Match report: Loughborough Lightning 19 - 27 Exeter Chiefs Women
Caroline Moore at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
A 13-woman Chiefs team scored in injury time to seal a five-try five-point win over Loughborough Lightning to get their festive season off to joyful start.
While Chiefs Women looked set for the win for most of today’s game, Loughborough also looked threatening on their home turf rugby, especially in the second half.
With the winter sun warming the stand that was hosting our travelling fans, Chiefs made a good account of themselves in the first half with prop Hope Rogers looking like she had never had surgery as she stormed around with the ball in hand with fellow USA Eagle Gabby Cantorna looking lively and Red Rose flanker Maisy Allen making useful metres too.
As the game reached the 13-minute mark, Chiefs were awarded a penalty for Loughborough holding on. Fly-half Alex Tessier kicked to touch for the lineout to release the forwards' drive to the try-line for Allen to score.
Chiefs continued to press in the home side’s territory, but it was almost a first try to Loughborough following a knock on, but the loose ball was fumbled by the home side and the opportunity was lost.
As the game reached the second quarter, Chiefs had most of the possession with Lizzie Hanlon using herself as a human battering ram to suck in defenders!
Another lineout for Chiefs in the 26th minute saw backs and forwards combine in the 22 with Linde van der Velden going for a trademark glorious gallop. The pressure paid off and a lovely little kick ahead saw Alex Tessier over for the try followed by a Cantorna conversion.
In the last 10 minutes of the first half, Loughborough were livelier, and Chiefs had to defend with gusto in their own 22. A penalty was awarded to the home side with the women in African violet opting to kick to touch.
The first rolling maul and try chance was held up but the second was a success for lock Emma Wassell. The conversion was taken by Helena Rowland for a 7-12 score-line at half-time.
The second half started more positively for Chiefs with the visitors enjoying more possession and territory thanks to multiple patient phases put together by the entire squad. The pressure told in the end with winger Eilidh Sinclair squeezing in for the try after just a few minutes gone.
Loughborough turned up the heat as the sun faded and Chiefs were forced into defence mode with Maddie Feaunati putting in a try-saving tackle on Sadia Kabeya, and Bo Westcombe-Evans almost through too.
Penalties began to rack up against Chiefs and it was only a matter a time before one would lead to a scoring opportunity. A Loughborough lineout saw a drive towards the try-line and hooker Kathryn Treder took the spoils.
Replacements were coming on to inject fresh legs and lungs into the game with props DaLeaka Menin and Abby Middlebrooke punching some serious holes in the Loughborough defence. Menin made one of hers count with a try with just eight minutes to go.
In the last five minutes, Chiefs were punished for their enthusiastic defence. Mairi McDonald was the first to be shown a yellow card, swiftly followed by Menin…resulting in a penalty try for Loughborough.
With the score at 19-22 on 77 minutes and with only 13 players on the pitch, Chiefs had a job to do.
A forward pass from Loughborough in the 79th minute gave Chiefs a bit of respite from the Loughborough pressure. Rachel Johnson peeled off the back of the scrum with Feaunati in speedy support and Sinclair happy to nip into space.
This time it was the home side who were penalised for a high tackle. Tessier kicked to touch and Poppy Leitch collected the lineout ball from Emily Tuttosi. Tessier’s quick pass from base of the ruck found Sinclair who slipped over for her second try. Job done. Merry Christmas all!
Loughborough Lightning: C Rollie; (B Mataitoga 51mins); G Tasker (vc), H Rowland, C Morrall, B Westcombe-Evans (C Williams-Morris 68mins); H Nelson, M Davey (J Weaver 25mins); K Trevarthen, K Treder, C Belisle (G Clifford 74mins), E Wassell, C O’Donnell (A Duguid 68mins), R Malcolm (c) (L Ives Campion 68mins), S Kabeya, D Hibbert-Jones.
Reps not used: P Andrews, C Wells,
Tries: Wassell, Treder, penalty
Cons: Rowland (2)
Bradley (M McDonald 57mins); H Rogers (A Middlebrooke 51mins), E Tuttosi, L Hanlon (D Menin 51mins), L van der Velden (L Hanlon 80mins), N Fryday (P Leith (cc) 46mins), H Millar-Mills (M Feaunati 64mins), M Allen (E McMahon 51mins), R Johnson.
Reps not used: D French, D Preece.
Tries: Allen, Tessier, Sinclair (2), Menin,
Cons: Cantorna (2)
Yellow cards: McDonald, Menin
Referee: Richard Gordon