dummy pass from Doidge in the final minute took her over the line and the fourth conversion from Cunningham saw them run in with a healthy 48-5 lead. Eight tries before half-time, shame you cannot get two try-scoring bonus points….
Sale started the better of the two teams in the second half with the forwards doing most of the damage and No 8 Jasmine Hazell being the main protagonist. Her barrelling efforts saw Sale to just short of the try-line with lock Iona Antwis taking the spoils in the 48th minute. Try converted by centre Vicky A Irwin.
Chiefs spent the third quarter in defence mode with Sale claiming the lion’s share of the territory. A penalty in the 59th minute saw them tap and go, and while it looked like it could be another forwards’ try, they spread the ball out wide to send over full-back Laura Perrins in the 60th minute.
Head coach Susie Appleby emptied the bench as the game dipped into the last quarter and thankfully back into Sale territory where a set-up for a lineout coincided with Felicity Powdrell coming on as the final replacement, only to score a try just seconds later.
Another replacement claimed the next try with Abby Middlebrooke benefiting from a blistering run from Preece, taken on by Harris, with some tough yards completed by Linde Van Der Velden. The Chiefs Women were back in the game!
A Chiefs lineout on the five-metre in the 75th minute almost saw Preece over for her hat-trick try but she was frustratingly held up. The scrum two minutes later though was the platform for Millar-Mills over for hat-trick score and Chiefs 11th and final try of the game.
Exeter Chiefs Women: M Doidge; E Sinclair, D Preece, S Langford, K Buchanan; E Cunningham, B Bradley; P Muzambe, C Moloney, L Hanlon, N Fryday, H Millar-Mills, E Jefferies, P Leitch (c), N Orchard
Replacements: A Middlebrooke, A Print, H Sams, L Van Der Velden, F Powdrell, O Ortiz, S Harris, E Magee
Tries: Sinclair, Doidge (2), Millar-Mills (3), Preece (2), Harris, Powdrell, Middlebrooke,
Cons: Cunningham (7)
Sale Sharks Women: L Perrin (cc); N Prothero, R Woosey, Vicky A Irwin, A Ishida; G White, M Grieve; K Houghton, N Swales, A Iwanjenko, A Washington, I Antwis, J Brown (cc), K Searcy, J Hazell
Replacements: M Ridgway, E Edwards, E Downs, Vicky E Irwin, K Moore, N Moore, A Calton, L Dalaney
Tries: Swailes, Antwis, Perrins
Con: Vicky A Irwin
Referee: Ian Kiy