Match report: Exeter Chiefs Women 38 - 19 Ealing Trailfinders Women
Caroline Moore at Sandy Park
It was a proper winter’s day at Sandy Park with chilly conditions only slightly heated by the much-missed-of-late sun. Chiefs helped keep the home supporters warm with a bright opening when, after just three minutes, prop Hope Rogers got over for a try following a break from scrum-half Brooke Bradley from halfway. Fly-half Alex Tessier was in support with captain Poppy Leitch right behind her. Winger Katie Buchanan tried to wiggle over but Rogers was on hand to find the final inches.
Five minutes later and it looked like Trailfinders were over the line after a lineout five metres out and an ensuing driving maul, but the referee deemed the visitors were offside.
Just when you thought you knew the formula at lineout time, they go and change it! No driving maul, but instead a sweet run from Gabby Cantorna. Tessier had the foresight to kick ahead, and the ball sat up nicely into centre Danielle Preece's hands for the try. The score was 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.
First scrum to Chiefs was a rather productive one, giving the backs a sturdy platform to find some space. Tessier swooped through the centre before the ball reached the hands of winger Claudia MacDonald for Chiefs’ second try in the 11th minute.
With 10 minutes left on the clock in the first half, Trailfinders were in a good position with a lineout on the 22 but their maul was slow to get going. As the ball was passed out into space, it was knocked on and the opportunity passed.
Meanwhile, there was more bite to Chiefs’ maul and MacDonald was raring to pick up any opportunity she could. Her run down the wing was brought short but Chiefs stayed patient and recycled the ball for Cantorna to take the ball over...and yes, she ran that one right under the posts. No point in making life hard for yourself!
With four tries to nil in the bag, life was looking rosy for the home side, but Ealing Trailfinders are blessed with plenty of quality players, not least England winger Abby Dow, who scored in the last minute of the first half after several attempts from close range. The try was converted by fly-half Ellie Green to make the half-time score 24-7.
As the second half opened, Trailfinders did not help their cause as prop Sara Seye was shown a yellow card for offside. Chiefs kicked the resulting penalty to touch for a lineout. The ball was caught by flanker Maddie Feaunati and a driving maul saw hooker Cliodhna Moloney over for the try.
Replacements began to come on with debutant back-row Taz Bricknell among them. It took her just three minutes to get on the scoreboard after a lineout ball was caught by Nichola Fryday and the maul saw her over the try-line.
Also off the bench, we were treated to a cracking gallop from replacement No 8 Harriet Millar-Mills from a Chiefs scrum to get the home side into the 22. While Trailfinders’ hooker replacement Elisa Riffonneau also had a blistering break. Not to be outdone, Chiefs, hooker Cliodhna Moloney went on the charge, following a fluffed Trailfinders’ lineout, casually discarding defenders in her wake!
Into the final 10 minutes, and Trailfinders still had spirit and space. A mazy solo run from Carys Cox resulted in the visitors’ second try to bring the score to 38-14 before former Sandy Park favourite No 8 Kate Zackary slipped down the wing after another impressive break from Riffonneau.
Final score 38-19 and another five points to keep Chiefs in second place in the league.
Exeter Chiefs Women: M Doidge (vc); C MacDonald, D Preece (S Langford 60mins), G Cantorna, C MacDonald, K Buchanan; A Tessier, B Bradley (E Hayward 67mins (B Bradley 70mins)); H Rogers (A Middlebrooke 60mins), C Moloney (D French 67mins), L Hanlon (D Menin 40mins), N Fryday, P Leith (c), M Feaunati (E Jefferies 54mins), M Allen (T Bricknell 54mins), R Johnson (H Millar-Mills 60mins).
Tries: MacDonald, Rogers, Preece, Cantorna, Moloney, Bricknell
Cons: Cantorna (4)
Ealing Trailfinders Women: R Inman (C Cox 40mins); V Laflin, J Schell, J Cooksey, A Dow (vc); E Green, E Swords; L Crake (K Tamai 75mins), L Gwala (E Riffonneau 40mins), S Seye, T Beukeboom (c), R Burnfield (C Willett 61mins), S Ikahihifo (A Stock 49-54mins), M Barwick, K Zackary
Tries: Dow, Cox, Zackary
Cons: Green (2)
Yellow card: Seye (44mins)
Referee: Hamish Grant