Match report: Exeter Chiefs Women 59 - 27 Leicester Tigers Women


Caroline Moore at Sandy Park

With the sun out, the stage was set for a running game…and boy, did we get some running, not least from University of Exeter fresher Connie Clarke making her first Allianz PWR start today. The winger scored two tries to bring Chiefs’ haul to nine for this last game in the regular season, among a plethora of speedy tries that were an apt way of thanking the fans for their undying support.

Assistant coach Steve Salvin said: "The big thing was how we said thank you to the fans who have been incredible. For me, they have been the highlight of the season. There was not a great deal riding on this game but look at the numbers who have turned out. They are huge for us and we appreciate all they do and we will do everything we can to try to bring the final back here."

However, it was Leicester Tigers Women who celebrated their first visit to Sandy Park with a penalty in the fourth minute from winger Tess Feury. Chiefs were guilty of leaking one too many penalties in the first half but that could not diminish the joy of seeing Chiefs return to scoring ways.

Clarke nearly got the first of the afternoon as she confidently sped down the wing after Chiefs had taken advantage of a Tigers kick that failed to find touch. Winger Katie Buchanan got hold of it and sent it to the opposite wing. Clarke was almost over but passed inside to prop Hope Rogers for her customary score.

Scrum-time was a little tough on the Tigers with Chiefs welcoming back their trio of internationals. As one such scrum fell apart for the visitors, scrum-half Brooke Bradley saw the open door and scampered down the touch line from halfway for a try! Gabby Cantorna kicked her first successful conversion of the afternoon.

Just as Chiefs seemed to be settling into scoring ways with Buchanan, Bradley and Clarke particularly lively and full of running, Tigers’ full-back Claire Gallagher intercepted the ball and ran the ball almost the length of the pitch for Tigers’ first try.

But now it was time for Clarke to shine. Full-back Merryn Doidge caught a high-ball, ran it up, passed to flanker Ebony Jefferies, then out to centre Kanako Kobayashi and then back to Clarke. The winger even ran it under the posts!

Leicester replied with an opportunity score after the ball slipped over Chiefs’ try-line and centre Sarah Nicholas pounced.

Minutes later, and Clarke was at it again! Chiefs were refusing to be moved from Tigers territory, Bradley popped the ball up from the ruck and Kobayashi took it on to feed the pass to the Exeter University student.

Salvin said: "We have got high hopes for Connie. She is just 18 years-old, so we need to be realistic about what the expectations are on her in the next 18 to 24 months, but it will not have done her any harm whatsoever to get two tries in her first Premiership start."

As the first half came to a close, and Chiefs were ramping up the pressure again. They remained patient before giving Buchanan the green light to give it some gas and speed over for Chiefs’ fifth try of the half.

Half-time: 31-15

The fans were eager for more of the same in the second half and this time it was Chiefs that stole an opportunist try. No 8 Maddie Feaunati pounced on the ball as it came out of a Tigers ruck and unleashed a powerful run to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Three minutes later and Feaunati scored again! The move all started from a sweet pass from Clarke to replacement hooker Cli Moloney on the wing before Tessier sent a cross-field kick to Buchanan, who could not quite fight off three opposition players, so released the ball to Tessier who chip kicked the ball to Feaunati. Cue another power run and she took her second.

Tigers though were much improved from the side Chiefs played nine months ago. Thalia Brody proved that point as Tigers stretched the visitors' defence amid a flurry of replacements and the No 8 dotted the ball down.

As the game reached the 79th minutes, Tigers kicked a penalty to touch but only to their own 22. Chiefs stole that one allowing backs and forwards keep the ball moving before sending Doidge over the line.

As the crowd waited for the final whistle to be blown and Chiefs began to throw the ball around, Tigers decided to spoil the party as lock Charlotte Fray stole the ball and sprinted down the wing for the try.

Into the 89th minute and Chiefs had the final say as a cross-field kick from Tessier came back towards the West Grandstand and Doidge burst over for Chiefs ninth try of the day.

This means Chiefs will travel to Kingsholm to play Gloucester-Hartpury next Sunday (KO 16:30) in the second Allianz PWR semi-final.

Full-time: 59-27

Exeter Chiefs Women: M Doidge (vc); K Buchanan (R Wilkins 51), K Kobayashi (K Buchanan 81), G Cantorna, C Clarke; A Tessier, B Bradley (T Bricknell 67); H Rogers (H Sams 58), E Tuttosi (C Moloney HT), D Menin (L Hanlon 58), L van der Velden (N Orchard 58), P Leith (c), E Jefferies (H Millar-Mills 51), M Allen (E McMahon 51), M Feaunati

Tries: Rogers, Bradley, Clarke (2), Buchanan, Feaunati (2), Doidge (2)

Cons: Cantorna (7)

Leicester Tigers Women: C Gallagher; T Feury, K Childs (C Daley 75), S Nicholas, F McGhie (E Martin 87); N Joanes (c), A Relf; J Jones (L Bartlett 55, (J Jones 71)), A Cokayne (Z Evans 62), KM Sagapolu Sanele (G Grimes 87), E Donaldson (J Omokhuale 55), C Fray (A Bainbridge 87), M Richardson (B Noon 62), R McBrien, T Brody.


Tries: Gallagher, Nicholas, Brody, Fray

Cons: Feury (2)

Pens: Feury

Referee: Holly Wood

Attendance: 1,480

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