Match report: Exeter Chiefs Women 19 - 19 Harlequins Women


Caroline Moore at Sandy Park

It was a tense old time in the sun at Sandy Park with a Harlequins Women’s team showcasing their much-improved team. In the end, both sides had to settle for a draw and two points each for this 12th round league game.

Chiefs began brightly with prop Hope Rogers nearly claiming an early interception and some serious tackles going in to prevent Quins from making any territory gains. Katie Buchanan was also looking lively down the wing and Poppy Leitch was an offload machine.

However, Quins were first to score with full-back Ellie Kildunne looking dangerous with ball in hand and under the high ball. An inside pass from KIldunne to fly-half Emily Scott saw the forwards congregate to put pressure on the try-line. A penalty awarded to Quins saw them opt for the lineout and driving maul that saw hooker Connie Powell over for the try.

Chiefs came straight back when the restart kick to Kildunne was returned straight into touch and Emily Tuttosi’s lineout throw hit a Quins player and fell back into her own hands! Flanker Maisy Allen stormed up the pitch and the team got behind her to ensure prop DaLeaka Menin was ready to pounce. Gabby Cantorna kicked the conversion and Chiefs were in the lead 7-5.

Chiefs’ second try came courtesy of a steady scrum, accurate passing, and bit of speed from Buchanan down the wing. Her inside pass to MacDonald saw her skip a few defenders and over the line. It’s a simple game really! This one was converted by Cantorna too for a 14-5 scoreline.

Quins were making the most of any misdemeanours gifted to them from the home team. A penalty for holding on saw the visitors kick to touch for the lineout and a simple drive gave prop Babalwa Latsha the try. This one was converted by centre Ella Cromack for a half-time score of 14-12 and a yellow card for Tuttosi.

The second half ramped up the intensity with Chiefs having to defend their try-line for much of the time.

However, it was replacement winger Heather Cowell who gave Chiefs their biggest headache. Just seconds after coming onto the pitch, a messy scrum saw the ball into her hands and she found space down the touchline to take Quins into the lead at 14-19 following a second successful conversion.

Chiefs seemed out of sorts with the referee and penalties cost them territory and possession in equal measure.

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Try time for Claudia MacDonald

There was some light relief though for the home side when a Chiefs penalty saw Tuttosi throw to No 8 Rachel Johnson, playing in her 50th game for Chiefs, who overloaded to flanker Edel McMahon, who almost burst through the defensive line. Centre Kanako Kobayashi sent the ball out to Rogers who passed to Buchanan, who tripped up but got back on her feet to score. The conversion faded away so it was all square with 15 minutes to go.

Cromack almost took the win minutes later when she wiggled through off the back of a lineout and driving maul, but Chiefs got under the ball to prevent the score.

Quins had more of the possession in the dying minutes, but Chiefs were in a stubborn defensive mode. While Quins were patient in recycling the ball, Chiefs were more patient in their defence to keep them out despite some tired bodies on the field.

As the clock ticked into injury time, Quins were awarded a kickable penalty for Chiefs playing the ball on the floor. Centre Lagi Tuima stepped up for the kick but missed it and the crowd breathed a sigh of relief.

There were seven minutes of injury time and all of them quite stressful, especially when MacDonald went down on the far side of the pitch. The referee blew his whistle for full time and minutes later, the England winger got to her feet. Two points for each team.

Exeter Chiefs Women: M Doidge (vc); C MacDonald, K Kobayashi, G Cantorna, C MacDonald; A Tessier, B Bradley; H Rogers, E Tuttosi (D French 41-47), D Menin (L Hanlon 70), N Fryday (H Millar-Mills 60), P Leitch (c), E Jefferies (E McMahon 50), M Allen (T Bricknell 60), R Johnson

Tries: Menin, MacDonald, Buchanan

Cons: Cantorna (2)

Harlequins Women: E Kildunne; F Aucken (H Cowell 48), L Tuima, E Cromack (A Mayzell 76), I Mayhew; E Scott (c); L Packer (F Robinson 67); S Turani, C Powell (C Phillips 64), B Latsha, S Bonar (Wythe 67), K Leaney, A Fleming, E Robinson (vc), S Brown (D Lochner 60)

Tries: Powell, Latsha, Cowell

Cons: Cromack (2)

Referee: Charlie Gayther

Attendance: 1,849

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