Match report: Exeter Chiefs Women 14 - 26 Gloucester-Hartpury


Caroline Moore at Sandy Park

The team were obviously keen to take the win against Gloucester-Hartpury at Sandy Park today, but providing valuable experience to younger players was also a key takeaway for this third-place play-off in the final weekend of the Allianz Cup.

The experience was a tough one in the scrum where Gloucester-Hartpury were the stronger force and this set-piece challenge put the Chiefs Women on the back foot at times despite more positive play from the home side’s backline.

The first score did not come until the 32nd minute, which is a rarity in the women’s game. Hooker Clara Nielson’s five points came after a spell of decent attack from Chiefs which saw No 8 Niamh Orchard storm up the centre of the pitch with scrum-half Brooke Bradley and lock Poppy Leitch also involved, only for a pass to fall into Gloucester-Hartpury hands.

A Chiefs lineout from a penalty saw a solid throw to Ebony Jefferies that was sucked into the maul by Nielson for the try. The conversion was good for Robyn Wilkins, and we finally had points on the board.

The scrum continued to wobble for Chiefs with the referee having a word with captain Leitch. The ref had more than a chat with Orchard when he showed her a yellow card for not rolling away. A scrum to the visitors saw No 8 Steph Else peel off the back to release lock Trudy Cowan for the try. This score was converted by full-back Emma Sing.

Half-time: 7-7

Gloucester-Hartpury were quick to extend their lead in the second half, this time through the powerful footwork of centre Charlie Mai-Manns after just two minutes gone.

With Harriet Millar-Mills on the pitch, Chiefs started to get parity in the scrum while the rest of the forwards were also trying to make some hard yards in the loose. However, when Demi Swann found herself in space, she only had Kate Smith in support, which gave Gloucester-Hartpury the time to wrestle the ball back. Winger Lizzie Goulden found herself sprinting three-quarters the length of the pitch to score.

Knock-ons made this game a very stop-start affair for both sides and when Gloucester-Hartpury got a scrum opportunity they tended to make the most of it. A penalty scrum on the 10-metre line saw Else walk in for the try, this time converted by Manns.

It looked like Chiefs were going to be held to a single try for the afternoon but a moment of pure determination from Jefferies broke the Gloucester-Hartpury defence and Danielle Preece scampered to the line for the home side’s second score.

Not the scoreline the team wanted but great to see Connie Clarke get her debut and Hannah Sams make her first start.

Full-time: 14-26

Exeter Chiefs Women: H Bond; E Sinclair, M Doidge (vc), S Langford, K Buchanan; R Wilkins, B Bradley; A Middlebrooke, C Nielson, H Sams, L van der Velden, P Leith (c), E Jefferies, T Bricknell, N Orchard

Reps: D French, D Swann, P Muzambe, K Smith, H Millar-Mills, L Dadds, D Preece, C Clarke

Tries: Nielson, Preece

Cons: Wilkins (2)

Yellow card: Orchard

Gloucester-Hartpury: E Sing; M Venner, P Hendy, C-M Manns, L Goulden (cc); M Hyett, B Blackburn; K Buggy, A Dale, C Hale, T Cowan, S McCarthy, L Whitley, T Copson, S Else (cc)

Reps: E Gilbert, E Perry, L Delgado, B Stafford, G Bell, R Samuda, J Russell, J Kershaw

Tries: Manns, Cowan, Goulden, Else

Cons: Sing (2), Mann

Referee: Mike Hudson

Attendance: 1,104

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