Match report: Saracens Women 36 - 29 Exeter Chiefs Women


Caroline Moore at the StoneX Stadium

Eleven tries and seven yellow cards made for an eventful afternoon at the StoneX Stadium but despite a spirited fightback from 36-0 down from Exeter Chiefs Women, Saracens Women claimed their spot in the final with a 36-29 victory.

The three yellow cards for Exeter Chiefs and five tries from Saracens looked like sealing the visitors’ fate before half-time, but Chiefs came back in the second half, as Saracens took their turn to rack up the yellow cards.

Saracens made their intentions clear early on when fly-half Amelia MacDougall kicked a penalty to touch for the lineout for Saracens’ returner Bryony Cleall to make the most of the territorial advantage and go over for the try. The conversion was missed but the home team were off and running with a 5-0 lead.

Chiefs aimed to do the same minutes later with a penalty kick for touch. It was good to see hooker Clara Nielson back in action after injury and the ensuing backs' move involved Brooke Bradley at full-back and then winger Jodie Ounsley before Saracens were penalised again.

Fly-half Robyn Wilkins’ penalty kick at goal came off the post but Chiefs pounced on the rebound for possession. Flanker Ebony Jefferies burst through the Saracens defence and a quick pass from Poppy Leitch to fellow second-row Linde van der Velden looked just the ticket, but the ball came off a knee and Saracens were back in possession.

Saracens were effective at ensuring they were made the most of their penalty chances. When they kicked to touch after 20 minutes gone, their lineout saw Cleall over for her second try following some nifty backwards running!

The entire complexion of the first half changed when Nielson was shown a yellow card. Down to 14, defence was stretched...with the penalty kicked to touch for the lineout, van der Velden was also sent to the bin and Saracens were awarded a penalty try.

With two off, defence became desperate, and another yellow card followed for prop Demi Swann. The inevitable try came for Saracens from flanker Sharifa Kasolo and was converted by MacDougall.

Chiefs did all they could to stem the flow, but Saracens had one more try in them from prop Akina Gondwe from close range.

Half-time: 31-0

Early in the second half, a kick ahead from Saracens winger Lotte Clapp saw her collect her own ball for the home side's sixth try to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

You could have excused a few glum faces from the Chiefs Women at this point but with all of their players back from the sin-bin and the wind behind them, there was hope…well, there was Hope Rogers. She clawed, fought, and ran hard for her first try that was converted by Wilkins.

Chiefs now had their tails up. More stunning runs from Rogers and Ounsley troubled the Saracens defence and flanker May Campbell was shown a yellow card in the 50th minute as Nielson went over for the visitors’ second try.

When Chiefs won a scrum penalty, Wilkins kicked to touch. The lineout throw to Nic Fryday was good and the forwards set up the drive. With the ball back in open play, Leitch, Sophie Langford, Fryday and Eilidh Sinclair all got involved before sending over Rogers for her second.

Another yellow card followed for Leanne Infante in the 58th minute. Saracens were down to unlucky 13, but Chiefs needed more points.

Penalties helped their cause with Wilkins opting for touch and the forwards securing possession in the lineout. Nielson rumbled over for her second of the afternoon.

Time was running out for Chiefs but not before a few more yellow cards were leaked by Saracens. A lineout collected by Leitch saw Niamh Orchard make a break that was taken on by Bradley and Ounsley, and then Harriette Bond. The forwards got involved and saw Saracens' Kasolo shown a yellow card.

More penalties, more lineouts and another yellow card…this time for Cleall. The ensuing penalty and lineout saw Taz Bricknell score. The conversion was good, but time had run out for the Exeter Chiefs Women. Final score was 36-29 with a third-place play-off beckoning in a fortnight’s time.

Saracens Women: J-J Linkins: I Alejandro, C Wardle, S McKenna, L Clapp (cc); A MacDougall, T Sellars; A Gondwe, B Field, C Tremelling, S Green, E Taylor, M Campbell (cc), S Kasolo, B Cleall

Replacements: N Haynes, C Flanaghan, L Lawford-Wilby, S Tansley, G Moore, L Infante, F Williams, L Biggs

Tries: Cleall (2), penalty, Kasolo, Gondwe, Clapp

Yellow cards: Campbell, Infante, Kasolo, Cleall

Cons: MacDougall (3)

Exeter Chiefs Women: B Bradley; E Sinclair (D Preece 59), M Doidge (vc), S Langford, J Ounsley (D French 34-HT) (S Harris 80); R Wilkins, O Ortiz (A Middlebrooke 34-42) (H Bond 71); D Swann (A Middlebrooke 42-70, (D Swann 70)), C Nielson, H Rogers (H Sams 70), L van der Velden, P Leith (c), E Jefferies (N Fryday 46), T Bricknell, H Millar-Mills (N Orchard 46)

Tries: Rogers (2), Nielson (2), Bricknell

Referee: Harry Walbaum

Cons: Wilkins (2)

Yellow cards: Nielson, van der Velden, Swann

Hope Rogers scores for Chiefs

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